Francesco Ottonello (University of Bergamo)


Francesco Ottonello is a PhD candidate in Transcultural Studies in Humanities and a lecturer in Italian Literature at the University of Bergamo. In 2022 he was a visiting scholar at the KU Leuven. His project is focused on the reception in Italian literature of a Greek mythological figure, Ganymede, with attention also to the filter of Latin literature and iconographic relations (tutor: Prof. Luca Carlo Rossi). 

After graduating in Classics at the University of Cagliari (BA) and spending a period of research at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, he obtained his MA in Modern Philology at the University of Milan. 

He published the books Pasolini traduttore di Eschilo. L’”Orestiade” (Grin Munich 2018), Franco Buffoni un classico contemporaneo. Eros, scientia, traduzione (Pensa MultiMedia, Lecce 2022), and articles and reviews for journals such as “ACME”, “Romaneske”, “Traduttologia”, “L’Ulisse”, “Semicerchio”, “l’immaginazione”, “OBLIO”. He has taken part in various international conferences at the Universities of Oxford, Aix-Marseille, KU Leuven, Perugia, Siena, Milan, Naples L’Orientale, Trento. He coordinated the conference Pasolini e il suo mito. Tradizione letteraria e metamorfosi intermediali (Bergamo, 15-16 December 2022). 

His research interests include the following areas: Classical Reception in Italian Literature, Myth Reception, Translation Studies, Contemporary Poetry, Island Studies, Gender, Queer and Sexuality Studies.

“Ganymede a Figure of Silence: A Modernist Reworking of the Myth in Saba’s Mediterranee

Ganymede is a character of classical myth that may be read as a figure of silence: in fact, he is usually represented as  a passive and speechless subject, a symbolizing the overwhelming effect of contact with the divine, as well as the bond between eros, beauty and immortality. The reworking of the myth provided by Umberto Saba (1883-1975) in his poem Il ratto di Ganimede (The Abduction of Ganymede), included in Mediterranee (1947), presents all these traditional aspects of the myth, and also addresses them through a personal analysis of the psyche of Ganymede; a fact that confirms the reading of his poetry in a modernist sense (cf. Luperini 2012, Carrai 2017) and in particular as an example of modernist classicism (cf. Mazzoni 2002). 

The fabula ganymedica is attested to in numerous classical sources – from Homer (Iliad, 5.259-272, 20.230-235) to Virgil (Aeneid, 5.249-257), from Pindar (Olympics, 1.23-71; 10. 97-105) to Ovid (Metamorphoses, 10.148-161) – and later ones, among which those of Dante (Purgatorio, 9.20-33) and Goethe (Ganymed) stand out as central moments of European reception.  With very rare exceptions in which Ganymede also has a voice – some almost entirely lost Athenian comedies from the 4th century B.C., Lucian’s Dialogues from the imperial age and two medieval Latin rhythms – the point of view is never that of the royal Trojan boy, kidnapped for his beauty so that he lives eternally with the gods on Olympus.  

The version that became more widespread from the Hellenistic age onwards sees Zeus’ eagle as the vehicle of the elevation to heaven, and this version is also the one resumed by Saba.  The figure of Ganymede, whether read in an erotic sense (not only as a cupbearer but also as Zeus’ lover) or as a symbol of spiritual elevation and union with the divine (starting from Plato and through medieval allegorical-Christian readings), has to do with the dimension of silence also on a stylistic level, through the use of the rhetorical figures of ellipsis and allusion, so that we can speak of a mythe sans paroles (Auger 2008: 35-54).  

In conclusion, I intend to focus on the modernist re-elaboration of the myth in Saba’s Mediterranee , with the aim of showing how the silence of Ganymede taken to heaven finds an original formulation in the poet from Trieste.  Through an intimate introspective investigation of the boy, the special status of Ganymede as a figure of silence, and of the suspension between the human and the divine, is confirmed.