Columbia Graduate Conference in Italian Studies

Great Incompletes: Italy’s Unfinished Endeavors

Location: Columbia University

Date: February 3-4, 2017

Deadline for submissions: Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Keynote speaker: Professor Thomas Harrison (UCLA) 

graditalian.columbia@gmail.com

 

This conference will investigate the question of incompleteness in Italian cultural and social history through an array of theoretical perspectives and case studies. From the unfinished works of Dante to Puccini’s Turandot, from Gramsci’s Quaderni del carcere to the grandi opere of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria, the list of “great incompletes” is as long as it is diverse. What do incomplete projects have in common? How does an unfinished film differ from an unfinished bridge or novel? How can a text be deemed complete? Are our expectations as readers, viewers and witnesses influenced because of this purported unfinished-ness?

The history of Italian art, philosophy and politics is also brimming with works that deploy incompleteness as a deliberate narrative device. Michelangelo’s poetics of non-finito and the aesthetic debate on the possibility/impossibility of reaching perfection in art, reappears in Calvino’s Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore. The openness of Gadda’s Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana challenges the limits of a literary genre, just as Antonioni’s inherently incomplete plots inform his spatial and temporal filmic aesthetics. Many have noticed a connection between unfinished infrastructure projects, clientelism, corruption, and organized crime: the works’ ability to remain perpetually “in progress” is precisely their point. 

We welcome papers in English that explore the viability of incompleteness as a theoretical notion across media, its scope as a technique that may or may not solicit a specific hermeneutical strategy, and finally its implications as a political and philosophical concept. 

Possible topics may include:

  • Unfinished works and their textual tradition
  • Infrastructural incompleteness and organized crime
  • A poetics of non-finito
  • Reaching perfection in art
  • Incompleteness across media
  • Incompleteness as a narrative device 
  • Pastiche/Patchworks vs. Incompleteness
  • Hermeneutical strategies facing incompleteness
  • Incomplete plots/spaces/times
  • Incompleteness vs. Failure  

Please send a 250-word abstract and a brief bio (50-60 words) in English no later than November, 30th to: graditalian.columbia@gmail.com