Thesis Presentations: MA in Italian Studies


Location: Zoom

Please join the Center for Italian Studies for discussion of the new work by two students in the Italian M.A. program at the University of Notre Dame. This research seminar is open to members of the Notre Dame Italian Studies community. Please email for the Zoom link.

Francesca Leonardi, "Giacomo Leopardi and the Aesthetics of Ugliness"

In this talk I focus on Giacomo Leopardi's conception of corporality, starting from his perception of his own body and from the sense of entrapment, which was already discernible in the writings of his youth and which always led him to aspire to freedom. I explore how Leopardi uses self-narrative and poetic projections to come to terms with his condition and his perception of his disenfranchised body as a site of meaning. I argue that Leopardi was perfectly aware of how the body - and especially the ugly body - is a bearer of social meaning and of how it functions as a site in which identity is challenged and within which it is shaped. Ultimately, I show how Leopardi transformed his physical vulnerability and illness into powerful cognitive tools.

Ryan Faraghi, "From the Impossible to the Imperative: Pleasure in the Thought of Leopardi and Nietzsche"

In “The Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life”, Nietzsche quotes Leopardi’s “A se stesso” as the creation of a dejected mind, ‘hypersaturated’ by knowledge. Leopardi’s philosophical conclusions are, according to Nietzsche, the dangerous consequence of the excessive pursuit of scientific and scholarly truth. I discuss Leopardi’s theory of pleasure as the motivating force behind human action, and its implications for the idea of truth. I attempt to show how this theory underlies his poetry as well as his prose works, and ultimately leads to the extreme pessimism of “A se stesso.” I argue that Nietzsche’s negative attitude towards factual truth is, at least in part, inherited from Leopardi himself, and I explain how an analogous understanding of the role of pleasure and a radical skepticism towards a stoic system of morals is at the core of both of their works. Thus, I argue that both these philosophies are grounded in nearly identical premises, and that Nietzsche’s renowned theory of the superior individual may be understood as an attempt to resolve the philosophical impasse that underlies Leopardi’s late works.