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"Un dolore pacato e eguale": Eternally Mourning Ippolita in Trionfo della morte.

In his 1903 article "Gabriele D'Annunzio," Benedetto Croce, writing on the notion of decadenza--to him the creation of frivolous Parisian boulevardiers, and to him as inane a term as "fine di secolo"--recounts how the natural sciences, "disguising themselves as philosophies," had imposed the dead hand of determinism on the living cosmos which philosophy and religion had bestowed on Europe. (1) In their squalid competitions of greed, the industrial bourgeoisie with its wealth had destroyed the brotherhood of nations under God. Nor was socialism any better, for it stole its materialism and notions of class struggle from the rapacious middle class. Indignant Croce mourns the death of Italian ideals:
   [P]atria e umanita sono diventate parole viete, la famiglia e
   apparsa una parentela fisiologica o un organismo di economia
   capitalistica. Un vento freddo di cinismo e di brutalita ha
   soffiato sul nostro mondo. E moltissimi che non erano bene armati a
   resistere aile forze distruttive, si sono lasciati depredare e
   spogliare l'anima d'ogni bene; e, perduta la vita spontanea, hanno
   creduto di potersene foggiare una a loro arbitrio,
   artificiosamente, ricercando nel fondo dei proprio essere una
   sorgente perenne di dilettazioni, vivendo in perpetuo equilibrio e
   in perpetua curiosita, indifferenti ai tumulti ed aile contingenze
   degli altri uomini, che essi stimavano volgari. (12-13)

In Gabriele D'Annunzio's Trionfo della morte (1894), this panorama of inner dis-ease brought on by the pollutions of spiritual, scientific, and financial materialism provides a crucial motivation for wealthy socialite Giorgio Aurispa's attempt to flee the turmoil of his inner life and the sterility of Roman society by means of a variety of experiences of transcendence that will lead to the murder of his beloved Ippolita and his own suicide. Giorgio's own particular materialism is not only financial, but psychological as well, consisting of his "pollution" by the collectivities of Patria, church, and family. This manifold pollution, he believes, has cost him his "vita spontanea." The novel records his mournful attempt to purify himself of these inherited pollutants, climaxing in an almost Manichaean fuga saeculi aimed at freeing him "alia insostenibile tristezza di quel corporale amore." (2) The novel begins and ends in mourning.

Mourning has concerned psychology most importantly since Plato. In the writings of Jacques Derrida, mourning becomes one response to the loss of presence as Western metaphysics has traditionally understood it. Mourning in Derrida possesses a profound respect for irreducible otherness, the fundamentally incomprehensible "singularity" of the other-that which in the person escapes Hegelian subsumption. (3) Derrida claimed that one could never complete what he called "the work of mourning," because it is the possibility of an impossibility, hence, an "undecidable," not unlike the many others he elaborated, such as writing and supplementarity. Possibility of an impossibility: the modern psychology of mourning requires that one somehow both preserve and renounce the lost object. Although Freud saw successful mourning concluding with the bereaved's eventually moving on to invest his/her object cathexes in another, psychologists such as Abraham and Potok saw mourning more as introjection: the interiorization and assimilation of the lost individual into an inner present. Mourning for Derrida is both and neither; neither inside nor outside. Mourning is thus another way of speaking of absence and difference, of both fidelity to and betrayal of the person mourned, one who was never completely known, never completely present at all. Put in terms more relevant to our theme: in mourning, betrayal pollutes fidelity. Indeed, Ippolita will die screaming assassino at Giorgio.

I believe that Trionfo della morte stages this pollution of mourning. D'Annunzio is a great novelist of such possible impossibility: indeed, in Trionfo della morte, mourning becomes proleptic. Beauty in Derrida--the beauty of Ippolita in our case--carries with it the promise of loss, hence of mourning from the moment of its perception. Giorgio's mourning accordingly begins the moment he sets eyes on the beautiful Ippolita; it infects his present as the ineluctable anticipation of loss and future sorrow. Thus does trionfo dell'amore promise trionfo della morte. D'Annunzio goes further, suggesting that one's personal identity may be fashioned from the imagined mourning introjections of another. Giorgio is undecidably inside and outside himself. For example, childish Giorgio savors his importance as he imagines both his mother and Ippolita mourning him dead. D'Annunzio even extends introjection and mourning to the imagining of the afterlife of love: Giorgio foresees an eternity of mourning united with the ideal Ippolita he will have fashioned for himself. Plato--like D'Annunzio's narrator--would have deplored the effeminacy of Giorgio's automourning. (4)

In Trionfo delta morte, Giorgio, mourning the gods that have fled Italian prosperity: family, brotherhood, country and Church, attempts to replace all that these versions of community provided with his adulterous love for Ippolita Sanzio. Giorgio, like Italy, is the victim of his own wealth, and of the subtle versions of spiritual pride wealth can occasion. The climactic and lethal instance of Giorgio's pride lies in his positing the self as an absolute thereby to sanction and justify his murder of beautiful Ippolita. Murder would assuage his jealousy. As if to corroborate Croce's critique of Italy's decline, D'Annunzio stages an apocalypse that coincides with the advent of a new messiah to rural Italy. The parade of grotesquely mutilated rural folk that Giorgio and Ippolita encounter in their pilgrimage to Casalbordino suggests medieval illustrations of the risen damned at the Last Judgment. But this is the Last Judgment as seen through the eyes of a fastidious esthete frightened by the possibility of pollution by the poor and deformed of his race-a last judgment on the Italy Croce described. Giorgio is horrified that these meek might well inherit his earth, and, what is worse, that he may share the same blood as they. To believe that one can fashion a self that is free of its heredity is an act of pride. Purity proves a lethal ideal when his very love for Ippolita provides further proof of his pollution.

Croce's inner landscape of ruin appears both early and late in D'Annunzio's novel: it begins with the suicide of an unknown laborer that opens the novel and concludes with Giorgio and Ippolita's traumatic pilgrimage to the shrine to the Virgin in the company of peasant abruzzesi. "Traumatic" because Giorgio, fearing the susceptibility of his spirit to pollution--effectively, the loss of self--cannot tolerate participation in any collectivity. The very suspicion of pollution becomes a version of mourning. He accordingly has little sense of neighbor in either the spiritual or socio-political sense; his large inheritance has made him hyperbolically intolerant of the slightest unpleasantness. The terrifying pilgrimage to the shrine occasions two of Giorgio's crucial renunciations: that of his Church and of his people, "Provava ora per la 'fede' il medesimo disgusto che aveva provato dentro la chiesa per la bestia immonda strisciante nella polvere consacrata" (285)--Croce might well have used Giorgio's disgusto to demonstrate just how empty the word umanita had become. Thus, the narrator's words describe a climactic moment in Giorgio's journey into estrangement which began the moment he set eyes on Ippolita while searching for a photograph of the Orvieto reliquary. The first sight of her beauty, juxtaposed with a repository of desicated bones, marks his crossing a threshold into mourning. The reliquary prefigures the cryptic afterlife, the materialist paradise of mourning, wherein he intends to possess / control her. It also figures her withdrawal from him qua beautiful.

