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Futurism's Fish Tanks: Rethinking the Human in Marinetti and Bontempelli

  • Author(s): Marshall, Corie
  • et al.

Although separated by a span of nearly twenty years, both F.T. Marinetti’s Mafarka le futuriste (1909) and Massimo Bontempelli’s Minnie la candida (1928) investigate the ontological parameters of humanness through comparison and confrontation with the nonhuman animal, and, in particular, with fish. This article takes up this shared trope of the fish to examine how both authors position themselves with regards to the Futurist movement’s fervent interest in mankind’s relationship to technology and the natural world. While in his mythopoeic novel on the origins of Futurism, Marinetti utilizes Mafarka’s crystal aquarium to suggest a prepotent fusion of nature and technology through which the dangers posed by the natural world are either excised or contained through the mediation of technology, the fish tank of Bontempelli’s play is used to portray technology’s indiscriminate intrusions on the natural world and on that world’s bodies, both human and nonhuman. By looking at how both Marinetti and Bontempelli employ the nonhuman animal to remake and unmake the human, through the characters of the superhuman Mafarka and the innocent and doomed Minnie, respectively, this article sheds light on the ecological and ontological questions raised by Futurism’s investigation into the human against a backdrop of rapid technological advancement.

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