Targhetta, Francesco (2008) Corrado Govoni 1903-1907. [Ph.D. thesis]
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The first four collections by Corrado Govoni (Le fiale, 1903; Armonia in grigio et in silenzio, 1903; Fuochi d'artifizio, 1905; Gli aborti, 1907) played a central role in the early Italian 20th century poetry. Nevertheless, they are very difficult to find and rarely mentioned in critical operas on Govoni written across the years. My investigation is an attempt to analyse them together as a whole and under a closer perspective, since they represent, in conjunction with the three following operas, the very core of the whole extensive production of Govoni.
The four books are not to be considered as a single entity. Despite Govoni is known for his rough and cyclical patterns, combined with a complex framework of common traits, each single work is to be looked at as a single unit. It would be indeed a mistake to label all of them as belonging to "crepuscolarismo". For instance, the year 1903 was characterised by the complementary nature of Fiale and Armonia. Govoni's opening work is a passionate outlook of all the literary features of the late 19th century poetry; a collection of the experiments of the young poet over his favourite artists. The result is a unique "sonnet roadmap" of the end-of-century poetry, pending towards the sublime d'en haut (as opposite to the sublime d'en bas), thanks to the presence of Montesquiou and d'Annunzio - a euphoric game of manipulations and bizarre assembling.
Armonia, published only a few months after his literary beginnings, represents a U-turn compared to all these features: from sonnets to initial free metrics attempts; from a museum of precious objects and bibelots to a catalogue of tristia and marginalia; from d'Annunzio to Rodenbach. Despite being inspired by the latter in all its aspects (structure, repertoire, headlines, metrics and contents), the book is very original in itself. It combines the author's attempts to adjust to the provincial squalor to the awareness of chaos and metamorphosis as vital elements in the world. The peculiarity of Armonia is indeed the combination of these two different sides, clearly distinguished by stylistic and metric elements.
Fuochi d'artifizio represent a crucial turning point. Its main theme is the labyrinth, mirrored in the complex and inseparable weaving of styles, readable from different angles and through different paths, in a framework dominated by the lack of harmony and regularity. The domestic sublime is contrasted by the anti-sublime; obscenity and roughness are in front of the reader's eyes. However, the playful side of the work is constantly combined with a morbid atmosphere, and the spectacularity of reality hides a deep horror vacui. Govoni leaves existing models aside, tries to part himself from poetry as much as possible and writes in a sort of literary void. His style becomes un-precise and un-groomed, with strong neologisms and expressions which represent a novelty for Italian poetry.
Gli aborti represent the most complex work of Govoni's early stages. The work is divided into two books: Le poesie d'Arlecchino and I cenci dell'anima. The first contains 90 sonnets, full of analogies and associations, to prove the unruly and multifaceted nature of the world. The second, on the other hand, is a more heterogeneous collection of free metrics texts, a desperate attempt to drag reality into the realm of poetry. But Govoni's experiments are unsuccessful: his overwhelmed poetry is dominated by hallucinations and obscene nightmares (where objects become pivotal, a successful element of the early 20th century poetry), while reality gradually shows its real traits and its arid squalor. Govoni's relation with foreign symbolist poets becomes closer and the only way to free himself from their influence is to study their poetry deeper. Rodenbach, Maeterlinck, Baudelaire and Rollinat are clearly dominant in the book as per themes and vocabulary used, and Aborti becomes an intentional attempt to enter the realm of maudit and morbid decadent poetry. The result is a pivotal collection for the development of Govoni's poetry - a moment of self-analysis, a point of no-return.
In these works, the essential dialectic of Govoni's poetry clearly shows its dramatic origins and actual complexity; his mere desire to transfer anything in the protected dimension of poetry regularly fails. Poetry is only a transitory escape from a permanent existential pain, a colourful show deceiving a grim finale, but also a vital passion which cannot be object of shame. This frustrated impetus is Govoni's contribution to the early 19th century poetry, together with his collection of images and analogies.
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