Giorgio's recoil from infective contact with "la bestia immonda" (285) of his people and religion sets into relief the tragicomedy of attempted transcendence in the novel. On the one hand, Giorgio views his love for Ippolita as his last hope for an antidote to the "weakness" pollution has caused. His love for her has its origin in his mourning a lack in himself, a fatal otherness. She will become its prophylactic supplement, the means to his demonic yearning "ritrovare [se] stesso" (245). D'Annunzio's narrator despises Giorgio for reasons gathered from Plato's consideration in The Republic of the debilitation of mourning when not checked by thymos, the spirited part of the soul, and for reasons partly gathered from traditional Christian ethics for which the attempt to force a finite person to satisfy the potentially infinite, spiritual will was both futile and damnable. It is Giorgio's absurd conviction that he would enjoy both the ecstasy of a god as well as deep mourning if he were to possess Ippolita completely in death. More precisely, Giorgio convinces himself that suicide/murder will provide him the transcendence that will deliver him from a life of mourning/loving a woman, who, despite her relentless self-denial, cannot render herself sufficiently present, transparent and comprehensible to submit perfectly to his will, and provide him as well with a safe haven for his perennial loving/mourning. Ippolita's otherness changes according to whatever transcendence captures Giorgio's caprice. It is strange that for atheist Giorgio, death does not mean complete erasure. On the contrary, it means recuperation and wish fulfillment; not difference, but a place where idealization will suppress difference. Death is reduced to stage setting or backdrop for sensationalist life, not for the arrival of otherness. For Giorgio, the alembic of death will transform into ideality what of her otherness resists his control.

Mourning pervades every aspect of Giorgio's life, as one might expect in the ruined Italy of Croce. Mourning is virtually allegorized in Giorgio's ultimately homicidal/orgiastic attempt to control Ippolita. That is, obsessed Giorgio cannot tolerate the turmoil Ippolita's singularity arouses in him, and, in a monstrous attempt to force her to conform to his ideal of submission, murders her by throwing her and himself off a cliff in San Vito. Giorgio imagines their common death as a purificatory means of control, enabling him to resurrect his "vera essenza" (245), which is nevertheless not the self. Giorgio experiences his own otherness in his lack of self-control. Thus, just as Ippolita eludes him, so does he elude himself. He believes that union with her will bring him personal unity: death will free him from non-coincidence with himself, be it in the form of his uncontrollable jealousy (of a faithful woman), or of his obsession with personal weakness and illness. This is a manifold conundrum: Ippolita is a supplement because union with her is the means to coinciding with himself, but even though he believes that she is able to heal him, he cannot permit her to hold power over him. She must be both effective and powerless.

His is accordingly a futile dream of the successful introjection of both himself and a living woman--a dream of erasing her otherness by means of a purifying and simplifying death. This leads to further contradiction: the violent erasure of the alterity of Ippolita in the interests of an "idealized" version of her is quite literally her annihilation. She must die to be loved by him, but, in her imagined death, she cannot be loved by him as this singular Ippolita. In effect, she loses her otherness for the sake of a death that has lost its otherness. A death shorn of the incomprehensible, its radical otherness--as Giorgio imagines it--is merely the staging of an eschatological version of the now of sensation, suggesting Croce's "sorgente perenne di dilettazioni" (13), a spiritual materialism. Giorgio cries out a paean to ontological servitude--"C'e su la terra una sola ebrezza durevole: la sicurta nel possesso di un'altra creatura, la sicurta assoluta, incrollabile.... Ella e sottomessa con gioia ad ogni mio desiderio, ha la mia volonta per unica legge" (178-179)--which describes the pleasure Giorgio foresees for them in their crypt of purificatory idealization. Ebrezza durevole also recalls his mother's abject subservience to her child's whims.

The materialist paradise Giorgio elaborates for himself--his transportation of a perfectly submissive Ippolita to a paradise suited to his undisturbed consumption of her, a place neither here nor there, hence rather like a crypt--is, once again, a lethal idealization. Safety in love requires the immobility of the ideal, which, in turn, requires death. Death accordingly becomes the locus of Giorgio's quasi-Oedipal empire of protected intimacy and omnipotent control. The afterlife he elaborates is essentially an improved version of his moneyed saeculum, providing greater satisfaction because it features an idealized, transparent Ippolita protected from the defiling glances of other men. This cryptic paradise is accordingly private and secretive, utterly asocial and apolitical; thus does D'Annunzio work a reversal in which life is made to haunt death. In death Giorgio will live, as according to Croce, "indifference] ai tumulti ed aile contingenze degli altri uomini, cheess[o] stimav[a] volgari." Thus, in the interests of perfect self-indulgence, Giorgio becomes Pygmalion as murderer: "Morta, ella diventerebbe materia di pensiero, pura idealita.... Distruggere per possedere--non ha altro mezzo colui che cerca nell'Amore l'Assoluto" (247).

As the novel proceeds, the crypt of his love comes to resemble ever more closely the reliquary of the Cathedral of Orvieto. Giorgio is unaware that his supposedly pura idealita by definition would be beyond possession, and above all, would not contain this singular Ippolita Sanzio. On the contrary, idealization in the novel is simply a homicidal alibi for control. It is the only means to overcoming a singularity utterly resistant to subsumption into a comprehensible and manageable notion of universal woman. If one wonders how her singularity became other to Giorgio in the first place, the novel suggests that his jealousy invented the otherness of Ippolita he annihilates. Thus, her otherness--her lack of presence to him--is ultimately her otherness to him; that is, it is his otherness. It is accordingly both outer and inner, and finally a pollutant. The only firm grasp he can exercise on Ippolita is the one that pulls her with him over the cliff.

