Title

Ecodystopia: apocalypse in Venice

Subject Area

Literary Criticism

Abstract

In the summer of 2016, Italian journalist and writer Bruno Arpaia published Qualcosa, là fuori (Something, out there). It was positively received by the Italian press and labeled as the first Italian cli-fi novel. Cli-fi often portrays dystopian, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic scenarios brought about by global warming which affects not only the environment, but also human and non-human creatures. Antonio Scurati is an Italian professor, an accomplished journalist and writer, and the most recent winner of the prestigious Strega prize (2019). In 2011, five years prior to Arpaia’s acclaimed book, Scurati wrote La seconda mezzanotte (The Second Midnight), a cli-fi novel that takes place in an inundated Venice around 2092. The city is now owned by TNC, a powerful Chinese information and telecommunication network. In an interview, the author himself labelled his novel as a “sci-fi” and dystopian novel. This analysis will focus on Scurati's ability to portray the dire effects of global warming: a phenomenon which, due to its wide temporal and spatial scale, remains difficult to grasp. Climate change fosters a discussion whereby interactions between local, regional, national, and global forms of living must be considered. In La seconda mezzanotte, Scurati creates a possible future world imbued with a variegated national and transnational history and cultures; his dystopian future reminds readers of ancient Roman times, as well as of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and of our contemporary civilization. Readers witness a contemporary Rabelaisian Venice where vices and violence transform human beings into inhumane creatures and where everyone is forced to think of oneself as embodied, as affected and affecting matter. Venice becomes an exuberant and decaying hologram into which all cultures, stories and histories flow. Through this Venetian hologram, the author is able to address the large-scale effects of climate change and make them tangible and conceivable; the local is connected with the regional and the global and Scurati’s narration turns into a contemporary epic journey stretching beyond time and space. This analysis is strengthened with some of the theoretical background elaborated by Giorgio Agamben, Timothy Clark, Adam Trexler, Stacy Alaimo, Lawrence Buell, Adeline Johns-Putra, Amitav Ghosh, and Frank Kermode.

Brief Bio Note

Anna Chiafele is an Associate Professor of Italian Studies at Auburn University, in Alabama. Her monograph Sfumature di giallo nell’opera di Luigi Malerba (Traces of Detective Stories in Luigi Malerba’s work) was published by Rubbettino in 2016. Chiafele has published scholarly articles on Italian writers, such as Luigi Malerba, Massimo Carlotto, and Elisabetta Bucciarelli. Together with Canadian writer Lisa Pike she has recently completed a translation of the Italian novel Penelope by Silvana La Spina. Her most recent interests focus on Italian climate fiction.

Keywords

Dystopian novels, ecodystopia, climate change fiction, new materialism, exuberance and catastrophe, carnival, Antonio Scurati

Presentation Year

October 2020

Start Date

10-22-2020 1:15 PM

End Date

10-22-2020 1:55 PM

Embargo

11-12-2019

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Oct 22nd, 1:15 PM Oct 22nd, 1:55 PM

Ecodystopia: apocalypse in Venice

In the summer of 2016, Italian journalist and writer Bruno Arpaia published Qualcosa, là fuori (Something, out there). It was positively received by the Italian press and labeled as the first Italian cli-fi novel. Cli-fi often portrays dystopian, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic scenarios brought about by global warming which affects not only the environment, but also human and non-human creatures. Antonio Scurati is an Italian professor, an accomplished journalist and writer, and the most recent winner of the prestigious Strega prize (2019). In 2011, five years prior to Arpaia’s acclaimed book, Scurati wrote La seconda mezzanotte (The Second Midnight), a cli-fi novel that takes place in an inundated Venice around 2092. The city is now owned by TNC, a powerful Chinese information and telecommunication network. In an interview, the author himself labelled his novel as a “sci-fi” and dystopian novel. This analysis will focus on Scurati's ability to portray the dire effects of global warming: a phenomenon which, due to its wide temporal and spatial scale, remains difficult to grasp. Climate change fosters a discussion whereby interactions between local, regional, national, and global forms of living must be considered. In La seconda mezzanotte, Scurati creates a possible future world imbued with a variegated national and transnational history and cultures; his dystopian future reminds readers of ancient Roman times, as well as of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and of our contemporary civilization. Readers witness a contemporary Rabelaisian Venice where vices and violence transform human beings into inhumane creatures and where everyone is forced to think of oneself as embodied, as affected and affecting matter. Venice becomes an exuberant and decaying hologram into which all cultures, stories and histories flow. Through this Venetian hologram, the author is able to address the large-scale effects of climate change and make them tangible and conceivable; the local is connected with the regional and the global and Scurati’s narration turns into a contemporary epic journey stretching beyond time and space. This analysis is strengthened with some of the theoretical background elaborated by Giorgio Agamben, Timothy Clark, Adam Trexler, Stacy Alaimo, Lawrence Buell, Adeline Johns-Putra, Amitav Ghosh, and Frank Kermode.