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Le avanguardie dei Paesi nordici nel contesto europeo del primo Novecento The Nordic Avant-gardes in the European Context of the Early 20th Century

Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi Roma, 22-24 ottobre 2015

a cura di / edited by Anna Maria Segala, Paolo Marelli, Davide Finco


Contents

Anna Maria Segala, Paolo Marelli, Davide Finco Preface Anna Maria Segala The Dialectic Position of the Nordic Avant-gardes

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Section 1 The Precursors Björn Meidal Strindberg and 20th Century Avant-garde Drama and Theatre

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Kari J. Brandtzæg Edvard Munch’s Impact on Norwegian Modern Art after WW I

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Camilla Storskog Songs about Iron and of Iron. Henry Parland and the Poetic Potential of Technology

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Flavia Arzeni Franziska zu Reventlow: Striving for Freedom on Ibsen’s Trail

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Rita Giuliani Two Precursors of Expressionism: August Strindberg and Leonid Andreev

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Section 2 Crossing the Borders: The European Avant-gardes’ Trajectories Hubert van den Berg The Late Arrival of ‘The Avant-Garde’ in the Nordic Countries. Some Notes on ‘Avant-Garde’ as a Critical Frame in the Late 20th and Early 21st Century

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Claudia Salaris Marinetti and Futurism in the World

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Franco Perrelli Lagerkvist, la vitalità dell’arte moderna e la decadenza del realismo

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Davide Finco Copenhagen into the Avant-garde: Literary Dreams and Nightmares about a City

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Massimo Blanco The Lyricism of Matter. Jules Romains and the French Avant-garde

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Francesca Terrenato ‘To be continued’: Van Doesburg’s Reviews of the Avant-garde (1921-1922)

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Paolo Bertetto La velocità e la dynamis. Il futurismo italiano e l’avanguardia cinematografica sovietica

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Section 3 Avant-garde and Modernism: A Dialectic Relation Rikard Schönström A Productive Alienation. Bertolt Brecht’s Exile in Denmark, Sweden and Finland

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Contents

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Maria Cristina Lombardi Surrealism in Gunnar Ekelöf’s Poetry in the Early ’30s

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Massimo Ciaravolo Harry Martinson’s Prose Nomadism. A Comparative Reading of Resor utan mål, Kap Farväl!, and Vägen till Klockrike

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Giovanni Luciani Modernism and the City: The Exception of London

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Antonio Rostagno Modernism without Avant-garde between Nielsen and Sibelius. The Lack of ‘War Soundscapes’ in the Music of Northern-Europe

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Biographical notes on Contributors and Editors

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Preface

The need for an encounter between Nordic and Italian scholars interested in the issue of the avant-gardes’ role in early 20th century Europe was shared by the A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til Almene Fond. This is a prominent Danish Foundation, which finances cultural cooperation between Denmark and the other Nordic countries. We feel honoured that they put their faith in our project. It is thanks to their generous financial support that this initiative could take place. The Rector of Sapienza University of Rome gave his welcome to the Ambassadors of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and to the invited scholars. The Reception Office of Sapienza offered the location for part of the Conference, helped to produce the programme and gave resonance to the event. The Department of Documentary Studies, Linguistics, Philology and Geography provided for the administrative organization. Our aim was to create the conditions to approach a vast area of investigation and to re-examine affinities or divergences among the experimental movements before and after World War I. These movements, although short-lived, had a far-reaching effect both in time and space. Art is made of contaminations, hybridization, and of crossing the borders. The Avant-gardes wanted to disrupt the established order; as such, their centre was unstable, liquid so to say, made even more fragile by the military involvement of most of the European countries except the Nordic ones, which remained neutral. Within the frame of those dramatic, restless but also creative decades we thought that looking at the European artistic landscape from different cultural perspectives might be a challenge for every participant. Last but not least, we hoped that it might give a larger resonance to Scandinavian Studies at Sapienza University of Rome. The conference was perceived as a successful gathering of competences and of people made curious by the unusual contiguity of studies usually rooted in a specific space. The cross-disciplinary approach allowed for fruitful exchanges among the participants and we thank them for being so en-