Death's triumph commences when, outside Alinari, Giorgio first sets eyes on this woman so incredibly alive with death: "Ippolita" is the name of his dead sister. Indeed, Ippolita will claim: "Saro la tua amante, la tua arnica, la tua sorella" (177), words that join D'Annunzio's decadentismo to the symbolisme of Baudelaire. (5) Ippolita and Giorgio are the same height, as if to suggest that Giorgio is attempting simultaneously to resurrect his sister and embrace/grasp himself. Recalling her claim to have only just emerged from a sickbed before meeting him, he cries, "Avevo veduta la morte" (81). In short, he loves the living Ippolita qua dying, or dead. That is, he has entered into a quasi-necrophiliac relationship with a living person: "E bellissima oggi. E pallida. Mi piacerebbe sempre afflitta e sempre malata" (62). Her pallor is unlike that of any other living woman, "di una pallidezza quasi mortale" (204); it is "soprannaturale" (80). Her pallor suggests funerary statuary. This is thematic: one role of Ippolita, by her spectral pallor, her juxtaposition with the reliquary and her resemblance to his dead sister, together with her resemblance to Giorgio, is to make death familiar. In her sickness, she resembles Giorgio in yet another way, suggesting the fragile, sickly child he is to his mother. Their Liebestod concludes a movement from loving her as dead to believing he will love her dead. Only then--he claims--will this introjected living/dead woman be fully present to him. Their love is a veritable drama of exchanged introjections; that is, she is often he. She embodies death the way he wants it, as a short, quick step beyond. Giorgio lives impossible possibilities by believing he can possess his pura idealita, eternally pale and dying, in a strangely unchanging afterlife. Thus do death and mundane insostenibile tristezza become perpetual mourning: "Io l'amerei oltre la vita, senza gelosia, con un dolore pacato e eguale" (205).

Like the mythical vampires of San Vito, Giorgio is in love with Ippolita's death. Such love is reciprocated in Ippolita's yearning to achieve perfect submission to him: "In due anni egli mi ha trasformata, mi ha fatta un'altra; mi ha dato nuovi sensi, un'anima nuova, un nuovo intelletto. Io sono la sua creatura.... Io gli appartengo tutta quanta, ora e sempre" (87). The novel is, in part, a record of Ippolita's attempts to shed her recalcitrant otherness, her haecceitas. This dying to her former self and desire for presence to Giorgio is an activity of self-introjection. Indeed, she yearns to speak as if in him, to be mourned by him, as if aspiring to exist as his mourned introjection. Such perpetual introjection is actually a travesty of Scripture: Ippolita describes herself in the encomiastic language of conversion to Christ. Her exultation in the novitas vitae and visio spiritualis, which Giorgio has bestowed upon her, is familiar from the tradition of commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (6.4): "For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life." (6) That is, Giorgio requires of Ippolita not mere admiration, but worship--there is a strongly cultic quality to her participation in Giorgio's auto-affection: "I suoi occhi saranno sempre pieni di me. Tutti i suoi sensi rimarranno ottusi ad ogni altra sensazione che non le verra da me" (184)--she must become his zombie. Giorgio's words travesty those of Christ from Matthew 22.37: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind ...", hence his question to her: "lo sono per te l'unico scopo delia tua esistenza; tu non vedi che me nel tuo avvenire?"(108). Thus does he anoint himself her Alpha and Omega, her fullness of being. Her proprium becomes his property when he demands control even over her appearing to others. His love is thus a quasi-divine proprietorship to which her very representation in the minds of others is sacrilege: "Qual sorta di possesso e dunque il mio?" (64). He fears her participation in society "mescola[ta] a quella volgarita" (63). In other words, as Croce might have suggested, Giorgio's inherited wealth reduces others to pollution. Beatitude traditionally requires both purification and containment: Ippolita's submission to Giorgio recalls the submission to God Piccarda Donati describes in her eulogy of the contentment of the blessed in Dante's Paradiso (III, 85), "E 'n la sua volontade e nostra pace." (7) Put another way, Dante's Piccarda is one who has successfully "cerca[to] nell'Amore l'Assoluto" (247). Resenting Ippolita's love later in the novel, the divine, though fickle, Giorgio resents possession by a possession. At a more profound level, his jealousy expresses his mournful rejection of the inevitability of loss, a promise made to him the moment he set eyes on her.

Ippolita's construction of herself as desired object is precisely idolatrous. Genesis 1.26: God says, "Let us make man to our image and likeness" (10). Ippolita's promise to Giorgio, "Tu mi farai perfetta per te" (177), suggests Christian reformatio of the imago Dei, with the reward for her conformity "suprema dolcezza" (200). In Christian tradition, suprema dolcezza is facies-ad-faciem possession of the Absolute Good. Ippolita, the earnest imago Georgii, becomes Dante's per se angel when she claims her love to be "piu alta di Dio nella sua purita sovrana" (258). She believes her love for Giorgio is superior to God's love for the world because it asks for nothing in return except perhaps her joy at the delight she provides him. Even so, the gratuity of her self-denial only earns her his eventual condemnation as "la corruptrice, la implacabile Nemica, la Rosa dell'Inferno" (258). The narrator underscores the overtly theological aspects of Giorgio's yearning: Giorgio is rewarded with the "fremito di un creatore" (210) when he witnesses "la donna amata trasformarsi a imitazione di lui" (211). Her conformity is the basis of their impossible beatitude: Giorgio wants mournfully to lose himself in her, yet, at the same time, control her. Like Dante's God, Giorgio "vuol simile a se tutta sua corte" (Par. Ill, 45). When Giorgio's absolutizing caprice turns to religious sensation, it will settle for nothing less than perfect presence: "Se io possedessi la vera fede, quella fede che permetteva a Santa Teresa di vedere Iddio realmente nell'Ostia!" (250). Giorgio is demonically irresponsible of what he transforms Ippolita into as he applies to her his various absolutes and transcendences, culminating in his reading of her as "la implacabile Nemica" (258).

Death demonstrates its triumph in a way that would not be unfamiliar to the Croce of La letteratura delta nuova Italia, because mourning pervades Giorgio's relationship not just with Ippolita, but with his family, Italy, the past, the present, and even his confused/confusing, ungraspable self. Giorgio fumbles among absolutes in the attempt to achieve transparency to himself and with it self-control: "Io non mi posseggo, io sfuggo a me stesso" (121), he complains. Ippolita worsens his condition: her contaminating attraction precludes his control over his inner life. His cry, "Che uccidera il desiderio?" (253), is the classic cry of misfit man cursed--or blessed--with an infinite, spiritual hunger that only an infinite spiritual object can satisfy. Giorgio flees anything that might usurp his sovereign control over his identity, even if it is religion. Even as he desires her, he flees her intrusion into his solitude: Giorgio wishes to exist in a divine dissymetry in which his hidden gaze would confer identity upon Ippolita. That is to say that he would remain untouched by his creation.

His travels with Ippolita accordingly establish a progressive alienation from the life he knew, indeed, from anyone who might impose a social constraint or obligation on him, even if the constraint is merely that of a social identity. Their shared solitude on the train to Orvieto is a metaphor for disownment and itself a version of failed transcendence. We could go so far as to say that murder/suicide is the reductio ad absurdum of the freedom he craves. Indeed, D'Annunzio suggests that the inherited money that liberates Giorgio from social constraint transforms him into a figure not unlike Homer's Cyclops in the Odyssey--that is, a homicidal monster. The Cyclopes did no work, and as a consequence had no proper polis, hence no proper guest ethic. This is another of Homer's legacies to Christian tradition: be it Bower of Bliss or locus amoenus, an earthly paradise is a place of spiritual danger to postlapsarian man wounded in the will. Enjoying the quasidivine omnipotence of wealth, and freed from the restraints of society, Giorgio feels free to dispose of Ippolita's life as he wishes. As Croce might well have agreed, the suicide, Demetrio's legacy, is an entry into mourning and a curse from Demetrio's crypt. A subtle economy of haunting structures the novel.

