Handing out beauty: Gabriele D'Annunzio's ritual squanderers.
D'Annunzio's approach to beauty has largely unnoticed connections with the anti-modern anthropological discourse on symbolic economy that at the turn of the 20th century begins to reject instrumentality in life and representation. From the cultural primitivism of his time, D'Annunzio develops a consistent reflection on the aesthetic and ethical significance of ritual exchange that informs his search for a higher morality through art. Focusing on the nexus of art, giving, and temporality, this article addresses the intuitions and the contradictions of unconditional expenditure in D'Annunzio's works, analyzing the leitmotif of the hand as an ambivalent carrier of lavishness and power. From Trionfo delta morte to II fuoco, from Le vergini delle rocce to his autobiographical writings, the implications of D'Annunzio's argument contribute to an extended theoretical debate that interrogates the role of value in aesthetic and social practices--from Nietzsche, Mauss, and Bataille to Heidegger and Derrida. Can art's luxurious dissipation truly break the circle of speculation and restitution?
decadent aesthetics, gift-giving, literature and anthropology, symbolic economy, symbolism of hands
Io sono di remotissima stirpe. i miei padri erano anacoreti nella Maiella. si flagellavano a sangue, masticavano la neve onde s'empievan le pugna, strozzavano i lupi, spennavano le aquile, intagliavano la siglia nei massi con un chiodo della Croce raccolto da Elena. (D'Annunzio, 1995a: 222)
Among the many facets of the kaleidoscopic protagonist in Lucy Hughes-Hallett's biography The Pike (2013), one is certainly missing--the D'Annunzio "ostilmente salvatico" (D'Annunzio, 1995a: 222) who, with the Abruzzo soil in his heart and "alle suola delle (...) scarpe" (p. 222), has embraced anthropology since his artistic debut in the circle of painter Francesco Paolo Michetti. The 17-year-old future Poeta Vate was not only exposed to the naturalistic, folkloristic, and picturesque subjects of Michetti's canvases. He was also in the good company of ethnologists like Gennaro Finamore and Antonio de Nino--whose studies of local popular traditions would inspire many of his own works--and of Guido Boggiani, the painter and subsequently photographer and explorer who would accompany D'Annunzio on his journey to Greece (Andreoli, 2000: 55-56, 262) and would be recognized as a pioneer in fieldwork anthropology for his studies on South American Indians.
However, the critical attention to the primitive and almost feral reality that permeates D'Annunzio's pages fades once the author embraces the aestheticizing and heroic ideals of the priest of decadent beauty. At that point, the only surviving connection with ethnography and anthropology seems to be a negative one, namely, D'Annunzio's aristocratic contempt for "la Gran Bestia" (D'Annunzio, 1991a: 47), the herd represented by the multitude. Yet, in fact, it could be argued that the blend of realistic and ritualistic elements that D'Annunzio absorbs in Michetti's artistic cenacle leaves a deeper mark, and not only because the bond with the Abruzzese painter consolidates through the years. (1) From the cultural primitivism of his time, D'Annunzio develops a consistent reflection on the aesthetic and ethical significance of ritual exchange that is anything but incompatible with his search for a higher morality through art, and that innovatively reinterprets the notion of decadent beauty and its relationship with modernity.
According to Theodor Adorno, the category of the new appropriated by modern aesthetics marks art with "the trademark of consumer goods" (Adorno, 2002: 21), because, as it denies tradition, it reproduces the mechanism of commodification and sanctions its bourgeois essence. Art's cult of novelty responds to the market's need for a differentiated supply of goods, as capital can be valorized through constant reproduction, abundance, and change. Adorno locates the first theoretical articulation of this synergy between the aesthetic and the economic realms in Baudelaire's definition of the new as "akin to death" and interprets it as an "ominous" sign (Adorno, 2002: 21). However, precisely the transitory nature of novelty that for Adorno seems to turn the work of art into a product of capitalistic society suggests an alternative interpretive path, to which late 19th-century decadence offers a privileged context. Baudelaire's treatment of modernity as the age of an "ephemeral, [...] fugitive, [...] contingent" (Baudelaire, 1964: 13) beauty can be said to inaugurate decadent aesthetics as caducity, as the representation of a momentary, passing present. Therefore, instead of authenticating Adorno's conviction that the fleeting new legitimizes the logic of the market, the notion of decadence as impermanence translates into a conception of art that, precisely as the expression of temporality, self-reflexivity, and disinterestedness, opposes the bourgeois cult of speculation, possession, and self-preservation.
As the quintessential aesthete embracing art for art's sake, and symptomatically praising the profound modernity of the French painter Felicien Rops for his love of decadence as decay (D'Annunzio, 1986: 37), D'Annunzio adheres in exemplary fashion to this notion of transience as a non-functional, non-productive, hence anti-bourgeois approach to art and life. Indeed, D'Annunzio's instinctive "bisogno del superfluo" (2) reveals more than a "reckless, [...] pathological" (Hughes-Hallett, 2013: 148) compulsion to spend. The allegedly "perverted form of largesse" (p. 149) that could connote him as a "self-indulgent squanderer" (p. 149) is in fact more deeply connected to this particular conceptualization of the beautiful. As DAnnunzio's works eloquently show, the decadent pleasure of the ephemeral and the formulation of beauty as expenditure and gratuitousness are founded upon the principle of unconditional loss informing those primitive or archaic practices that inspire the nascent discourse on symbolic economy to reject instrumentality in life and in representation.
"Our morality is not solely commercial", anthropologist Marcel Mauss (1967: 63) writes in his 1924 seminal work on gift-exchange from ancient Rome to the Melanesia of his time. "Things have values which are emotional as well as material; indeed in some cases the values are entirely emotional. [...] We still have people and classes who uphold past customs and we bow to them" (Mauss, 1967: 63). In D'Annunzio's works, the notion of art as a symbolic activity opposed to the utilitarian and materialistic orientation of Western modernity is frequently connoted as a gift which, further reinforced by the motif of the hand, (3) promotes emotional bonds in actual or ideal spaces perceived as disinterested and hence noble. At the same time, starting from the decadent premise of transience in both art and life, D'Annunzio situates in expenditure without return the aesthetic principle par excellence. With this sophisticated theoretical reflection he transcends his immediate cultural context, and can be reappraised as a contributor to an extended philosophical and critical debate that interrogates the role of value in aesthetic activity and social practices--from the Nietzschean moral economy of squandering and the ceremonial exchange studied by Modernist anthropologists like Bronislaw Malinowski and Marcel Mauss in non-Western societies, passing through the pure dissipation of Georges Bataille's 'general economy' and Martin Heidegger's paradigm of donation as expression of a non-manipulative conception of time, down to the aporias of Jacques Derrida's aneconomic gift, among others.
