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Systems Theory Reflections on the Relationship Between Literature and Society: With a Case Study on Elio Vittorini


Klinkert, Thomas (2023). Systems Theory Reflections on the Relationship Between Literature and Society: With a Case Study on Elio Vittorini. In: Strosetzki, Christoph. 200 Years of National Philologies. Berlin: Palgrave Macmillan, 137-153.

Abstract

This article centers on an analysis of Elio Vittorini’s novel Le donne di Messina (1949, 1964). The novel recounts a new beginning in a country destroyed by fascism and war. The story of an abandoned village that is repopulated and restored by strangers initially appears as a utopia of a society without private property. But this utopia proves fragile as, on the one hand, the former proprietors reclaim ownership and, on the other, a former fascist lives among the villagers. In addition to the story and its ideological significance, Vittorini also showcases the narrative process, resulting in reflexive refractions, ambivalences and uncertainties. The present textual analysis is framed by system-theoretical considerations on the connections between literature and society. In particular, it addresses Luhmann’s concept of symbolically generalized communication media and interprets fictionality as such a medium. Systems theory is employed heuristically to gain a perspective on Vittorini’s novel and the tensions and contradictions manifest in it between utopia and reality, between literary autonomy and political engagement. Finally, against this background, some theses on the place of literary studies in the present are developed and put forth.

Abstract

This article centers on an analysis of Elio Vittorini’s novel Le donne di Messina (1949, 1964). The novel recounts a new beginning in a country destroyed by fascism and war. The story of an abandoned village that is repopulated and restored by strangers initially appears as a utopia of a society without private property. But this utopia proves fragile as, on the one hand, the former proprietors reclaim ownership and, on the other, a former fascist lives among the villagers. In addition to the story and its ideological significance, Vittorini also showcases the narrative process, resulting in reflexive refractions, ambivalences and uncertainties. The present textual analysis is framed by system-theoretical considerations on the connections between literature and society. In particular, it addresses Luhmann’s concept of symbolically generalized communication media and interprets fictionality as such a medium. Systems theory is employed heuristically to gain a perspective on Vittorini’s novel and the tensions and contradictions manifest in it between utopia and reality, between literary autonomy and political engagement. Finally, against this background, some theses on the place of literary studies in the present are developed and put forth.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Romance Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
410 Linguistics
460 Spanish & Portuguese languages
450 Italian, Romanian & related languages
440 French & related languages
470 Latin & Italic languages
Language:French
Date:1 January 2023
Deposited On:11 Jan 2024 11:45
Last Modified:11 Jan 2024 11:45
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN:9783476059246
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-476-05925-3_10