"Modernism at War: Pirandello and the Crisis of Cultural Identity" - Michael Subialka (Oxford)


Location: Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries

Michael Subialka (Oxford) - "Modernism at War: Pirandello and the Crisis of Cultural Identity"

Monday, October 13 at 4:30pm in Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries

In this presentation I argue for a reconsideration of the role of philosophical reason in Pirandello’s works by reading two of his short stories written during WWI together with his later theatrical work, including Six Characters in Search of an Author. I situate these texts in terms of the multifaceted Italian reception of German idealist thought, which takes on two major forms from the Risorgimento through the interwar period: a political reception of Hegelian idealism and the aesthetic reception of Schopenhauer's philosophy. Looking at Pirandello’s production in this context, I show how the crisis of Italo-German cultural identity brought on by the war actually manifests a complicated relation to German philosophy; while his meta-fiction and meta-theater reject positivism and aspects of both the Hegelian and Schopenhauerian worldviews, they also resonate with aspects of both. This complicated relation to German culture carries through to his later works, as well as to his reception in Germany and his own ongoing interest in German theater and film. Unearthing elements of this relation allows us to develop a more nuanced understanding of Pirandello's modernism and its relation to broader trajectories in European thought. 
Michael Subialka is a graduate of Notre Dame, where he studied Italian and philosophy as an undergraduate; he is now the Powys Roberts Research Fellow in European Literature at St Hugh's College, Oxford, specializing in modern Italian literature and culture. He has taught previously at Bilkent University, in Ankara (Turkey), as well during his studies at the University of Chicago, where he received his PhD with honors from the Committee on Social Thought and from the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. His published work includes studies and translations of Pirandello, as well as work on late-Renaissance and Baroque Italian culture and thought; his current book project, "Italian Modernism in a European Context: The Legacies of German Idealism," positions various Italian writers and thinkers in terms of the political and aesthetic reception of German thought and argues for a transnational vision of Italian modernism. Michael is a member of the board of directors of the Pirandello Society of America, and he is the guest editor of the upcoming volume of their scholarly journal, PSA.
Co-sponsored by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Department of Film, Television and Theatre, and Italian Studies at Notre Dame.