Giorgio mourns transcendence: he passes his day attempting to achieve happiness by examining various absolutes that construct the identity of lover and beloved in new ways. However, the wide variety itself of the absolutes he examines foretells their failure. One might well say that Ippolita is the victim of the last transcendence that Giorgio tries out, beginning with the remembered raptures of music shared with his uncle Demetrio, proceeding to a Wordsworthian identification with nature, thence to an ascetic return to the Church, thence to an identification with primordial Italy, and finally, a union with Demetrio that requires the elimination of Ippolita. As we have seen, the novel describes Giorgio's creation of distance between himself and the community, but as important, it describes his continually growing distance from Ippolita, and from himself, as he exchanges absolute for absolute in the interests of an elusive wholeness. It is ironic, then, that Giorgio's eventual murder/suicide leap resemble more the open suicide of the working man that opens the novel than the solitary suicide of Demetrio. Ippolita provides an excellent insight into the profound narcissism of Giorgio's inner life: "Il tuo pensiero ti attrae forse piu che io non ti attragga, perche e sempre nuovo e sempre diverso ..." (61). The narrator expresses a Platonic contempt for Giorgio's indecisiveness as he comtemplates killing her: "Pareva che tutte le effeminazioni della sua anima si dischiudessero insieme e fluttuassero" (357).

The narrator also despises Giorgio's general intellectual fickleness: "Il suo cervello, ingombrato da un ammasso di osservazioni psicologiche personali e apprese da altri analisti, spesso confondeva e scomponeva ogni cosa, fuori e dentro" (193). (8) His obsessive self-scrutiny expresses itself in physiological metaphors, perhaps taken from late nineteenth-century French psychology of degeneracy. His superficial readings have rendered him a quixotically--and homicidally--confused man. Giorgio is not unaware of this: he mourns his own failure of wholeness. For example, rereading letters he sent to Ippolita years earlier, "non gli riusciva di ravvicinare Yio di quel tempo all'io presente" (97). He addressed those letters to the various places she stopped as she traveled, but each letter measures not only his distance from Ippolita, but also his distance from the man he is and whom he yearns to annihilate. Giorgio cannot recuperate himself either in memory or from his letters, nor can he recuperate himself in the present, as he reveals in one of his many vituperations of his inability to understand himself: "Il senso che io ho del mio essere e simile a quello che puo avere un uomo il quale, condannato a restare su un piano di continuo ondeggiante e pericolante, senta di continuo mancargli l'appoggio, dovunque egli posi il piede" (121). This passage mourns ontological grounds for identity that Giorgio cannot locate, however much he may search for them among the various means of transcendence he samples. Such groundlessness prefigures his leap from the cliff grasping Ippolita. It could be argued that Giorgio outdoes Dostoevsky's Kirilov in The Possessed, because for Giorgio the highest affirmation of freedom in a godless world is not suicide, but murder/suicide.

Giorgio's obsessive hunger for control of Ippolita requires nothing less than omnipotence for its satisfaction, because it requires that limits be placed on the infinity of meanings she unwittingly disseminates to all who see her. At first Giorgio expresses his obsession as jealousy: "Un uomo passa, un uomo ti guarda; e nel tuo spirito si produce un qualunque moto ch'io non posso sorprendere" (60). Then, his desire for control invades their intimacy in words that become both programmatic and prophetic of her murder: "Il guardare in quell'abisso e un'angoscia cosi forte che, per una specie d'istinto cieco, io mi getto sul tuo corpo, ti stringo, ti soffoco, impaziente di possederti. La volutta e alta, come non mai. Ma quale volutta puo compensare l'immensa tristezza che sopraggiunge?" (61). This murderous lust is a species of horror vacui: he cannot tolerate any discontinuity in her presence or his control. Thus, Giorgio dwells in contradiction: he wants the solitude of control, yet he needs to merge with Ippolita. His awareness of the passivity of his desire diminishes this ineffectual god's pleasure in his creature.

One recurrent triumph of death--and occasion of mourning--lies in the enervation of male will by woman. When Giorgio rests his head on his mother's knee, "[l]a volonta di vivere si ritirava da lui a poco a poco, come il calore abbandona un cadavere" (121). The nearness of his mother and sister induces in him an immobility that approaches paralysis: "Troppo gli pareva faticoso abbandonare quella positura orizzontale in cui fra qualche ora egli avrebbe trovata la requie eterna" (162). D'Annunzio thus renders Giorgio's recumbency as a pieta of crucified self-absorption. Of course, the fear of such enervation at the hands of woman is a staple of Western literature: one recalls the emasculated Odysseus on Calypso's island, Aeneas in Dido's court, Mars in Venus's, Ruggiero in Alcina's court, Rinaldo in Armida's. His enervation is prophetic: the lovers' eventual Liebestod is figured in the death Giorgio experiences in his regressive experience of his mother. And, as with Ippolita at Alinari's window, Giorgio's relationship with his mother is mediated by death. He imagined his death as a spectacle that would arouse his mother's value-endowing grief. That is, Giorgio imagines--and enjoys--himself transparent and simplified as introjected by his mourning mother. And therein lies a paradox: if truly to exist is to be the object of another's mourning, then the presence it brings is purchased at the cost of one's singularity. Mourning is determining: Giorgio's relentless self-concern arises from his mother's introjection of him. For example, Giorgio's intolerance of the slightest incommodity reflects his mother's intolerance of any incommodity inflicted upon her beloved boy: "'No, no, Giorgio, tu non ti devi affliggere, tu non devi soffrire ... Io dovevo tacere, non dovevo dirti nulla ... Non piangere piu. Io non posso vederti piangere!'" (145). His mother's abject devotion also survives in Ippolita's relentless attempts to conform herself to Giorgio's introjection of her perpetually dying self.

