The last nineteenth century
According to collegesanduniversitiesinusa, the last glimpse of the 19th century. it is characterized by a more marked dependence of our literature on European culture, which generally earned the writers of the period the accusation of provincialism. The formulas of the positivist H.-A. Taine almost insensibly accompanies Italian writers from exasperated determinism to an irrationalistic attitude that feeds on and preserves many things from that determinism. This is the period of decadence. Another form of provincialism is that which reveals itself in a retreat on local traditions, without posing the problem of being behind in Europe. Apart from the case of atypical narrators such as E. De Marchi or A. Oriani, who refer, with their own accents, to the near experiences of realism, in this less showy area the sketch reaches maturity of art, clear and complete picture in its short limits, in a flat and precise language (the sketcher is also to be considered, in its best pages, by E. De Amicis). At a higher level is placed the narrative work of the Venetian A. Fogazzaro, a tributary of Darwinian theories and ultimately the spokesperson of Catholic modernism. Southern realism has its best representatives in F. De Roberto, who with I Viceré also produces the only nineteenth-century narrative experience comparable to Verga’s masterpieces, and in M. Serao.
G. Pascoli and G. D’Annunzio
It is precisely the lack of certain references, typical of modernity, that we must keep in mind if we want to understand the poetics of the one who inaugurates modern Italian poetry, G. Pascoli, for whom poetry is not really even in the individual soul, but even in things, it exists independently not only from the page that records it, but from the eyes and soul that look at it. For Pascoli, poetry is only a lyrical impulse of the soul, which is expressed in a notation, in an instant illumination. Any educational intent is absolutely foreign to it. However, in Pascoli’s concrete work, these assumptions come to terms, not without contradictions, with other and different persuasions and tendencies. Similarly, in the poetic language, which will be a point of reference for later poets,
Sensitive to the most diverse influences of contemporary European literature proves G. D’Annunzio. It moves from Carducci’s panism to express the sensual joy that manifests itself in the man-nature fusion (especially in Alcyone); he begins as a narrator from the point of view of realism, interpreting its impersonality as an acute and cruel observation, in a sensual pleasure of colors; welcomes influences from English and French aestheticism; finally, he proceeds in an autonomous sense, identifying in the novel the only modern means towards the experience of poetry and its inseparability from criticism and commentary. Irrationalist activism, widespread on a European level, finds in D’Annunzio, coloring himself with nationalism, a formidable Italian champion, whose effectiveness goes beyond the boundaries of literature, contributing to the rise and affirmation of fascism. Beyond his forcibly self-congratulatory image, later writers will draw inspiration from his fragmentist streak (Le faville del maglio, prose of confession and memories) and diary (Nocturne etc.), as well as from his important example of metric innovation, as well as linguistic, in poetry.
The novelty of romantic criticism consists in the promotion of a literary history no longer conceived as a chronology or even, in the eighteenth century, as a ‘philosophical history’ (the one that in 1796 Foscolo also planned to write), but as a history of the Italian spirit, arranged according to a which, even though here and there interrupted and often tortuous and perhaps retreating, is ultimately progressive. Among the critics stand out, in the early nineteenth century, FS Salfi and G. Scalvini, who nevertheless had no echo in their time. But much more remarkable than them is U. Foscolo, who in his critical work feels the need to historicize the individual rather than to discover historical succession. The individuality of the poem is manifested for him in the concreteness of the poet’s word, and the precise examination of the style and of the word, thus understood,
Tommaseo does not go beyond the sphere of particular notations and judgments, but the title he gave to one of his collections, Civil History in the Literary, indicates what was the end to which everyone aimed. A brief and eloquent civil history in literary works V. Gioberti in the Primacy. G. Mazzini also constantly seeks in literature the testimony of the Italian spirit and the line of its progress; indeed he considers art as an “element of collective development”, social as well as political, international as well as national development. The need for a literary history thus conceived also advances the Mazzinian and Foscolian C. Tenca, perhaps the greatest of the critics between Foscolo and De Sanctis. Completely dissolved in the civil is History literature of the ‘Ghibelline’ P. Emiliani Giudici; Finally, along this line is L. Settembrini, who conceives all of Italian history, and also of literature, as a contrast between free thought and the Church.
A true history, however, is only written by F. De Sanctis, who considers both literary facts and civil events as different evidence of the evolution over time of a unitary spirit: his History is therefore not properly the history of literature, but of the spirit Italian as reflected in the literature. Simultaneously with De Sanctis and immediately afterwards, Capuana carries out a highly effective critical work in contemporary literature. Other scholars constitute the first generation of the so-called historical school or historical method, among which, to mention only those who dealt with Italian literature, Carducci, A. D’Ancona, A. Bartoli, D. Comparetti, F. D’Ovidio, P. Rajna. They too obey, as their very name says, the historical requirement: only the now dominant positivism persuades them to conceive literary history deterministically. The reaction to the erudite taste and positivist mentality of the historical school would then culminate in the Crocian denial of the very legitimacy of a literary history.