Art, time, giving: Beyond II piacere
Il lettor vero non e chi mi compra ma chi mi ama. (D'Annunzio, 1990: 57) [...] a man gives himself [...] because he owes himself--himself and his possessions--to others. (Mauss, 1967: 45) [...] it is thinking that brings Being to language, and this bringing-into-language is figured as an offering--a gift. (Heidegger, 1993: 252)
As I have already observed in reference to the protagonist of D'Annunzio's first novel, Il piacere, Andrea Sperelli is still too anchored to material and rational speculation to embrace the ethos of dissipation without return (Pireddu, 1997: 191). Nevertheless, his defeat does not invalidate the paradigm of symbolic economy in D'Annunzio's aesthetic and ethical vision. Through the motif of the hand, Il piacere establishes a formal connection between art and the gift as manifestations marked by temporality that subsequent works will further explore, highlighting a tension between rational appropriation and material and emotional lavishness.
Contempt for profit and ownership leads Andrea to see "qualche cosa d'inverecondo" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 250) in the hands of Elena's husband, which he degrades to vulgar expressions of "utilita materiale" (p. 247). Likewise, although Andrea feels touched by his servant's loyalty, the benevolence that his hands convey derives from a servility that, as in Georges Bataille, still supports a philosophy of work and of speculative knowledge. For Bataille (1973: 130), "travail" and "savoir" are functional to the accomplishment of a project, and hence confirm the desire for self-preservation. For his part, when Andrea feels art gush from his hands, he is pervaded by a "divino torrente di gioia" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 143)--the kind of ecstatic experience that for Bataille dissolves stability and opens up to the "non-savoir" of art as an instance of souverainete (sovereignty), namely, aristocratic, primordial squandering of excess energy (Bataille, 1973: 130). By defining poetry at once as immanent and eternal, indeed, Andrea ascribes to the artwork the nature of the gift, whose spirit, according to Marcel Mauss, is kept in movement through the consumption of its own singular manifestations, as there is "a certain power which forces [objects] to circulate, to be given away and repaid" (Mauss, 1967: 41). A line of poetry for Andrea is precisely "indipendente da ogni legame e da ogni dominio; non appartiene piu all'artefice, ma e di tutti e di nessuno" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 142). Andrea's creative ability is not simply the result of his will. Rather, it is inseparable from a disposition to receive and circulate the fruit of his imagination instead of exploiting it as private property. Andrea feels the need to "darsi liberamente e per riconoscenza" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 138) to art, acknowledging that "il divino pregio del dono" (p. 141)--his artistic talent--is not in his exclusive possession. A thought gushing from the poet's mind "seguita ad esistere nella conscienza degli uomini" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 142), precisely because the author acts as a temporary beneficiary of the gift of art, and hands it down to others.
The condition that can prevent the authentic gift from being reinscribed in the closed circle of debts and credits, according to Derrida (1992: 101), is a "forgetful excess", able to obliterate consciousness and significance. For his part, however, with his "smania [...] di sapere, di scoprire, d'interrogare" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 29), Andrea exerts his ownership rights upon the gift of art and beauty. Indeed, whereas at first the hand appears as the symbol of irrational wastefulness allowing Andrea to repudiate "ogni benefizio" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 57)--as in the scenes in which he is captivated by Elena's "coppa carnale" (p. 54) bestowing beauty and sensuality--it ultimately foregrounds his attempt to annul loss and actualize his "presentimento del possesso" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 44). For instance, while sketching the hands of his other lover, Maria Ferres, Andrea exerts the power of capitalization over the inexhaustible erotic exchange represented by these "[m]ani di bonta" and "di perdono" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 287): "Mi pare che mi appartengano di diritto; mi pare che voi dobbiate concedermene il possesso". Precisely because "una mano nuda" corresponds for him to "una parte nuda dell'anima" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 210), he coopts art to dominate the woman and penetrate all her secrets.
Ironically, Andrea is ultimately rewarded with the ruthless utilitarian rules of the marketplace that contaminate his artistic aspirations and his sentimental relationships, dissolving the erotic power of the gift. He thus paves the way for his epigone Giorgio Aurispa who, in Trionfo della morte, is also marked by the tension between wastefulness and acquisition. With his yearning for eternity through death as a dimension able to transcend the insurmountable separation between man and woman, Giorgio revives Andrea's need for possession and control of others. Yet, his perceptions and meditations also show that success and superiority can be attained, instead, by accepting the logic of impermanence, abandoning oneself to finitude as expenditure without return. It is once again the hand that in Trionfo della morte conveys the aesthetic and ethical underpinnings of donating and dissipating. The novel is dotted with images of hands that dispense perishable material and emotional property, hence substantiating the idea of temporality as the negation of a stable, manipulable presence, and hands that, in other scenes, indirectly sanction the propensity to give as they represent, by contrast, the base impulse toward acquisition and practicality.
The brutishness of Giorgio's younger brother Diego is reflected in his greedy hands, "quelle mani larghe, robuste, coperte d'una lanugine folta, che gia a tavola, occupate al servizio della bocca vorace, gli avevano prodotto un senso di ripulsione cosi vivo" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 97). Likewise, the disgust that Giorgio feels for his father's ploys to extort money so as to continue his relationship with a vulgar woman, no less "avida e insaziabile" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 117), translates metonymically into the perception of the paternal hand as it touches the documents attesting his financial demise, "quella sua mano gonfia, quasi mostruosa, dai pori visibilissimi" (p. 114), qualifying an equally rapacious individual ready for any compromise "per far denaro" (p. 117). Or, again, the psychological inferiority of his aunt Gioconda, unable to rise above the most elementary and animal urge to fill up her belly, materializes in "certe mani grasse, di sego" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 128), signs of an "ingordigia" (p. 129) that makes her mourn her suicidal brother Demetrio only for the loss of his generosity. At a more general level, repugnant hands illustrate the physical and moral degradation of entire groups or social classes that Giorgio--here a foil for D'Annunzio himself--abhors precisely for their uncouthness and their urgent material needs: the hand of poor widow Riccangela, "mano rude e nerastra--mano provata a tutte le fatiche" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 326), "adusta e callosa di lavoratrice" (p. 328); the deformed, maimed hands of beggars and pilgrims on their way to the Sanctuary of Casalbordino, trembling as they overcome their "sordida e cruda" (p. 239) avarice and bestow on the Virgin Mary the gains of their yearlong toil in exchange for a miraculous healing; or the pale and fat hands of covetous priests who interfere with that fanatic commerce by mercilessly pocketing the offerings.