As with his mother, so with Ippolita: imagining himself dead, Giorgio participates in Ippolita's mourning him: "E di nuovo egli cercava d'immaginare gli effetti postumi:--la sua attitudine sul letto, nella stanza dei suoi amori.... E poi il dolore, la disperazione, la follia d'Ippolita" (163). Giorgio's nephew, tiny Luchino, who never laughs or plays, but only clings tightly to his mother, rests his head on his mother's lap (131) exactly as does the adult Giorgio (120). In short, one correlative of Giorgio is a sickly child, a figuration which contains an implicit moral judgment of Giorgio's immaturity. Giorgio constantly suffers the loss of his childhood, "Il rimpianto dei giorni irrimediabilmente perduti" (81). He had translated similar sentiments in Tennyson for Uncle Demetrio: "O Morte nella Vita, i giorni che non sono piu" (172). He believes that Ippolita alone can diminish his longing for childhood past, to him a kind of sickness: "S'ella mi guarisse! Un amore sano e forte mi potrebbe guarire" (178). Another paradox of Giorgio's love is that even as it sickens and weakens, so must it strengthen and heal. Such love, however, puts Ippolita in a double bind: on the one hand, she must have sufficient strength to heal Giorgio. On the other, she must remain the utterly pliable means to his gratification by not impinging on his serenity. Such yearning after normalcy, vigor and resolution is a familiar theme in the modern Italian novel: Giorgio's yearning for them anticipates that of his fellow rentiers Zeno Cosini and Mattia Pascal.

Death radiates outward from the room where Demetrio, Giorgio's surrogate father--and ultimate pollutant--committed suicide. The motif of mortuary violets that joins art, deconsecration and suicide in the novel has its matrix there. To disown his biological father, an amoral moocher who fouls the purity of his identity, Giorgio replaces him with Demetrio--whose heir he is. Giorgio then makes his own history an inscription he found in a church his family endowed in 1410: it mentions a Demetrio Aurispa and his only son Giorgio. A past engrafted onto the present is another version of "O morte nella Vita." The visit to his father's house accordingly becomes a pretext for a visit to Demetrio's room where Giorgio rehearses his own suicide. He picks up Demetrio's fatal dueling pistol, savors its feel and balance, and imagines killing himself with the same weapon on the same bed (174). Only the thought of Ippolita restrains him (176). Demetrio's pistols are kept in a case of light-olive colored cloth (175) just like his violin (169), and the coverlet of his deathbed (173). The transformation of green, which is both the liturgical color of hope and the universal symbol of nature and life (Dante: "Mentre che la speranza ha fior del verde" [Purg. III, 135]), into a death motif figuratively repeats Tennyson's oft repeated refrain: "O Morte nella Vita" (172). More to the point: in Trionfo delia morte, violets and the color green represent both a longing for transcendence and the inevitability of its failure.

Giorgio now rejects everything that distracts him from Demetrio, his elective father, object of union and final mediator of his desire. But since Giorgio desires a restored and transcendent union with the Demetrio he has introjected, loss of Demetrio and loss of himself in his complexity are the same thing. That is, emulating Demetrio's suicide is a supreme act of both failed mourning and erotic union. Giorgio enjoyed union with Demetrio in their transcendent experience of performing music, and other aesthetic experiences. Giorgio chooses to ignore that Demetrio's singularity eludes him, if only because he really has no idea of the reason behind Demetrio's suicide. Demetrio did not leave a letter of explanation even to his protege and heir. Giorgio is actually mourning a man whom he no more understood nor controlled than he does Ippolita. "O Morte nella Vita": his search for health paradoxically leads him to emulate the suicide of Demetrio. Here again the impossible possibility of mourning asserts itself, because Demetrio's secrecy would be annulled in Giorgio's fantasy of union, but that secret--his singularity--is what led Giorgio to love Demetrio in the first place. Deprived of his secret, Demetrio would have become an other, his self effectively annulled at the very moment of its reappropriation. Once again, depriving death of its otherness, Giorgio makes it the fantasied, totalizing empire of the simple, the pure and the same. Thus, joining Demetrio in a crypt of transcendence is, as with Ippolita, the loss of the self. The fantasized intimacy of death has replaced failed collectivities: whatever psychological satisfactions and benefits Giorgio might have found in Croce's destroyed collectivities he must find among his introjections and his jumbled selves.

Even more than the life of Crocean "volgari," the world of labor and of those who labor is grotesque to Giorgio. The body of his host at the Hermitage of San Vito, Cola di Cinzio, has been hideously deformed by work: "Le sue membra erano deformate dalle rudi fatiche: dall'opera dell'arare che fa sorgere la spalla sinistra e torcere il busto, dall'opera del falciare che fa tenere le ginocchia discoste, dall'opera del potare che curva in due la persona, da tutte le opere lente e pazienti delia coltivazione" (180). Each opera/fatica inscribes its individual deformation on Cola's body, making it a caricatural register of the esistenza mediocre that Giorgio despises. (Cola's wife no less: she bore him twenty-two children.) D'Annunzio's irony suggests that Cola's body is as deformed by work as Giorgio's mind by leisure.

Giorgio and Ippolita are surrounded by labor--peasants, fishermen and hoteliers--which maintains the paradises they inhabit, these paradises which they can neither acknowledge nor truly enjoy But labor must exist silently and unacknowledged, as if personified by the suicide of the worker that begins the novel. This labor, in which they do not participate, this labor so foreign to the experience and perceptions of the sensualist, is a kind of secret. Giorgio's fear/contempt for the world of labor is the occasion for the finest comic moment in the novel, when Giorgio's transport into epistemology--"La terra non svelera mai il suo segreto. L'uomo potra sentire tutto il suo sangue correre nelle fibre dell'albero, ma l'albero non gli dara mai una goccia delia sua linfa vitale" (183)--is set in denigrating juxtaposition with Cola's theology of husbandry--"Fa cchiit mmeracule 'na stalle de letame, che 'na cchjiese de sande" (183). The narrator's bitter denigration of the thought of this ineffectual heir and rentier is founded upon his shrewd grasp of the irony of money: how it creates and at the same time destroys paradises for its possessor by reducing the circumambient world to "esistenze mediocri" (127), or "selvaggia agglomerazione umana" (260), much as Croce complained. Money makes the poor repellent even as it offers a tenuous refuge from them. Throughout the novel, vitality is associated with vulgarity and grotesque rapaciousness, as in the figures of Giorgio's father and brother. Their vitalistic rapacity contrasts with Giorgio's ineffectuality Inherited money is a haunting presence no less for Giorgio than for Croce, and it is the undying voice of the introjected Demetrio.

