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Eugenio Bolongaro

Associate Professor, LLB (British Columbia), PhD (McGill)

Professor Bolongaro’s research focuses on Italian literature and film from the end of World War 2 to the present. In his book Italo Calvino and the Compass of Literature, Prof. Bolongaro examines the fictional works published by Calvino during the 1950s and early 1960s and relates them to the intellectual debates that took place in Italy at the time, such as the debate surrounding neorealism and the commitment of intellectuals. In his subsequent work, Prof. Bolongaro has tackled Italian cinematic neorealism which he discusses from in terms of the Italian directors’ self-understanding as progressive intellectuals, as well as from the perspective of gender and the problematic of masculinity. This interest in film has recently led Prof. Bolongaro to carry out a detailed study of Bernardo Bertolucci’s early film The Spider Stratagem which is situated within the political and ideological debates of the times, as well as within the current theoretical debates about history and narrative (Hayden White, Carlo Ginzburg, etc.).

In recent years, Prof. Bolongaro has turned his attention to and 1970s and 1980s, and is currently carrying out a comparative study of the works published during this period by Calvino and the US writer Thomas Pynchon. This study focuses on the issues of ethics and subjectivity and explores the way in which both Calvino and Pynchon’s novel attempt to rescue a viable ethical and political projects from the ruins of modernity. This analysis necessarily lead to a reexamination of the modern/postmodern debate which Prof. Bolongaro undertakes relying on the intellectual tradition of the neo-Marxist thinking inspired by Gramsci, Raymond Williams, the Frankfurt School, as well as the more recent contributions of some post-structuralist and post-colonial thinkers, such as Foucault, Deleuze & Guattari, Said and Spivak. The work of the French phenomenologist Emmanuel Lévinas is also central to the notion of ethics which informs Prof. Bolongaro’s analysis of Calvino and Pynchon. Moreover, this study provides an excellent opportunity to examine the way in which the stylistic choices made an individual author are profoundly shaped by the national history and literary tradition within which that author operates. Prof. Bolongaro’s argument is that Calvino and Pynchon share many fundamental ethical and political preoccupations and yet the narratives in which they manifest these common concerns turn out to be radically different precisely because of the radically different cultural environment within which those narrative necessarily operate. For example, the strong anti-intellectualist tradition in US culture cannot but have a major impact on Pynchon, just as the insistence on the importance of intellectuals in Italian culture clearly orients Calvino.

In his most recent research project, Prof. Bolongaro examines the work the young generation of contemporary Italian writers who gained public recognition in the 1990s and have generated a great deal of discussions about the current “Renaissance” of Italian fiction. Prof. Bolongaro’s perspective is to identify the originality of this new wave of young writers in relation to the Italian literary tradition and in particular in relation to the legacy of Calvino, the leading exponent of that tradition in late 20th century Italian literature. Prof. Bolongaro’s view of the caesura of the 1990s signals a definite new phase in Italian letters and the dawn of a new age for Italian literature which must increasingly function in a global context. The authors whose trajectory allows us to follow this new emerging trend are Celati, Tabucchi, Tondelli, who are still transitional figures, and Scarpa, Nove, Ammaniti and Nori, who represent the other side of the watershed, the one which opens new vistas for Italian fiction in the new millennium.


“Ritornare a Palandri.” Generazione in movimento: Viaggio nella scrittura di Enrico Palandri. Ed. Enrico Minardi and Monica Francioso. Ravenna, IT: Longo, 2010. 97-108.

“Italo Calvino.” The Literary Encyclopedia. 17 February 2010. 20 February 2010. http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=705

“Italo Calvino and the Role of the Intellectual: Autobiography in Fiction.” Creative Interventions: The Role of Intellectuals in Contemporary Italy. Ed. Eugenio Bolongaro, Rita Gagliano and Mark Epstein. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars. 115-40.

Creative Interventions: The Role of Intellectuals in Contemporary Italy. Co-edited with J. Epstein and R. Gagliano. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2009.

Review of Culture planetarie?: Prospettive e limiti della teoria e della critica culturale, ed. by Sergia Adamo. Annali d’italianistica. 27 (2009): 501-4.

“L’intellectuel italien Domenico Starnone à l’heure de la mondialisation.” Le Devoir 25 April 2009: J6.

"Leo's Passion: Suffering and the Homosexual Body in Pier Vittorio Tondelli's Camere separate." Italian Studies 62.1 (2007): 95-111.

"A Scandalous Intimacy: Author and Reader in Pier Vittorio Tondelli's Camere separate." Italica 84.4 (2007): 815-30.

“Appunti per una rilettura dei cannibali: avanguardia, pubblico, ed etica nel ‘Bagnoschiuma’ di Aldo Nove.” Moderna 9.2 (2007): 177-96.

“Playful Robberies in Palookaville: Alan Taylor's Adaptation of Three Short Stories by Italo Calvino.” New Cinemas 4.1 (2006): 3-20.

Italo Calvino and the Compass of Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003. 220 pp.

Review of Antonio Tabucchi: navigazioni in un archipelago narrative by F. Brizio-Skov. Annali d'italianistica 21 (2003): 578-80.