Donato Ennio Gagliastro (University of Bari)


A tenured teacher of Italian and Latin in high schools, a lecturer (“cultore della materia”) in Italian Literature and a PhD candidate at the University of Bari, Italy.

Collaborations with the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University of Prague: course in English on Ovid’s Heroides; one-month study stay (June-July 2019) in the Faculty of Arts of the Albertus Magnus University of Cologne.

Participations in various conferences and colloquia, including the “Europaeum Classics Colloquium” at the universities of Munich (2018), Krakow (2019) and Madrid (2021).

Main study interests: classicism in modern and contemporary Italian literature, intertextuality, literary criticism and comparative literatures. A student of Annamaria Andreoli, I oriented my research to Ovidian classicism and Franciscan spirituality in the work of Gabriele d’Annunzio.

The Encounter with Modernity in Gabriele d’Annunzio’s Autobiographical Writing

When Gabriele d’Annunzio published the Libro segreto (Secret book) in 1935, he completed the final autobiography that had been latent for years. The work has clear links with the fragments of the Faville del maglio, memory prose published in the «Corriere della Sera» twenty years earlier. The Faville are the sure antecedent of the last great work of the Vate, now close in his Vittoriale, a monument of stones and words. When they first appeared, the Faville struck the readers by the novelty of their tone: memorial, intimate and suffered with a sober prose that, for the first time, took the place of the usual grandiloquence. D’Annunzio unveils a nostalgic voice never heard before; a new and modern prose that anticipates the approaches of self-analysis and the poetics of fragments. The closed and private writing breaks away from the previous works that all stemmed from the protagonism of the one who had dominated the public scene for thirty years, in which life, art and action were intertwined and blurred. Both works feature a modern, twentieth-century conception: the Faville develop a singular and ironic search for lost time. They are a product of “metaliterature” (Andreoli) in which the author returning to lost time cannot fail to come to terms with the works planned and never completed. The modern framework in tune with European trends (Bergson, Proust) and psychological analysis (not to mention that in the same years in Italy «La Voce» promotes memoir fragmentism) is evident. D’Annunzio admits that the finished works are but a part of those he would have liked to complete. Ultimately, in his long career as a writer, only hypothetical books and others that have not passed the stage of sketch prevail over the real ones and therefore leave one regretting what they might have become. This prose also stands out for the paradoxical charm of a written history of things never written, a «documentary edifice» of the artist’s spirit and instinct. The Faville inaugurate an autobiographical writing that explores memories and open a long path that culminates in the Secret book. Here d’Annunzio is no longer satisfied with the occasional motive: once the probing in the shadows of the ego has begun, he expands it. He refines his nocturnal prose throughout an itinerary that embraces not only the analysis of the self but also forays into magic and occultism. Among the key themes emerges the all-twentieth-century problem of consciousness. «The habitual consciousness covers for us the deepest truths», he says, and only the literary spell is able to bring them to light.

This first-person exploration of shadows in the last years of his life carries two fundamental consequences for dannunzian scholars that are also interesting from the perspective of Modernism:

  1. It enables to shed new light on the works of the past, in many of which (aside from the transparent alter egos of famous novels) we can find portents of this autobiographical writing.
  2. The writing of the Secret book senses the looming crisis of the word when the “seventh art” seems to replace it on a large scale with the total language of the body (a graphic indicator of this downsizing is in the use of small letters after the full stop and space). Here d’Annunzio’s last great modern intuition is fulfilled: the one who made himself a star before the television era foreshadows the future hegemony of image culture in society.