The refined individual's scorn for the prosaic practices of inferior social groups is particularly significant for the anthropology of D'Annunzio's time, especially in connection with the emerging studies of crowd behavior. Starting from Scipio Sighele's La folia delinquente (1891), the multitude begins to be analyzed as an autonomous subject of investigation, distinct from, but, above all, inferior to the single individual precisely because it allegedly expresses base atavistic instincts: "scende vertiginosamente tutti i gradini che la conducono all'imo della brutalita piu vigliacca" (Sighele, 1985: 93), hence suddenly exposing "sotto le spoglie dell'uomo civile il selvaggio" (1985: 84). Not accidentally, in the framework of this regressive primitivism embodied by the collectivity as a primordial, savage entity, Sighele focuses on D'Annunzio's ability to grasp the tumultuous emotional contradictions that trigger "il desiderio del possesso e della conquista" (Sighele, 1911: 58) by staging a veritable duel between the individual and his two fatal enemies--the woman and the crowd. The dynamics of collective behavior that Sighele aptly grasps in D'Annunzio's works as backward stages of human evolution--from the superhuman contempt for the barbarous mob in La nave to the threat of a widespread democracy in Le vergini delle rocce--has far-reaching theoretical implications. The mob's predatory, bestial hands that in Trionfo della morte embody pathological avarice and ownership exemplify the "material ethic of value" (Heidegger, 2000: 340) that Heidegger challenges for its reduction of existence to practical occupations and to the expectation of utility and profit. Whenever Being amounts to mere stability and manipulation, time also acquires the ordinary sense of "a succession of a calculable sequence of nows" (Heidegger, 1972: 12) that renders actions quantifiable, foreseeable, and programmable. Precisely to challenge causality and a controllable, productive presence, Heidegger reconceptualizes Being as self-reflexive disinterestedness, an expenditure of one's self or one's time without finality.
As we read in Being and Time, "Dasein"--namely, the existence of the human being thrown into finitude and projected toward death--"utilizes itself primarily for itself [...]. In utilizing itself for the sake of itself, Dasein 'uses itself up'. In using itself up, Dasein uses itself--that is to say, its time" (Heidegger, 2000: 381, emphasis in the original). Heidegger explains the relationship between Being and temporality as a form of donation, as he emphasizes that "We do not say: Being is, time is, but rather: there is Being and there is time" (Heidegger, 1972: 5), where "there is" has to be interpreted as "It gives" (Heidegger, 1972: 5), in line with his original German expressions "Es gibt Zeit", "Es gibt Sein". Being "belongs to giving" (Heidegger, 1972: 6), and temporality becomes its destiny. However, although no time is given without man, the individual itself is not a privileged agent mastering this transaction. "Time is not the product of man, man is not the product of time" (Heidegger, 1972: 16). Unlike what happens in the circle of production and reciprocity, temporality and the being it shapes manifest themselves as perishable instances of donation that do not lead to any property or ownership. It is a "giving which gives only its gift, but in the giving holds itself back and withdraws" (Heidegger, 1972: 8). Time and Being are determined by what Heidegger defines as Ereignis, namely, "the event of Appropriation" (Heidegger, 1972: 19) that acts simultaneously as "Expropriation" (p. 23), because, as it "withdraws what is most fully its own from boundless unconcealment" (p. 22), it also "expropriates itself of itself" (pp. 22-23).
In this Heideggerian framework, the significance of hands that Trionfo delta morte connotes as instances of presence highlights even more strongly their reversed double, namely, hands that, by contrast, symbolize a non-utilitarian, disinterested approach connecting munificence to the temporality of the human condition, hence treating donation as the proper determination of Heideggerian Being. Enveloped in the aura of Demetrio's magnanimity and refinement, Giorgio, in one of his reminiscences, overlaps his brother's hand playing the violin "con gesto largo e impeccabile" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 132) with his own hand which elegantly translates and copies Tennyson's lyrics inspiring Demetrio's musical compositions. As the tool of Giorgio's "disutile e ozioso" attitude (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 57), the hand engaged in aesthetic activity refuses practical work and pecuniary rewards. It promotes, instead, a non-productive and non-quantifiable use of time that D'Annunzio describes precisely in terms of "temporalita" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 155). (4) Despite the absolute formalism of Heidegger's meditation, hardly compatible with the sensuousness of D'Annunzio's literary world, the connection between Heideggerian time and the gratuitousness of existence through the paradigm of the gift can ultimately help us appreciate the protagonist's ambivalent ethos in Trionfo della morte. On the one hand, just as Giorgio rejects greed and possession, he seems to accept transience as the hallmark of a life conceived as dissipation of one's self and time. Like Andrea Sperelli, who is immersed in an ephemeral present effectively summarized by the inscription "RUIT HORA" carved in a skull (D'Annunzio, 1990: 73), Giorgio feels that "tutto e precario" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 156)--even love is nothing more than a "figura passeggera" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 156) subject to the corrosive and transformative action of time. On the other hand, it could be argued that, nonetheless, Giorgio remains hostage to what Heidegger presents as the inauthenticity of fear, which makes him flee from what Heidegger (2000: 234, emphasis in original) labels as "the 'not-at-home"'. Hoping to forget the "solitudine del suo essere interno" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 156), Giorgio indeed attempts to evade the finitude of experience by clinging to presence as ownership. Despite boasting an ancestor like the "nobile Demetrio donatore" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 220), he, no less than Andrea Sperelli in Il piacere, strives to acquire "sicurta assoluta" (p. 158) and "perpetuita" (p. 156) through the "possesso di un'altra creatura" (p. 156).
The fact that, although apparently endorsing transience and giving, Giorgio remains in that modality of presence that for Heidegger perpetuates the metaphysics of control is further substantiated by the last part of the novel, focusing on the reception of Nietzsche's thought. Indeed, beyond the considerable attention to the role of the German philosopher in D'Annunzio's aesthetics, (5) a still largely unnoticed subtext links the two authors precisely through the paradigm of gift-economy.
