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Lisa Sarti and Michael Subialka (eds.). Pirandello's Visual Philosophy. Imagination and Thought Across Media.

Lisa Sarti and Michael Subialka (eds.). Pirandello's Visual Philosophy. Imagination and Thought Across Media. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017.

Wisely building on cornerstones of Pirandello's studies (i.e.: Bini, Frassica, Mariani, Vinci Nichols, O'Keefe-Bazzoni, etc.), the essays collected by Sarti and Subialka in their Pirandello's Visual Philosophy. Imagination and Thought across Media introduces readers to a wealth of new reflections on Pirandello's far-reaching artistic endeavors.

One of the most relevant messages of this book is for readers to consider the re-iteration of the all-encompassing role that art has always played in every moment of Pirandello's life: for him the aesthetical and ethical dimensions co-exist and inform each other in every moment. Within this crucial concept, the authors of the book move on to investigate what, in contemporary terms, one would define as the holistic approach to art which Pirandello has always maintained, despite his fame deriving from, mainly, literary production.

Billed as the first major English-language study on the centrality of visual imagination in Pirandello's elaboration of his poetic, its editors soon clarify that their book is not a study to identify a systematic philosophical stance in Pirandello's work. Such an issue has been conclusively settled early in Pirandello's studies. However, philosophy is not a term to cast aside when we talk about Pirandello. His creative work and his reflections on humor reveal a thought process that speculates on the nature of art. Theorizing about artistic creation as Pirandello has done in his prose and theatrical production, is a philosophical activity that can be analyzed through the visual imagination that is brought to the fore and dissected in this book. As a further step into the field, in their introduction the editors warn us of a possible interpretation of Pirandello's art: his total approach to art could be seen as an attempt at the dematerialization of the literary medium (x), not to weaken it, but as an inevitable step of Pirandello's process of understanding art as a totalizing experience. In this case, "visual conceptualization of art" (ix) draws readers attention to the idea that the visual imagination operating as the motor of Pirandello's art overlaps and intertwines with artistic creativity altogether. In order to appreciate his art, Sarti and Subialka maintain, we must consider the presence of a visual imagination that straddles all the fields of artistic expression accessible to human beings. In this book its editors open to readers the possibility to access in full bore scholarship that focuses on multimedia research, to bring together reflections from Pirandello's written page, cinema, music, paintings, under the overarching theme of the visual imagination that informs Pirandello's art.

Given this long premise, it is quite logical that the ten essays divided in five sections devoted to Pirandello's artistic and intellectual interests (Theater, Painting, Cinema, Music, and Philosophy) show internal dialogue across sections. For example, in the case of Gillette's and Consolati's essays (in the Theater and Cinema sections, respectively) paintings become central to the authors' analysis. In the first essay, Dashwood analyzes Pirandello's artistic dilemma on the weakness of the power of representation, charting Pirandello's changing attitude towards actors and theater.

From initial doubts, Pirandello overcomes his conviction on the irreducibility of the text into stage thanks to the incessant ekphrastic effort in which he engages. Primacy of visual environment is central also to Kyle Gillette's pages on Henry IV. By bringing Merleau-Ponty's reflections on perceptions of self, Gillette notes how seeming becomes being in Pirandello. Since theater possesses the quality of "disappearing before our eyes even as it offers images we may wish to cling to" (23), this essay questions the epistemological possibility to know oneself as it changes incessantly. Frassica points out the transition from the text to the visual in the plays Pirandello wrote while in Berlin. Tonight We Improvise is dissected under the light of the tense relationship between technological advances and Pirandello's understanding of the nature of his late meta-theater. The role of the director (and the visual effects put into place in the German theatrical scene of the late 1920s and 1930s) becomes the focal point of discussion of the reach of theatre.

In probing Pirandello's enthusiasm for painting, Di Lieto's words supply historical and biographical information on Pirandello's routine: preferred subjects, places, tools. Also about paintings, Bini dedicates her pages to explore Fausto Pirandello's obsession with the inner reality that a selfportrait communicates. Fausto's dark self-portraits are filled with disquietude, and paintings of naked bodies show the powerful and inhibiting influence of his father Luigi.

Cinema has been, since its inception, a constant presence in Pirandello's work. Having recuperated difficult-to-retrieve theatre and film reviews, in this excellent article Consolati studies Fitzmaurice's v4s You Desire Me, read through Mulvey's seminal work on gaze in film. Consolati establishes fruitful relationships between the protagonist of both the play and the film, L'lgnota [The Unknown Woman] and Greta Garbo, protagonist of the 1932 film adaptation. Andrea Malaguti's perceptive and acute analysis of Antonioni's La signora senza camelie (Malaguti's detective work allows him even to identify a book by Pirandello on the table of Clara's apartment, where she withdrew to study acting) shows unexpected assonances to Pirandello's theatre, especially to Tonight We Improvise. Malaguti underlines Pirandello's primacy in understanding the powers and negatives of cinema before Benjamin (113) and the artistic anti-conformism of two great visual interprets of human beings' life.

Less often studied in relation to Pirandello, music is at the center of Bombara's investigation. Cinemelografia is mentioned as Pirandello's main contribution to the discourse in music and cinema. The reading of three short-stories that focus on marginalized music forms are testimony of the never-ending possibilities of fruitful readings of Pirandello's works, to re iterate, once more, the classic quality his opus achieved a long time ago. Gangale illuminates the story behind the Changeling Son, with an analysis of the modernity of Pirandello's position on the relationship Pirandello/ Malipiero as librettista/composer. Gangale reports information on the incomplete status of The Mountain Giants (155) that will be central for any future investigation on Pirandello's last play.

Finally, Mastrogianakos carefully reads Pirandello's On Humor and One, No One and One Hundred Thousand against the anthropologist Victor Turner's classic The Forest of Symbols. Turner's theory on the liminal acquisition of knowledge and the (re)-entering of individuals as full members in a society after rites of passage are applied to Pirandello's construction of his essay and last novel. Mastrogianakos identifies affective implications of reasoning on the three moments he identifies in On Humor that parallel Turner's theory of rites of passage: perception of the opposite, reflection, feeling of the opposite.

Several Pirandello studies have dealt with his interest in visual arts. However, in this collection readers find absolutely relevant information and insights into Pirandello's protean interests gathered in a well-researched and, thanks to an exhaustive bibliography and the index of names, easily accessible book. While the reason for a title that stresses the presence of a philosophy analyzed in the book is clear, shifting the word 'imagination' in the first part of the title would also have captured the gift of an excellent volume that establishes Pirandello's current relevance in discussions on arts and philosophy today.

STEFANO GIANNINI

Syracuse University
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Author:Giannini, Stefano
Publication:Italica
Date:Dec 22, 2018
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