Luigi Capuana: Experimental Fiction and Cultural Mediation in Post-Risorgimento Italy

From Firenze University Press Book

Edited by:

Annamaria Pagliaro, Monash University, Australia

Brian Zuccala, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

The concept of artistic and literary experimentation is a crucial element for Capuana and consequently for Capuana studies. As we shall argue, it may in fact be considered the critically productive point of juncture between Capuana’s oeuvre and recent scholarly work on it, as well as the ideal point of departure for framing the diverse range of excursions into Capuana’s body of work by the contributors to this critical collection. Capuana himself, like all the main Italian writers who contributed to naturalist literary production, such as Verga, Serao and De Roberto, in the 1870s and 1880s did conceive his artistic and theoretical endeavours as a pioneering attempt to radically change the Italian literary landscape, to update and render it competitive within a European — mostly French — literary scene, which had been in the previous thirty years at the forefront of literary innovation (see Capuana 1972a).

For just over a decade Capuana pursued what has been critically regarded, in a rather reductive way we would like to argue, as an orthodox naturalist practice à la Zola, in which he wrote, along with the 1877 collection Profili di donne, his first naturalist novel Giacinta (in at least three main editions: 1879, 1886, 1889), dedicated to Zola himself, and a number of short stories about psychopathological cases (mostly female), such as Storia fosca (1880), Precocità (1884), Tortura (1889). Equally limiting is another critically established position, according to which in the 1880s a shift began, and Capuana’s by-then fading adherence to the naturalist doctrine of Verismo was reflected in both his later critical work (Per l’arte, 1885, Libri e teatro, 1892, Gli ‘ismi’ contemporanei, 1898, and Cronache letterarie, 1899) and in his creative production. Capuana thereafter wrote the anti-naturalist and happy-ending Profumo (1890 and 1892), the idealist experiments La Sfinge (1895 and 1897) and Rassegnazione (1900 and 1907), and the eclectic Il Marchese di Roccaverdina (1901).

He also extended his production of fairy tales and experimented with children’s novels as, for example, Gambalesta (1903), Scurpiddu (1898), Cardello (1907), Gli americani di Rabbato (1912). As to his short stories, in the last decade of the nineteenth and the first of the twentieth centuries, Capuana organised his materials in two main themes, with the publication of the collections Le appassionate (1893, now 1974a: 253–499) and Le Paesane (1894, now 1974b: 3–255). In addition, by re-connecting to the themes of his early short stories — Il dottor Cymbalus (1865) and Un caso di sonnambulismo (1874) — and through his essays on occult phenomena, Spiritismo? (1884) and Mondo occulto (1896), Capuana expanded his short story production so as to embrace a wider variety of topics, ranging from science and science fiction (for example, in the collection Un vampiro 1904) to psychological investigation and self-reflexive fiction, particularly the collections Il Decameroncino (1901, now 1974a: 389–446), Coscienze (1905a), and La voluttà di creare (1911).

DOI: 10.36253/978–88–6453–916–4

Read Full Text:



The University of Florence is an important and influential centre for research and higher training in Italy

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
University of Florence

The University of Florence is an important and influential centre for research and higher training in Italy