Extravagant expenditure and symbolic revenue: The Nietzschean "immaginifico"'s give and take
[...] a gift-giving virtue is the highest virtue. (Nietzsche, 1966: 74) La passione vera non conosce l'utilita, non conosce alcuna specie di benefizio, alcuna specie di vantaggio. vive, come l'arte, per se sola. (D'Annunzio, 1995a: 228)
Giorgio's yearning to attain the Nietzschean "ideale dionisiaco" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 219), to become "egli medesimo l'eterna gioia del Divenire" (p. 288), cannot be separated from his awareness that, through annihilation, individual existence also merges with, and partakes of, "the extravagant fecundity of the world will" (Nietzsche, 1956: 102-103). The words that echo in Giorgio's mind are those of Zarathustra, the "Maestro distruttore e creatore" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 293), endowed with the most "virile" and "nobile" (p. 294) eloquence because he "affermava la vita" (p. 295). Giorgio does not extol Zarathustra's excess energy as the extravagant gesture of a squanderer ready to dissolve identity and possession. Rather, through the most inebriating instances of "ebrezza di distruzione" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 338), he asserts a "volonta terribile e implacabile di possedere" (pp. 338-339, 214).
Overall, Giorgio overlooks the complexity of the Nietzschean discourse on giving, a discourse that, itself accompanied by frequent images of hands, blends the celebration of absolute liberality with the deprecation of the selfish lust for giving. Trionfo della morte makes no reference to the Zarathustra who, while keeping the inexhaustible solar energy as the exemplary model of expenditure, yearns to "give away and distribute" replete with his wisdom "like a bee that has gathered too much honey" (Nietzsche, 1966: 10). Zarathustra, in need of outstretched hands waiting to receive, further glorifies the inexhaustible splendor of the golden star as "the highest virtue" (Nietzsche, 1966: 74) because of the uselessness, refinement, and perpetuity of its expenditure, and invites his disciples to become gifts in their turn. He declares his love for whoever dissipates his soul and "wants no thanks and returns none" (Nietzsche, 1966: 15), ready to renounce self-preservation through continuous giving. He defines himself as "a squanderer with a thousand hands" (Nietzsche, 1966: 238), who refuses the ordered economic mechanism of sacrifice in favor of the most radical and excessive experience of absolute loss. Instead, Giorgio seems more attuned to Zarathustra's characterization in 'On the Great Longing', engaged in a circuit of gift and countergift with his own individuality, from which he gets back all that his hands can bestow. It is in this section that Zarathustra addresses his overflowing soul, wondering about the real motives behind donating and receiving: "Should not the giver be thankful that the receiver received? Is not giving a need? Is not receiving mercy?" (Nietzsche, 1966: 223). Giorgio recites these questions almost verbatim: "Non convien forse a colui che dona render grazie a colui che riceve? Non e forse il donare un bisogno? Il ricevere non equivale forse ad avere pieta?" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 298).
Other Nietzschean passages problematize a unilateral interpretation of the gift as a gesture alien to calculation. Zarathustra, whose hand never rests from giving and who hides his face and cleans his soul after his donation so as to snatch the gift from the closed circuit of memory and debt, also envies "the happiness of those who receive" (Nietzsche, 1966: 106) and unmasks the greediness behind homages and gratitude, avowing that "he who gives praise poses as if he were giving back; in truth, however, he wants more gifts" (p. 168). For his part, however, Giorgio reads the Nietzschean gift-economy as a philosophy of self-control, of a recursive and static identity, of a constant reserve of values that subordinates prodigality and self-dissolution to the logic of recovery. It is once again through images of hands that Trionfo delta morte symbolizes retention rather than circulation--significantly, severed hands, which also magnify the wickedness of donation. Foreshadowing the tragic epilogue of the novel, Giorgio, the heir of Demetrio's generosity, foresees Ippolita's death by staging a symbolic mutilation of her hands (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 369). Unable to possess Ippolita and to give her love, he attempts to exclude her from the circle of symbolic exchange, depriving her of the faculty of giving and receiving.
The violence of this image evokes crueler scenes in D'Annunzio's works where the giving hand does not perform a gesture of unconditional loss and becomes, instead, an object of appropriation through which the alleged donor of art further denatures the act of generosity. If in Il piacere Maria Ferres equates Andrea's aesthetic obsession with her hands to "una tortura sconosciuta" (D'Annunzio, 1990: 210), Poema paradisiaco depicts an actual mutilation that negative reciprocity inflicts upon the disposition to bestow. Introduced as providers of love and benevolence, the female hands in 'Le Mani' soon generate in the poet "un furor geloso, un'ira folle" culminating with the impulse to sever them, as in his dream of a woman's "mani mozze" in a pool of blood (D'Annunzio, 1952: 684). And if the mother's "pura mano" (D'Annunzio, 1952: 693) in 'Consolazione' protects the poet's heart with the endless generosity of maternal love, the grim plot of La Gioconda destroys this idyll by subjecting the female munificent hand to the brutality of the artist's selfishness once again. Recovering after his suicide attempt, the sculptor Lucio Settala blesses the chance to receive back from his wife Silvia's trembling "divine mani f...] il dono della vita" (D'Annunzio, 1910: 64). Yet this woman who has bestowal inscribed in her maiden name--Doni--and whose abnegation, according to Maestro Lorenzo Gaddi, should be immortalized in art by having Lucio sculpt her loving hands in marble "come un ex-voto" (D'Annunzio, 1910: 19), in fact ultimately succumbs to the selfishness and violence of male aesthetics. Although Lucio recognizes that his wife deserves to be worshipped as "un'anima di un pregio inestimabile" (D'Annunzio, 1910: 90), he also avows that, not being a sculptor of souls, his transfiguration can occur not so much thanks to Silvia's "mani di bonta e di perdono" (p. 155) as through the creation of a work of art, inspired by his charming muse and model Gioconda Dianti. Only this woman can confer on his raw material "il dono della vita perfetta" (D'Annunzio, 1910: 156). Yet this gift to the aesthetic realm can only occur at the cost of Silvia's atrocious suffering, namely, the loss of her hands, immolated to save Lucio's statue from Gioconda's own destructive impetus. Even more perversely, the offering that Silvia makes with and of her hands to her love and to art is not only useless (since Lucio will leave with Gioconda nonetheless) but also ultimately repaid with Silvia's exclusion from the circle of symbolic economy. Indeed, maimed and abandoned, Silvia will not be able to receive, in her turn, the spontaneous, disinterested gift of a star-fish from La Sirenetta--a creature who, like Silvia, "da sempre e non chiede mai" (D'Annunzio, 1910: 202)--or flowers from her daughter Beata. The concrete result of this physical and aesthetic cruelty toward female donation in La Gioconda becomes itself an object of aestheticization in Il libro segreto, where D'Annunzio represents his lover's hand "senza braccio, senza torso, senza corpo, sola: unica" (D'Annunzio, 1995a: 247), a self-referential repository of male predatory instinct.
