Alessandro De Laurentiis (University of Pisa)


Alessandro De Laurentiis earned his B.A. and M.A. in Modern Literature at the University of Pisa. From 2015 to 2020 he was a full student at the ‘Scuola Normale Superiore’ in Pisa. In 2019 he spent a study period at the University of Warwick (U. K.) as part of the ‘Erasmus+’ project, and the following year he cooperated with Prof. Alberto Godioli (University of Groningen) through the ‘Erasmus+ Traineeship’ program, deepening his knowledge of post-classical narratology. He is currently a PhD student in Italian Studies at the University of Pisa, and his research project focuses Federigo Tozzi and Luigi Pirandello’s short stories, analysing their characters’ inner lives and the revival of the tragic.

Modernist Persistence in Vittorini’s Piccola Borghesia

Among critics who have dealt with 20th-century Italian literature historiography, the prevailing thesis is that Italian modernism is placed between Pirandello’s Il fu Mattia Pascal (1904) and Moravia’s Gli indifferenti (1929) (Bertoni 2018). The 1930s would witness the neorealist turn, marked by less experimental and more politically oriented writing. However, this perspective helps little to understand a book with peculiar features such as Piccola borghesia: the collection of short stories with which Vittorini debuted in 1931. To understand these features, one needs to consider the multifaced aspect of this work. My talk will develop in two parts: in the first, I will analyse the techniques of inner life narration (Cohn 1978; Stanzel 1986) in the collection’s modernist short stories, and in the second, I will explore the problematic positioning of Piccola borghesia in the literary field (Bourdieu 1992) of the time, which prevented full canonisation of the collection, as was the case with other works of the 1930s (Toracca 2022).
Published by Edizioni Solaria, Piccola borghesia is a collection of eight short stories. After the first text presents no particular narrative experimentation, there is a triptych of exquisitely modernist short stories. Their main theme is the small and grey bourgeoisie, consisting of «gente piena d’acciacchi» and marked by the «sforzo di farsi una falsa coscienza». The characters are affected by neurosis or repression and have an estranged relationship with reality. Therefore, while the plot is reduced to a minimum, the narration focuses on characters’ inner life representation, for which Vittorini draws inspiration from Joyce, Proust and Mansfield (Panicali 1994; Bonsaver 2000). Vittorini does not deploy an omniscient narrator but emphasises the poliprospettivismo using variable focalisation. The inner life depiction ranges between psycho-narration, quoted monologues, and frequent narrated monologues.
Critics have only in part framed this work because of the automatic association created between Vittorini and Neorealism due to his editorial policy from 1945 onwards (Baldini 2013). Moreover, the collection of short stories allows very different styles to coexist; therefore, it is challenging to ascribe Piccola borghesia to a single literary category. Precisely for this reason, this work helps us frame modernist traits’ persistence in 1930s Italian literature.