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(No) Queer Futurism: Prostitutes, Pink Poets, and Politics in Italy from 1913-1918

  • Author(s): Van Ness, Emma K
  • et al.

Italo Tavolato caused a scandal when the editors of Lacerba published his “Elogio della prostituzione” in 1913, yet this article was one of a number of sexually provocative texts produced in this first phase of Futurism. The subversive and revolutionary nature of this avant-garde art movement was largely based on the overturning and questioning of traditional gender roles, what we would call today a “queer” as opposed to a hetero-normative concept of sexuality. The adoption and praise of the figure of the prostitute by Tavolato speaks to his re-evaluation of traditional sexual morality, making the prostitute a decadent yet honest alternative to reproductive sexual politics “Non costa anche la moglie?” Tavolato rightly asks. Marinetti also makes use of this strategy of undermining expectations of gender in the initial phase of Futurism, his “prostitute-like” tactics of self-promotion garnering him the title the “Pink Poet” according to Claudia Salaris. As the movement spread, however, battle lines were drawn, and traditional gender roles re-established as the distinction between Futurism and Fascism was blurred. Using Lee Edelman’s vision of a hypothetical queer politics from his work No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive as a lens through which to read the progression of the Futurist movement, it becomes apparent that the tension between homosexual and homo-social is not a latent force on the margins of Futurism, but rather a central, formative issue. The role of the prostitute in the writings of the Futurists makes this clear. By examining Marinetti’s and the Milanese futurists’ treatment of Tavolato, Papini, Palazzeschi, and the other Florentines in their correspondence, articles, and manifestoes, as well as Marinetti and Corra’s homophobic novel L’isola dei baci, this paper hopes to illuminate the function of queer politics and the role of reproductive futurism in the history of Italian Futurism.

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