In Trionfo della morte, the donor's violent cooptation of giving ultimately culminates with trespass as the most radical event that thwarts circulation and interpersonal connections. Giorgio chooses death for himself and Ippolita not as the extreme instance of ecstatic expenditure but, rather, as a "ready-to-hand" (Heidegger, 2000: 305), exploitable possibility, a defense against the depersonalization associated with giving and his ultimate attempt to annihilate temporality. The individual's display of power over donation in Trionfo della morte paves the ground for Le vergini delle rocce, where the aristocratic disposition to unconditional expenditure does not derive from a potentially universal magnanimity but, rather, from belonging to a noble lineage, in line with the contempt that Nietzsche demonstrates for any kind of institutionalized community, implicitly equated to commonplace values. Yet, D'Annunzio also grasps and adapts the anthropological implications of Nietzsche's thought, in particular the link between the instinct for rank--from which the dominator's prestige derives--the nobility of taste, and the propensity for giving. His nexus of munificence, aesthetics, and power already seems to delineate the economic and ceremonial underpinnings of art as will to power, in terms of the practice that Nietzsche defines as a "large-scale economy" (Nietzsche, 1968b: 451), a synonym for the active nihilism that distinguishes the noble individual and the artistic creator from the passive nihilism of mediocre people, simple consumers of art, unable to transcend the morality of utility.
This dichotomy proves particularly significant for the protagonist of Le vergini delle rocce if enriched with Zarathustra's own considerations on generosity, which equate the distinction between the two forms of nihilism to that between the "whole and holy (...) selfishness" stealing all values in the name of an insatiable will to give and the "sick selfishness" of the "all-too-poor and hungry" individual who avidly "sneaks around the table of those who give" (Nietzsche, 1966: 75). Claudio Cantelmo, who aspires to perpetuate the ideals of beauty and virtue, wants to generate a sort of overman, the king of Rome, belonging to a racial elite characterized by a sense of reciprocity founded upon the ability to bestow, rather than upon the rational equilibria of utilitarian transactions. The tangible sign of aristocracy in Prince Luzio, the father of the three women among whom Cantelmo will select his spouse, resides in the "qualita meravigliosa" of his hands, so pure and beautiful because they transmit a "liberalita non paragonabile se non all'antica che per piccoli servigi amava ricompensar grandemente" (D'Annunzio, 1991a: 157). Adopting unconditional giving as the prerequisite for what D'Annunzio defines as the Nietzschean "autocrazia della coscienza" (D'Annunzio, 2003: 94), Cantelmo can hence conceive the world and the poetic word as "un dono magnifico largito dai pochi ai molti, dai liberi agli schiavi: da coloro che pensano e sentono a coloro che debbono lavorare" (D'Annunzio, 1991a: 31). A long meditation on the hands of Luzio's three daughters highlights the aesthetic underpinnings of the superiority of giving above the petty morality of instrumental, equal exchange. Against the back-drop of Anatolia's strong and sensitive hands and of Massimilla's ethereal and submissive ones, the "mani sublimi di Violante" (D'Annunzio, 1991a: 104) incarnate the most crucial elements that Cantelmo pursues in his aestheticizing lifestyle. A metonymy for the magnificent and sacred temple of her body, her hands bestow beauty and initiate to "infiniti misteri" (D'Annunzio, 1991a: 105), an excess of meaning dilapidated through and as ritual. This arcane polysemy inherent to hands that become symbols in their turn, and that is bestowed upon Cantelmo as the exclusive beneficiary of that gift, illustrates what Jean-Joseph Goux (1978: 156) defines as "symbolisation cryptophorique", the deep, plural meaning acquired through symbolic exchange, in contrast with the conventional system of general equivalences that determines value and regulates market economy.
Precisely the hand and the gift as visible substitutes for hidden meanings--be they already existing or yet to be created--inform the artistic epos of Stelio Effrena and his tormented liaison with the actress Foscarina in Il fuoco, enriching this intratextual paradigm with new reflections on the links between symbolic economy and aesthetic activity. From the "mani meravigliose" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 40) of Venice, personified as an artist and as a prodigal work of beauty, to the visionary gift of love and poetry that the artist aims to offer to his followers, or the sacred gift of fire transmitted as a creative faculty across generations and received with "mani incombustibili" (p. 53), D'Annunzio multiplies symbolic elements that render the hand the privileged sign of an aesthetic and ethical investigation, but now also delineating the premises of a communal dimension nourished by ceremonial exchange.
Like their author, both Stelio and Foscarina avow an obsessive attraction for hands, (6) which, in the novel, further complicates the nexus of love, art, and the gift. Foscarina feels naturally inclined to bestow love and art, but will be inexorably penalized by the most pernicious effect of the gift, "avvelenata dall'arte" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 30) because of Stelio's hand that is "cosi delicata e cosi nobile [...] che pur con un dono o con una carezza poteva farle tanto male" (p. 14). Indeed, she will ultimately realize "la miseria di quel dono" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 25), that is, her useless offering of her body to Stelio. In her hands demanding to be kissed, Stelio finds the profound goodness "che sa tutto donare in un solo sguardo, in un piccolo gesto" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 129), a "bisogno di offrire" (p. 165) that makes Foscarina wonder whether she really has "donato tutti i suoi doni" (p. 106) to her insatiable lover. For his part, Stelio bestows his art as a gift, and, simultaneously, he shows that, as Zarathustra's voluntary beggar claims, "to give presents well is an art and the ultimate and most cunning master-art of graciousness" (Nietzsche, 1966: 270). Precisely this supremacy transforms generosity into an intentional act of power over the receiver. The Stelio who, by creating with joy, takes on a divine quality is inseparable from the Dionysian ecstatic destroyer. A question that Foscarina asks Stelio condenses precisely the dangerous duplicity of his liberality: "prima adorare e poi fare a pezzi: e questo il vostro rito?" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 180).