Rome for D'Annunzio's Giorgio--as for Pirandello's Mattia Pascal--is a cemetery of enervation, a "citta dell'inerzia intellettuale" (85), "una citta dove altro non si potesse che morire" (109). It is equally a cemetery of Catholic belief with its deconsecrated churches (for Croce, another depredation of capitalism). Orvieto likewise: "una citta silenziosa che pare disabitata" (74) like a crypt; its cathedral the object of aesthetic appreciation--throughout the novel estheticism is deconsecration. Calling Orvieto a miracle, the lovers mean that it is a spent miracle of beauty (74). Back in Rome, the couple attends a concert given in a deconsecrated oratorio in Via Belsiana by a Buddhist scholar of Schopenhauer. In a place formerly consecrated to transcendence in God, Giorgio experiences esthetic transcendence of the saeculum. Giorgio is, after all, "un ascetico senza Dio" (251), a man schooled in condescending disbelief and esthetic deconsecration by his uncle Demetrio: "Entrambi avevano l'anima religiosa, inclinata al mistero, atta a vivere in una selva di simboli o in un cielo di pure astrazioni; entrambi amavano le cerimonie delia chiesa latina, la musica sacra, l'odore dell'incenso, tutte le sensualita dei culto piu violente e piu delicate" (251). Both kneel before an altar deserted by God (251). In this spirit, a desire to indulge themselves in quaint sights leads the lovers to join the pilgrimage to Casalbordino. Thus, Croce's failed Christianity frames the events of the novel as it invades it from within: the title of the novel, Trionfo delta morte, as well as the titles of its chapters, "La casa paterna," "L'eremo," "La vita nuova," Tempus destruendi," "L'invincibile," speak the language of Christian tradition.

This thematics of enervation belies the canonical tradition of reading Giorgio as Nietzschean Ubermensch in Trionfo delia morte. The canonical reading has led critics to overlook D'Annunzio's social criticism/satire throughout the novel. Via the narrator's contempt for Giorgio, D'Annunzio has composed a tragicomic hagiography of the enervated voluptuary whose absolute is the self, understood as terminus of pleasure, and whose paradise is the fugitive moment of sensation. (9) D'Annunzio's narrator overtly despises such a man: early in the book, D'Annunzio's narrator describes Giorgio as confused--"Il suo cervello, ingombrato da un ammasso di osservazioni psicologiche personali e apprese da altri analisti, spesso confondeva e scomponeva tutto, fuori e dentro. Egli dava al suo spirito attitudini arteficiose e irreparabili" (58)--and as one who is despicably overwhelmed by self-pity (59). The narrator derides the specious profundity of Giorgio's thought ("la funesta abitudine delia contraddizione gli interruppe il gaudio" [183]), as well as the mercuriality of the feelings on which he bases his judgments ("Avveniva in lui il consueto fenomeno delia esagerazione sentimentale, per via d'imagini associate" [63]). Some might go so far as to call Giorgio's inability to define a coherent system of moral values nihilism. Nevertheless, the narrator's presentation of a Giorgio so at odds with Giorgio's self-presentations--which the critical canon accepts as definitive--is the reader's entry into the unknowing of mourning.

"Egli persisteva ad agognare l'amore nelle forme del godimento, invece di rassegnarsi a gustarlo nelle forme del patimento. Egli dava al suo spirito un'attitudine irreparabile. Egli colpiva e difformava ancora una volta la sua umanita" (179): the narrator attacks Giorgio's fickleness, self-contradictory enthusiasms and shallowness from a position best expressed by the Christian stoic rationalism of Boethius in the The Consolation of Philosophy: "It is the nature of all bodily pleasure to punish those who enjoy it. Like the bee after its honey is given, it flies away, leaving its lingering sting in the hearts it has struck." (10) Nowhere does the narrator declare a more uncompromising--and Crocean--contempt for Giorgio and Ippolita's mutual self-absorption than after their experience of horror and loathing at the ignorance and superstition of the peasants of San Vito: "Ambedue non mangiavano piu, turbati, stretti dalla pieta, sbigottiti dall'apparizione repentina di quei fantasmi d'umana vita oscura ed atroce che circondavano gli ozii del loro amore inutile" (235). That amore inutile is a wasteland refuge from a Crocean wasteland.

Contrary to the conviction of much criticism of D'Annunzio, there is little of the Ubermenschliches to be found in Giorgio's flight from a "vita volgare" (63) to the luxe, calme et volupte of the moneyed esthete. (11) Giorgio's brother reiterates the narrator's contempt for Giorgio: "Tu non hai mai fatto nulla per nessuno; tu non hai fatto che il tuo comodo e il tuo vantaggio, sempre; accarezzato, preferito, tenuto su l'altare" (137). Far from the tragedy of a Nietzschean Ubermensch, Giorgio's is a tragicomedy of heredity but heredity not just understood biologically as his "tainting" by poor and ignorant ancestors in an Urzeit. As important as physiological heredity is the eredita Croce described in our opening quotation--financial inheritance--that sets in motion Giorgio's fatal grasping at ideals. As we have seen, money eliminates the concerns that require the exercise of common sense and ground one's expectations in the quotidian. The novel is also a tragicomedy of prideful elective heredity--the fatherhood he bestows on Demetrio--which culminates in the suicide that is mediated by Demetrio's example. Extreme ease is lethal in the novel, as if to suggest that Demetrio's monetary legacy is analogous to a curse. It is as if the introjected--encrypted--Demetrio gradually took control of Giorgio by means of the inheritance he left behind. It is inherited money that permits Giorgio and Ippolita to live like ghosts, flitting from one place to another with no political existence, accepting no responsibility beyond that of connoisseurship and the prompt payment of their bills. The narrator claims that "[Giorgio] ambiva di comporsi un mondo interno dove poter vivere con metodo, in perpetuo equilibrio e in perpetua curiosita, indifferente ai tumulti e aile contingenze volgari" (190), but "perpetuo equilibrio" here is less Stoic apatheia than immobile leisure. The narrator disparages Giorgio's inability to "combattere la lotta dell'esistenza comune" (251), compelling him to exist as "un esule della vita" (251). One consequence of such fecklessness is that the petty importunings of moochers such as Alfonso Exili and Giorgio's father become excruciating: "Gli pareva di essere la vittima d'una gente feroce ed implacabile che non volesse risparmiargli nessuna tortura" (145). Despised money is the root of the hyperbolic sensitivity that turns petty annoyance into martyrdom; once again, Boethius in the Consolation of Philosophy: "... [T]hose most blessed are often the most sensitive; unless everything works out perfectly, they are impatient at disappointment and shattered by quite trivial things. It takes very little to spoil the perfect happiness of the fortunate" (29).

Rather than a return to origins, the pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Virgin becomes A Passage to India, except that Forster 's exotic and terrible India becomes rural Italy, Giorgio's own country. The sickness, poverty, ignorance and superstition of his own people disgusts Giorgio, who feels threatened with falling into a grotesque bolgia formed from his racial and religious past; for him, the abruzzesi are pollution itself. Giorgio's spirit "viveva nell'orrore di un mondo sconosciuto, al cospetto di un popolo senza nome, partecipando a un rito d'origine oscurissima" (282), like a dionysiac mystery (282); "senza nome," as if from an undifferentiated racial id. That is, the pilgrimage to the shrine is the final step in a journey of making other to himself those elements which normally establish one's identity. The procession

becomes a vipers' tangle out of Bosch--"con l'impronta di una umanita diversa dalla sua, formati d'un materia diversa" (282), "lenti di rettili" (278)--under the scheming eyes of rapacious priests. The narrator observes, "Il suo essere non aveva radiei in quel fondo; non poteva avere nulla di comune con quella moltitudine ..." (286). One Circean effect of large amounts of money inherited from the dead is to transform its heirs into a race apart.

