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 KU Leuven. His project focuses on the reception of the Greek mythological figure Ganymede in Italian literature, taking into account the influence of Latin literature and iconographic relationships (supervised by Prof. Luca Carlo Rossi).

After completing his Bachelor’s degree in Classics at the University of Cagliari and conducting research at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (2015), he obtained his Master’s degree in Modern Philology from the University of Milan (2018).

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

His research interests include Classical Reception, Myth Reception in Italian Literature, Translation Studies, Contemporary Poetry, Island Studies, 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 who can be seen as a figure of silence. He is typically portrayed as a passive figure without words, representing the overwhelming effect of contact with the divine and the connection between eros, beauty, and immortality. Umberto Saba (1883-1975) reworked this myth in his poem “Il ratto di Ganimede” (“The Abduction of Ganymede”), which is included in his collection “Mediterranee” (1947). In this poem, Saba incorporates the traditional aspects of the myth while also delving into the psyche of Ganymede, offering a personal and analytical perspective. This aligns with the modernist interpretation of Saba’s poetry (cf. Luperini 2012, Carrai 2017) and, specifically, as an example of modernist classicism (cf. Mazzoni 2002).

The story of Ganymede is found in numerous classical sources, from Homer (Il. 5.259-272, 20.230-235) to Virgil (Aen. 5.249-257), and from Pindar (O. 1.23-71; 10.97-105) to Ovid (Met. 10.148-161). It has also been depicted in later works, including those of Dante (Purgatorio 9.19-33) and Goethe (Ganymed), representing significant moments of its reception in European literature. Apart from a few exceptions where Ganymede has a voice, such as some nearly lost Athenian comedies from the 4th century B.C., Lucian’s Dialogues from the Imperial age, and two Medieval Latin rhythms, the narrative is usually not presented from the perspective of the abducted Trojan boy, chosen for his beauty to live among the gods on Olympus.

The version that gained popularity from the Hellenistic age onwards involves Zeus’ eagle as the vehicle of Ganymede’s ascent to heaven, and it is the one also 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 (as seen in Plato and allegorical-Christian interpretations), is closely associated with the theme of silence, which is also reflected stylistically through the use of ellipsis and allusion. Thus, one could speak of a “mythe sans paroles” (Auger 2008: 35-54).

In conclusion, I intend to focus on Saba’s modernist reworking of the myth in “Mediterranee”, highlighting how the silence of Ganymede’s ascension finds an original formulation in the Trieste poet. Through an introspective exploration of the boy’s character, Saba reaffirms Ganymede’s special status as a figure of silence and of the delicate erotic suspension between the human and the divine.