Beyond these ambivalent examples, however, during Stelio and Foscarina's visit to the Murano glassmakers the novel exhibits a non-alienating model of ceremonial expenditure, which D'Annunzio illustrates once again through the paradigm of the hand perfecting art as a disinterested activity, outside rationalization and acquisition. The aesthetic and ethical poignancy of this scene can be effectively grasped through Heidegger's reflections on the human hand not only as prehensile organ but also a promoter of connections and exchanges, which it renders communicable and symbolic. As Heidegger maintains in What is Called Thinking?, the hand "designs and signs" (Heidegger, 1976: 16). Its essence is hence determined by language and thought, which it transmits as handicraft, in contrast with a technologization of all human activities and expressions that are reduced to "the procurement of useful information" finalized to material or rational profit (Heidegger, 1976: 15). By refusing to conceive the hand as a simple grabbing tool, Heidegger rejects a notion of thought as conceptual grasping and manipulation, of knowledge as technical and pragmatic productivity, of language as a vehicle of profitable meaning, hence underscoring a fortiori the danger of a dehumanization and reification of poetic language. The thought and work of the hand attempt to restore humanism by recuperating the essence of giving precisely as a cognitive transmission that does not 'apprehend' in the sense of 'grasping' and 'dominating'. Heidegger hence envisions the human capacity for thinking and language in terms of a "gift" (Heidegger, 1976: 17), whose authenticity should be guaranteed by the openness of the hand, the gesture through which the hand gives, and gives itself. Precisely in the framework of the gift, of the hand and of the handwork, Heidegger locates the possibility of dialogue between thought and poetry. He detaches thought from the mechanical intellectual work of technology, and associates its essence with the "fateful gift of truth" (Heidegger, 1976: 19)--namely, beauty--which for him is the truth of the poetic word.
In syntony with Heidegger's argumentation and in contrast with the "aspre mani asservite agli strumenti del lavoro" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 96), the creative gesture in Il fuoco is incarnated in the hands of the Murano glassmakers, light and nimble around the incandescent glass like "una danza silenziosa" (p. 222). As though the act of giving could consecrate the aesthetic and noble quality of those manual workers, the veritable identity of the master glass blower Seguso emerges when he offers Foscarina an artifact created by his own hands. An example of what Derrida (1987: 174) presented as the double vocation of Heidegger's hand, namely, that of showing or indicating and that of giving or giving itself, Seguso's hand transmits disinterestedness to the product of its art, endowing it with an aesthetic quality that cannot be rationally apprehended: "perche fosse tanto bello, nessuno avrebbe potuto dire ne con una parola ne con mille" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 226). Beauty--the truth of art in Heideggerian terms--is here realized as a gift whose reasons cannot be given or quantified, a gift whose essence cannot be explained: "il suo pregio era nullo o incalcolabile, seconda la qualita dell'occhio che lo rimirava" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 226). Significantly, it is at this point that Stelio associates the craftsman's renowned family name with the "buona razza", even defining Seguso a "principe" of the famous lineage from which he inherited the "arcana sapienza" of that art (D'Annunzio, 1993: 223). The evidence of Seguso's 'nobilta' (D'Annunzio, 1993: 224) lies precisely in his hands, which captivate Stelio so much that he asks Seguso to bequeath them to the glass museum, together with his blowpipe. Authentic instruments of that challenging and precise art, and perfected by the painstaking activity of multiple generations, Seguso's hands acquire the symbolic value of a text to be deciphered. Seguso's fingers reveal "la facolta ereditaria di sentire la difficile bellezza delle linee semplici e delle tenuissime colorazioni" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 226). Even the scars that the fire carved in their flesh delineate "forme espressive di destrezza e di esattezza" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 224).
In the Murano episode, fire and the activity of the hand hence also seal a fundamental connection between the glassmakers' art and Stelio's own aesthetic vocation. Like the artisans who mold the incandescent paste, artists have to be "artefici" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 56), "fabbri della Bellezza" (p. 57), as Stelio refuses to pour his poetic matter "in impronte ereditate" (p. 277) and rather purports to create from scratch, condensing his inspiration in new "forme viventi" (p. 277). (7) Beyond mere disgust for capitalistic reification, he extols the "pregio della materia" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 44) as a living substance. As shown by the "eleganti creature del fuoco" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 222), it is precisely the organic, vital bond between the artisan and the primordial elements to be shaped by his hand that constitutes the essence of art as poiesis, as a non-alienating making, rather than as technical production and reproduction. Propelled by the "antico orgoglio" (D'Annunzio, 1993: 225) that continues to nourish the glassmakers' work, the artist as faber can hence consolidate "idee possenti" as the seal of the "nobilta d'una stirpe" (p. 44). The hand in Il fuoco is hence not simply human, that is, it is not just in contrast with the animal's prehensile limb, as in Heidegger. Rather, it can be considered superhuman in Nietzsche's sense, since it defines a category of superior individuals who, like the noble glassmakers, employ expressive and creative faculties in a more refined and simultaneously more primordial fashion. In addition to molding aesthetic matter, therefore, the fire around which the novel revolves also ignites the flame of an ideal hearth, a community inspired by the sumptuous, disinterested expenditure of aesthetic activity. (8)
Once again, Sighele's intuitions were right. After being the target of "tutto il profondo disprezzo del superuomo nauseato dalla indegna democrazia invadente" (Sighele, 1911: 61), collectivity in Il fuoco plays a constructive role: "Il contatto con la moltitudine ch'egli insultava come una degradazione, diventa invece un'elevazione per l'individuo" who "sente insomma aumentarsi, al contatto dell'anima collettiva, il vigore e il valore della sua cenestesi" (p. 62). Yet, we are also prompted to wonder whether this fecund communion between the artist and an inspiring crowd that reinvigorates creativity thanks to its mysterious choral energy elevating it above prosaic mass production really transcends the metaphysics of value, or whether, in fact, like Zarathustra in 'The Night Song', while his heart and hand "become callous from always meting out" (Nietzsche, 1966: 106), Stelio is simultaneously envying those who receive his gifts, craving to rob them, and closing the circle of reciprocity around himself as an inalienable meta-gift.