The return of disowned family, "race" and religion is staged as a parade. Giorgio's revulsion climaxes in racist frenzy:
   Nulla, nulla eguagliava in terribilita lo spettacolo di quella
   grande erta poverosa, accecante di bianchezza, su cui tutti quei
   mostri delia miseria umana, tutti quegli avanzi d'una razza
   disfatta, corpi accomunati alia bestia immonda e alia materia
   escrementale, ostentavano fuor de' cenci le loro brutture e le
   proclamavano. (296)

Giorgio extends no hospitality to such "materia escrementale" especially when its monstrous otherness is that of his own "race," "una tribu innumerevole" (296), which is somehow both present and absent from him. Race/religion/heredity are excluded presences which, nevertheless, threaten Giorgio's self-possession by forming a kind of unconscious-as-suspected-taint with which he is obsessed. Giorgio believed he had eradicated the pollution of the rural, poor, pagan, religiously observant Italian inside him. Nevertheless, his vision of the afterlife remains as pagan as their superstition; his desire for health as desperate as theirs; like his is their yearning for deliverance. "Quei mostri delia miseria" are no less his objective correlative than sickly Luchino; all of them inhabit his representation. It is ironic that not long before he believed that identification with his race would lead him to self-possession: "Non debbo io, per ritrovare tutto me stesso, per riconoscere la mia vera essenza, non debbo io pormi a contatto immediato con la razza da cui sono uscito?" (245). "Uscito" is ambiguous here.

The latest new messiah to arrive in Italy, Oreste di Cappelle (168), simply replaces the earlier one, Simplicio di Sulmona. In Trionfo della morte, each new messiah is actually a messiah to the degree to which he can be replaced by another, remaining always underway, bearing new hope to the poor and ignorant. But not to Giorgio. Leading these "corpi accomunati alia bestia immonda" (296), Oreste effectively preaches to Giorgio a gospel of Giorgio's pollution by race and faith, which, for Giorgio, forecloses transcendence. This particular parousia threatens Giorgio with an arrival/return to a primordial italianita made up of paganism, deformity and money grubbing: a horrific volgarita. That is, Oreste is the messiah of Giorgio's disinherited past--a past that was never present--which threatens Giorgio with pollution. Put another way, Oreste's gospel embodies what Giorgio fears inhabits him--it is the correlative of impurity, his non-coincidence with himself. Equally bad, the messiah arrives as a surprise; Giorgio was as unprepared for Oreste's advent as for a nightmare. Oreste's advent is as spectacle, the arrival of the circus in town; his epiphany a parade of sideshow freaks--"avanzi d'una razza disfatta" (296)--accompanied by the usual thieves and pickpockets. It is a great fete of pollution. The pilgrimage to Casalbordino accordingly contextualizes Giorgio's murder of Ippolita as a desperate attempt to cleanse himself of the polluting desire for her. Greek tragedy makes the name "Oreste" synonymous with the arrival of a death-dealing avenger; this Oreste comes to announce the bankruptcy of Giorgio's hope for transcendence through identification with his ancient faith and italianita. He reminds Giorgio that to be an heir to italianita is to mourn it.

Giorgio mourns the future when he imagines death as union with the Ippolita he will have encrypted for himself. Union with her is a pagan fantasy inasmuch as it is a disincarnate, yet nevertheless sensual, possession. Furthermore, his is an essentially private, sensualist salvation--no corpus mysticum here. In other words, the death he imagines is both Croce's nightmare and the rentier's ideal--a transfer of property, exclusivity and privilege from this life to the next--yet another version of materialist paradise. Giorgio effectively fashions his eschatology out of a wealth-induced solipsism. Demetrio provides the model of such embalmed introjection (failed mourning in Freud): "Dopo la morte fisica, l'anima di Demetrio s'era preservata nel superstite senza diminuzione alcuna, salendo anzi e rimanendo al supremo grado delia sua intensita" (358). Thus, Giorgio will exclaim, "Io l'amerei [Ippolita] oltre la vita, senza gelosia, con un dolore pacato e eguale" (205). Loving her means mourning her eternally, with her embalmed idealization blessing him with peace. Giorgio's murder of Ippolita can thus be seen as his disincarnation of her--a reverse haunting wherein life invades death.


University of California, Irvine


(1) In La letteratura delta nuova Italia (Bari: Laterza, 1947) IV, 12. Translations mine.

(2) Trionfo delia morte, ed. Giansiro Ferrata (Milano: Mondadori, 1940) 258. Hereafter, all citations are taken from this edition and will be noted in the text. On Trionfo delta morte, see Maria Teresa Marabini Moevs, Gabriele D'Annunzio e le estetiche delta fine del secolo (L'Aquila: Japadre, 1976), Ettore Paratore, "Il 'Trionfo delia morte'," Lettere italiane 33 (1981): 509-528, Vittorio Roda, "Note sui personaggi femminili del D'Annunzio" in Il soggetto centrifugo (Bologna: Patron, 1984) 275-300, and his "Appunti sulla costruzione del personaggio dannunziano," Annali d'italianistica 5 (1987): 87-110, De Michelis, "Trionfo delta morte," in Guida a D'Annunzio (Torino: Meynier, 1988) 124-136, and Renato Barilli, D'Annunzio in prosa (Milano: Mursia, 1993).

(3) On mourning, see Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (New York: Routledge, 1994), Drucilla Cornell, The Philosophy of the Limit (New York and London: Routledge, 1992), Henry Staten, Eros in Mourning: Homer to Lacan (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1995), J. Hillis Miller, "Derrida's Others," in Applying: To Derrida, eds. John Brannigan, Ruth Robbins and Julian Wolfreys (Houndmills, Basingstoke and Hampshire: Macmillan, 1996) 153-170, John D. Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1997), David Farrell Krell, The Purest of Bastards: Works of Mourning, Art and Affirmation in the Thought of Jacques Derrida (University Park: The Pennsylvania State UP, 2000), Nouri Gana, rev. of Jacques Derrida, The Work of Mourning, ed. Pascale-Anne Briault and Michael Naas (Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, 2001), Jodey Castricano, Cryptomimesis: The Gothic and Jacques Derrida's Ghost Writing (Montreal and Kingston, London and Ithaca: McGill-Queen's UP, 2001), Substance 32 (2003): 150-155. See also Sorcha Fogarty's brief and useful introduction to Derrida on mourning: "The Work of Mourning," The Literary Encyclopedia, 15 Oct. 2006, true&UID=16509. Let David Farrell Krell's words from The Purest of Bastards provide a summary of my project in this paper: "Derrida suggests that a stunningly beautiful object or person, in its purest and most radiant presence to us, shining within the aura of being itself, is actually lost to us and is at some terrible remove, always already in an awful inexistence" (7).

