The Pathos of the Body in Nineteenth-Century Italian Literature

Italian Literature   Syllabus  Vanessa Pietrantonio

Alessandro Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni

In the first half of the nineteenth century, some European writers opted to avoid realistic descriptions in favor of images that were hallucinatory, ambiguous, murky, vague, or misshapen. Such images were often housed in infinite or incomplete spaces, in places where horrors were depicted by grotesque figures, painful grimaces, or decomposing bodies. Illustrious authors such as Victor Hugo, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charles Dickens, to name a few, were all part of this strain of writing, which also included the Italian writers Alessandro Manzoni, Giacomo Leopardi, and Giovanni Verga.

Works such as I promessi sposi, I canti, and Rosso Malpelo all shared the goal of illuminating the underlying  link between representations of emotions and physical deformities, and between bodily pathos and altered mental states, using grotesque images as a means to speak of the unmentionable in a society still steeped in many taboos.


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