On the ashes of the gift
What returns, what finally, comes home to me is my own self. (Nietzsche, 1966: 152) Ho fatto di tutto me la mia casa; e l'amo in ogni parte. (D'Annunzio 1995a: 125)
The ritualistic squandering that, across the various phases of D'Annunzio's literary career, welds art and gift-economy in a tension between ecstatic loss and the prestige of symbolic return revives the issue that Heidegger raised about Thus Spoke Zarathustra: as it preaches the overman and the eternal return, Nietzsche renders a perpetual becoming stable and permanent. Nietzsche, in other words, still appears to him as a metaphysical philosopher (Heidegger, 1979: 3-6), one who has transformed but not transcended presence as calculability and value. From D'Annunzio's autobiographical writings we can deduce that D'Annunzio, too, is caught in this dilemma. Even more blatantly than in Nietzsche, his reflection on unconditional expenditure shows how the gift is inevitably absorbed in the circle of value production, letting values subsist as conditions for the preservation and strengthening of power.
In his works and actions, the Nietzschean genius "is necessarily a prodigal: his greatness lies in the fact that he expends himself" (Nietzsche, 1968a: 109, emphasis in the original). His honor and liberality are not simple instances of noblesse oblige or of devotion to a great cause. Rather, they result from the force of superabundance, beyond order and control: he "overflows, he uses himself up, he does not spare himself--with inevitability, fatefully, involuntarily, as a river's bursting its banks is involuntary" (Nietzsche, 1968a: 109). However, this totally physiological action is ascribed a "higher morality" (Nietzsche, 1968a: 109, emphasis in the original). In other words, human gratitude "misunderstands" the alleged benefactor's gesture by calling it sacrifice and abnegation (Nietzsche, 1968a: 109, emphasis in the original). In a letter to his French lover Angele Lager, D'Annunzio adopts uncannily similar terms to emphasize the reward of the genius's expenditure, yet he ultimately foregrounds the strategic component behind the apparent resignation with which the superior being accepts this symbolic revenue. He explains that he has to be "si heroiquement patient" because the suffering that art inflicts on him--a martyrdom "bien plus atroce que le martyre de Saint Sebastien" (D'Annunzio, 1988: 84)--is precisely "la terrible condamnation et damnation du genie [...] C'est l'eternel malentendu" (p. 84). While the relation between will and action in the Nietzschean genius's economy of drives escapes intelligibility, D'Annunzio ingenuously manages his emotional expenditure in life and art, transfiguring Nietzsche's sarcasm in sensual, heroic terms. (9) As he reiterates in many personal meditations, he is obsessed by the "angoscia di non avere abbastanza donato" (D'Annunzio, 1995a: 96) because only a beautiful soul "non ha gioia se non nel donarsi grandemente" (D'Annunzio, 1991b: 195).
"Io ho quel che ho donato", we read at the entrance of his opulent, overladen mansion, 'Il Vittoriale'. This motto, accompanied by a cornucopia, the symbol of abundance par excellence, seems to transpose to the domain of aesthetics what for Malinowski and Mauss is the social code of the Trobrianders' ceremonial world--"to possess is to give" (Malinowski, 1984: 97)--connoting a system of interpersonal relations created by the circulation of transient property without guarantee of return. Yet it is also an intriguing reformulation of Zarathustra's claim "I squander what is given to me" (Nietzsche, 1966: 238), through which D'Annunzio reabsorbs unconditional lavishness in the donor's grandeur. Is it possible to conceive an exchange without any form of reward, a pure act of giving able to destroy any measure or rational premise? The gift, as Lewis Hyde (1983: 152) maintains, "is lost in self-consciousness. To count, measure, reckon value, or seek the cause of a thing, is (...) to cease being 'all of a piece' with the flow of gifts and become, instead, one part of the whole reflecting upon another part". Can art's luxurious dissipation then truly break the circle of speculation and restitution? Decadent beauty, at once divine and perverse, shares its ambivalence with the gift as pharmakon, both beneficial and poisonous because of the irrevocable bond between donor and recipient, according to Mauss (1967: 58). Only dissolution and oblivion can transcend this paradoxical duplicity, which Derrida reinterprets as the coexistence of intentionality and chance, of "the natural and the artificial, the authentic and the inauthentic, the originary and the derived or borrowed" (Derrida, 1992: 70). The essence of the gift, for Derrida, is a Utopian, impossible wager that attempts to think an act that does not belong to the order of presence, and that can happen only if it does not rationalize over its own realization. Ultimately, if the gift is "property that perishes" (Hyde, 1983: 8), it is only through "the death of the donor agency" (Derrida, 1992: 102) that its inherent fatality can exclude the reward of reciprocity.
In his nocturnal phase, D'Annunzio himself contemplates this total asymmetry of donation by staging his own trespass and the de-materialization of the work of art. From the economy of the gift as present, presence, and presentation, he strives to attain an ineffable absence, the absolute heterogeneity of a radical gesture that, as Derrida claims, should burn the very meaning of the term 'gift' and "disseminate without return its ashes as well as its terms or germs" (Derrida, 1992: 47). D'Annunzio's aristocratic avidity for a dimension beyond utility finds in death the most excessive, destructive, inoperative event. We could add, the most sovereign, in Bataille's sense, because D'Annunzio's yearning for annihilation as an intoxicating experience of "gioia [...] mista a patimento" (D'Annunzio, 1991b: 98) exposes the singular individual to nothingness, to an incommensurable 'outside', through the unleashing of passion. In fact, however, unlike Bataille, D'Annunzio does not intend to loosen the link between passion as passivity, pure nihilistic enduring, and active passion as dynamis and power (Agamben, 1987: 115-119). As we read in Notturno, his "sete di vivere e simile al bisogno di morire [...]. La morte e infatti presente come la vita, inebriante, promettitrice, trasfiguratrice" (D'Annunzio, 1991b: 155). While, in Heideggerian terms, mortality makes the subject "understand that giving itself up impends for it as the uttermost possibility of its existence" (Heidegger, 2000: 308), namely, self-renunciation outside the order of causality, D'Annunzio's projection toward death allows him to acquire magnificence through spoliation:
Non ho signoria di me, ne so misurare i miei attimi, ne seguire la dissipazione continua della mia sostanza. a vicenda la mia vita si dissolve e si riserra [...] e sento improvviso che dentro me vive un altro piu grande di me. (D'Annunzio 1995a: 125)
Not even when death transcends the realm of representation and terminates D'Annunzio's actual vivere inimitabile does it truncate the circularity of the self-conscious, auto-affective squanderer. It is, indeed, through an economy of giving--lavish, agonistic, and perverse--that D'Annunzio's personal mythology and excessive lifestyle survive his death. The largesse of his notorious debts and the sumptuous gift of 'Il Vittoriale' to the Italian people, his overflowing eros as extravagant in orgies as in the venereal diseases transmitted to his lovers, his self-expenditure in daring military actions and the countergift of protagonism and conquering ambitions, the bestowal of his innovative genius to numerous areas of Italian and European culture and his intellectual and stylistic misappropriation through plagiarism consecrate him not only as a living legend--for better or worse--but also as an acute critic of any immaculate commerce.