(4) I borrow this term from Henry Staten's brilliant Eros in Mourning, 40.

(5) Consider Charles Baudelaire's "L'invitation au voyage": "Mon enfant, ma soeur, / Songe a la douceur / D'aller la-bas vivre ensemble! / Aimer a loisir, / Aimer et mourir / Au pays qui te /ressemble! / Les soleils mouilles / De ces ciels brouilles / Pour mon esprit ont les charmes / Si mysterieux / De tes traitres yeux, / Brillant a travers leurs larmes. / La, tout n'est qu'ordre et beaute, / Luxe, calme et volupte." Les Fleurs du mal et autres poemes, ed. Henri Lemaitre (Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1964) 77-78. The quasi-incestuous theme of the beloved as sister is not unfamiliar in D'Annunzio: one finds it in Il piacere (1889): Andrea Sperelli's description of Elena makes her both mother and sister (Milano: Mondadori, 1995) 93. See Guy Tosi, "D'Annunzio et le symbolisme francais:1890-1894," in D'Annunzio e il simbolismo europeo: Atti del convegno di studio Gardone Riviera, 14-15-16 settembre 1973, ed. Emilio Mariano (Milano: Il Saggiatore, 1976) 223-282.

(6) The Holy Bible Translated from the Latin Vulgate, trans. The English Colleges at Douay and Rheims (New York: Douay Bible House, 1953) 184.

(7) Ed. and trans. Charles S. Singleton (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1975) III, 32.

(8) Thus Croce in "Gabriele D'Annunzio" from La letteratura della nuova Italia:
   Ridotto il mondo a un gioco, a una fonte di commozioni piu o meno
   disgregate e fuggevoli, esso stancherebbe presto, pur nella
   contemplazione, se non si ricercassero curiosamente e avidamente
   tra le commozioni d'indole sensuale quelle piu forti, capaci di
   legare piu a lungo l'interessamento, capaci di mettere una qualche
   gerarchia e stabilire qualche centro, sia pure effimero, in quella
   folla variopinta, che si ribella per natura sua alla gerarchia e
   all'unificazione. Percio il dilettante si fa voluttuoso e, corne
   voluttuoso, crudele. Volutta e crudelta appaiono quasi regine di un
   mondo cosi fatto: tra quei due toni corre il romanzo, corre la
   tragedia di esso. (13)

What is true of authors appears true of their protagonists.

(9) It should be clear that I read Trionfo della morte against the thematics of the waste, enervation and debilitation of the middle class that obsesses the Italian novel at least since Verga. The wastrel aristocracy in Verga's Mastro-Don Gesualdo, the utter ineffectuality of Pirandello's Mattia Pascal (son of a capitalist buccaneer), and Zeno Cosini's cult of "health" are all opposed by the fascist exaltation of risk-taking virility (Mussolini: "Vivere pericolosamente!"). It is as if Fascism, with its cult of vitality, virility, action and violence addressed itself in contrariety to the entire thematics of doubt, insecurity and enervation expressed in Trionfo della morte and many other early twentieth-century Italian novels. For example, Mario Carli in his Manifesto dell'Ardito-Futurista, using a description that looks ahead to Fascism, describes Futurist man as having, among other characteristics, "cuore di dinamo, polmoni pneumatici, fegato di leopardo.... Eleganza sobria virile sportiva, che permette di correre, di lottare, di svincolarsi, di danzare, di arringare una folla" (cited in "Mussolini e il fascismo," Norberto Bobbio, in Novecento: I contemporanei, ed. Gianni Grana, vol. 4 [Milano: Marzorati, 1979] 2960). See Barbara Spackman, "The Fascist Rhetoric of Virility," Stanford Italian Review 8 (1990): 81-101.

(10) Trans. Richard Green (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962) 54.

(11) On D'Annunzio and Nietzsche, see David William Foster, "Trionfo della morte di D'Annunzio e la struttura dell'ironia nietzscheana," Sigma 17 (1968): 39-53, Guy Tosi, "D'Annunzio decouvre Nietzsche," Italianistica 3 (1973): 480513, Sergio Solmi, "Nietzsche e D'Annunzio," // verri 9 (1975): 7-16, and the outstanding study of Gianna Pieraccini, "Il superuomo dannunziano come archetipo dei miti dell'ideologia di destra," Strumenti critici N.S. 10 (1995): 387-416. I simply cannot square with the narrator's contempt for Giorgio and his innumerable self-contradictions critical judgments such as the following,
   Aurispa esalta il superuomo che predica una giustizia
   dell'ineguaglianza. Le terribili energie dell'uomo nuovo portano
   alia creazione di nuovi valori. Il valore massimo e quello del
   dominio del piu forte. L'uomo dionisiaco vive nell'eccesso, ha la
   forza per sottomettere gli altri. Ed e giusto che il forte sia il
   padrone e il debole il servo.

The anonymous critic continues:
   Il dominatore e colui che conquista, forte e tirannico, circondato
   dalla gioia del dominio. Egli plasma la vita costringendola a
   soddisfare ogni desiderio. Dominare significa anche liberarsi dalla
   tirannia della morale delle masse, dominare significa elevarsi al
   di la del bene e del male.

Sept. 2006. http:/ / interdisciplinari/02ilsuperuomo/letteratura/. Sed contra: Giorgio's description of himself, "Sono un povero infermo" (104). Here is the narrator's assessment of him as enervated contradiction: "Questo contrasto fra la lucidita del pensiero e la cecita del sentimento, tra la debolezza della volonta e la forza degli istinti, tra la realta e il sogno, produceva su lui disordini funesti" (193). Too many studies of the novel disregard the bitter judgments of the narrator in their interpretation of the character of Giorgio. Moreover, one need only reread the episode of Giorgio's feeble response to his father and brother in the chapter "La casa paterna" to see how little the anonymous critic of pianetascuola it's description fits such a weak, self-indulgent man, a man hyperbolically intolerant of the slightest pain. Aurispa's intent is not domination, but liberation from a fancied and overintellectualized subjugation to his own caprice and to a woman whose pathos lies in an eagerrness for perfect subservience that recalls that of the early Christian women martyrs. Moreover, the Nietzscheans overlook that early on in the novel Giorgio would say to Ippolita, "Se tu non venissi, io morirei" (67). Early in the novel, we find a weak, self-pitying Giorgio, and later in the novel an unscrupulous one.

On decadentismo, see the seminal words of Benedetto Croce in La letteratura della nuova Italia, vol. 4 (Bari: Laterza, 1954) 12ff., and Adriano Seroni, Il decadentismo (Palermo: Palumbo, 1964).
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Author:Chiampi, James T.
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2010
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