Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

After Autarchy: Male Subjectivity from Carlo Emilio Gadda to the Gruppo '63

  • Author(s): Falkoff, Rebecca Ruth
  • Advisor(s): Spackman, Barbara
  • et al.

After Autarchy: Male Subjectivity from Carlo Emilio Gadda to the Gruppo `63 traces an indirect but enduring legacy of Italian fascism in models of male subjectivity and literature in writing by Carlo Emilio Gadda and two members of the short-lived, loose-knit, but nonetheless influential literary association, the Gruppo '63: Giorgio Manganelli and Luigi Malerba. As critics have noted, experimentalist writers of the 1960s find an aesthetic ideal in Gadda because of his baroque stylistics, particularly the use of digressive narrative trajectories and a multiplicity of languages, dialects, and registers in ways incongruous with linguistic realism. The dissertation raises the stakes of these stylistic affinities between Gadda and the writers he inspires by drawing parallels between his autarchic writings and theories of subjectivity and aesthetics that emerge from his fiction, as well as texts by Manganelli and Malerba.

"Autarchy" refers to the period of relative isolation and economic autonomy of fascist Italy following the 1935 invasion of Ethiopia and the sanctions imposed by the League of Nations in response to the attack on the member nation. The introduction studies autarchic discourse to isolate a tension between a scarcity of raw materials and an abundance resulting from reproductivity and various forms of productivity. I propose that this tension comes to bear critical--and critically imbricated--economic, sexual, and aesthetic implications. The first chapter argues that the nexus of contradictions that characterize the period of economic autarchy is central to the work of Gadda, whose gradual transformation from engineer to writer equilibrates in a series of popular essays that explain scientific and technical strategies to foster Italian economic self-sufficiency. I locate Gadda's changing affect with regards to autarchy in his representations of various systems along with the exclusions upon which they are predicated, the waste they produce, and the debris that accumulates at their fringes.

The second chapter examines the graphic figurative economy of Manganelli's Hilarotragoedia (1964), and argues that the treatise sets out autarchic models of literature and male subjectivity. I propose, however, that these models are structured by their own impossibility insofar as they are built upon a series of topoi that themselves forge an intertext--a 'figaliation' with Gadda established by similar figurations of a horror of the feminine. Malerba's understanding of the autonomy of literature, on the other hand, is rooted in an avowal of a tautologcal mode of signification based upon the immediacy of objects. The final chapter considers this semiotic dogma in the context of Il serpente (1966). I argue that by foregrounding collecting and signifying practices that today might fall within the nascent diagnostic category of "hoarding disorder," the novel necessarily departs from the epistemological foundation of the conventional giallo.

With an introductory chapter set during the period of economic autarchy, Malerba's novel urges the reader to take on a project very much like that of this dissertation: to consider the aesthetic and libidinal legacies of economic autarchy, and to interrogate the historico-political stakes of the dreams of aesthetic autonomy and self-sufficiency that persist long after autarchy. The power of this project is both theoretical and historical: broadening the understanding of autarchy to encompass varied iterations of autonomy, After Autarchy fashions an analogy between autarchic discourse and experimentalist narrative of the 1960s, and poses a challenge to the autonomous subject of enlightenment philosophy.

Main Content
Current View