In the 'Moral Conclusions' to his essay on the gift, Mauss envisions a reenchantment of Western social practices through a "return to the old and elemental" (Mauss, 1967: 67) able to infuse "honor, disinterestedness and corporate solidarity" (p. 67) into "the rigours, abstractions and inhumanities of our codes" (p. 64), and to rediscover "the joy of giving in public, the delight in generous artistic expenditure, the pleasure of hospitality" (p. 67). The self-appointed Poeta Vate takes away the innocence of this redemptive cultural primitivism. The aesthetic experience as allegedly disinterested expenditure inevitably involves a surplus value. It remains founded upon the paradox of conscience and subjectivity--passionate self-giving caught in the vicious circle of the eternal return, an intoxicating self-referential economy of pleasures that renders each of us like "ogni grande artista [,] ebro di se" (D'Annunzio, 1995b: 292).
(1.) Besides Michetti's enduring critical support of D'Annunzio, and the several references to him in D'Annunzio's works, the two authors entertained an intense epistolary correspondence and collaborated on several artistic projects such as La figlia di Jorio. See Di Tizio (2002). A symptomatic claim in Libro Segreto also synthesizes the persistence of primitive and ritual elements as central components of D'Annunzio's aesthetics, when he encourages a return to the magical and fetishized sources of culture, and appeals to our ancestral and ceremonial legacy, convinced that "partendoci dai compiuti iddii fidiaci e prassitelei per tornare verso gli zoani primitivi non ci sembrerebbe di allontanarci ma si bene di riavvicinarci alla divinita" (D'Annunzio, 1995a: 129).
(2.) Unpublished letter to Prince Maffeo Barberini-Colonna di Sciarra, owner of the journal La Tribuna, with which D'Annunzio collaborated for a few years.
(3.) So far, the motif of hands in D'Annunzio has mainly prompted a psychoanalytic approach, with which Hughes-Hallett (2013: 227-235) also seems to align herself in her discussion of the perverse Dannunzian eros. In fact, as I hope to show, the hand has broader aesthetic and ethical implications that emerge in connection with the paradigm of giving.
(4.) For its part, another trait of Giorgio's personality, namely, "il senso dall'isolamento" (D'Annunzio, 1995c: 155), reinforces a Heideggerian reading, as it seems to evoke the existential solipsism that anxiety foregrounds, forcing Being to face its own worldliness.
(5.) Nietzsche's influence on D'Annunzio has been extensively discussed (among others, Carravetta, 1991; Michelini, 1978; Piga, 1979; Schnapp, 1986; Spackman, 1986; Tosi, 1973; Valenti, 1996). For a treatment of D'Annunzio and Nietzsche in the wider framework of late 19th-century European culture at the intersection of decadent aesthetics and the anthropological discourse, see Pireddu (2002). Studies on the gift in Nietzsche but without references to D'Annunzio include Shapiro (1991) and White (2016).
(6.) Just as Stelio avows his attraction for hands (D'Annunzio, 1993: 190), Foscarina acknowledges she has been drawn to handless, mutilated statues since childhood (pp. 236-237), and thinks of Stelio's sister in connection with a visit to hand relics.
(7.) Stelio had already equated himself to a sculptor who creates the word the way his thumb shapes clay into a divine statue with one touch (D'Annunzio, 1993: 96).
(8.) With this communitarian dimension promoted by aesthetic activity as an instance of giftgiving, Stelio transcends the artist's condition in La Gioconda, where Lucio, during his convalescence, seeks salvation in the oblivion of art, through his "mani indebolite" (D'Annunzio, 1910: 86), unable to create hence unable to connect with others. The coterie of artists as makers, brought together by the handling of tools in Il fuoco, reinforces the Heideggerian paradigm in light of the German philosopher's ontological distinction between handiness and presence of objects and materials. What turns a mere thing into a tool is not merely the usability of its work but, rather, the fact that "production itself is a using of something for something" (Heidegger, 2000: 100) and for somebody. Precisely this activity transforms nature into culture, and the human being's private, personal world into a public one. Heidegger gives the example of a hammer to explain how its "specific 'manipulability'" (Heidegger, 2000: 98) is not an intrinsic property possessed by the tool, but, rather, lies in the action of hammering, which, by enabling production, connects materials and objects with human users of natural things, hence promotes relations and value creation--"involvement" (p. 114) in Heidegger's terms. An intriguing association can be made with the way in which D'Annunzio himself connotes his own artistic persona as a tool user in Le faville del maglio, a title which presents aesthetic creation as sparks resulting precisely from the beating of a mallet against an anvil. I am grateful to the anonymous referee who suggested this connection. To be sure, the hammer in this context also brings to mind the provocative Nietzschean plan "to philosophize with a hammer" (Nietzsche, 1968a: 29) at the opening of The Twilight of the Idols in order to undo the truths of conventional philosophy and transvaluate values, and the closing monologue 'The Hammer Speaks' (Nietzsche, 1968a: 122), where hardness is extolled as the prerequisite for authentic creation, conquest, and nobility.
(9.) Pierre Bourdieu effectively underlines this 'misrecognition' in the transformation of economic capital into symbolic capital: "Wastage of money, energy, time, and ingenuity is the very essence of the social alchemy through which an interested relationship is transmuted into a disinterested, gratuitous relationship, overt domination into misrecognized 'socially recognized' domination, in other words, legitimate authority" (Bourdieu, 1977: 192).
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Georgetown University, USA
Nicoletta Pireddu, Georgetown University, Department of Italian, Comparative Literature Program, ICC 307 H-l, 37th and O Streets, Washington, DC 20057, USA.
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