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gaged and responsive. Invited speakers from abroad gave first-hand insights and feedback all through the process, and although two of them were not able to contribute with their papers, we are no less grateful for their intellectual support and collaborative spirit. In its launching phase the Conference benefited greatly of Björn Meidal and Franco Perrelli’s mindful and encouraging advice. A particularly warm thank you also to Francesca Terrenato for her invaluable partnership in the organizing committee and beyond. The numerous attendance of the students of Nordic languages and literature at Sapienza University of Rome would not have been possible without the precious collaboration of the two mother tongue lecturers of respectively Danish and Norwegian language drs. Julia Shore Paludan and Pernille Thull. The cordial hospitality of the Swedish Institute for Classical Studies in Rome and of the Danish Institute in Rome for two of the Conference sessions contributed greatly to creating a proper scenario for the discussion on the Nordic avant-gardes. We are extremely grateful to both Directors prof. Kristian Göransson and prof. Marianne Pade, and we should like to mention the Amanuensis of the Danish Institute Phd. Anna Wegener, whose cooperation and warm welcome at the Institute ensured an enjoyable conclusion of the conference. We also want to express our appreciation to the Embassies of Norway and Sweden and the Institutes of Denmark, Norway and Sweden in Rome for their contribution in financing the development of our encounter and the publication of the proceedings of the conference. The papers are in English and Italian. As for the English revision, we are very grateful to dr. Julia Shore Paludan, lecturer of Danish language, for her generous and valuable collaboration. The front page of this book reproduces a painting entitled Snälltåg II (Express train II), a subject which is a symbol of speed, modernity and displacement. The author of the painting is GAN, the acronym for the Swedish painter Gösta Adrian-Nilsson, one of the artists who were considerably influenced by Futurism for a while. This piece of art was an obvious reference for us, since it shows how Manifestoes, proclamations and battle-cries coming from far away were received and reinterpreted by the Nordic artists. Therefore, we wish to thank Lina Ålenius for allowing us to use the image of this painting preserved at the Malmö Konstmuseum (Malmö Art Museum). The Editors Anna Maria Segala, Paolo Marelli, Davide Finco


Anna Maria Segala

The Dialectic Position of the Nordic Avant-gardes

It is for me a great pleasure and a privilege to herald the collection of papers that witness three interesting and fruitful days of speeches and discussions around the topic The Nordic Avant-gardes in the European Context of the Early 20th Century. The culture of modernity is a fruitful field of investigation from the point of view of an Italian scholar of Scandinavian Studies. Not only, it is also a challenge for a better understanding of those cultural phenomena in which the reception of aesthetic impulses from other areas in Europe goes hand in hand with a Nordic specificity. For example, the contact surface established between high art and mass culture in the first decades of 1900 can account for a different cultural vision of modernity in Denmark and Scandinavia, also in later artistic developments. Hence, the purpose to bring together the Scandinavian responses to Avant-garde impulses and other reactions on a European scale. Obviously, the papers presented in this collection cannot but explore a limited number of cases. However, we hope that they will shed light on a meaningful horizon of artistic innovation produced in the light of the disruptive potential of a series of revolutionary movements. It is well established that the Nordic countries made concrete steps towards modernity at the end of the 19th century. Futurism, on the other hand, entered the international arena at the beginning of the 20th century, applying a radically new vision to every field of cultural expression. The extant research has already explored many distinct areas of the Avant-garde movements, but we thought it necessary to provoke wider and deeper cross-sections in a European context. We likewise wanted to make Nordic avant-garde research visible on the international scene by involving interdisciplinary research on early 20th century experimental poetics and practices. The aim of the conference was therefore to investigate which connections – and how lasting they


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proved to be – were provoked in the North by the arrival of radically new forms of expression inspired by an anti-academic, anti-institutional notion of culture that intended to have an effect on a social and political level. I personally approached this issue for the first time in 2004, publishing the article L’avanguardismo nordico nella lirica degli anni ’20 in relazione alle avanguardie europee (Nordic avant-garde poetry in the 1920s in relation to the European avant-gardes).1 The focus of my research was the role played by some of the “historical” periodicals that witnessed a number of interesting experiments in poetry between the beginning of the 1910s and the 1920s in the Scandinavian reception of Futurism. No doubt Bønnelycke’s visual poem Berlin and his free verse in Asfaltens sange (Songs of the Asphalt, 1918), together with Per Krohg’s Den kunstige figur (The Strange Figure, 1915) were trying to break away from their national traditions and also from the traditional divide between high and low art-forms. Modernity was praised in all its characteristics: urban life, industrial objects, speed, chaos and war. In as much as the frame of that article allowed me to state, the evidence was that this happened especially in Denmark and in Swedish-speaking Finland. The pages of the most relevant periodicals of that period, the Danish «Klingen» (1917-20) and the Finnish «Ultra» (seven issues in 1922) and «Quosego» (1928-29), were an advanced kind of laboratory for new aesthetic theories in art, architecture and literature and these theories were in dialogue with each other across the different nationalities. What I noticed then was that the most radical or anarchic performances of the Nordic artists were often called “expressionistic” rather than “futuristic” as if Marinetti’s irrational logocentric discourse and its rhetorical gesture aiming at transforming man’s role in society, was so alien to the socio-cultural context in which it was “imported”, that the next wave of established artists (I’m thinking of Tom Kristensen in particular)2 and 1 A.M. Segala, L’avanguardismo nordico nella lirica degli anni ’20 in relazione alle avanguardie europee, in Nord ed Europa. Identità scandinava e rapporti culturali con il continente nel corso dei secoli, a cura di G. Chiesa Isnardi e P. Marelli, Tilgher, Genova 2004, pp. 405-432. 2 After his debut collection of poetry in 1920, Frybytterdrømme (Buccaneer Dreams), Kristensen gradually distanced himself from Futurism and its language till he, in 1925, wrote the essay Den unge lyrik og dens krise (The Young Poetry and Its Crisis), with the purpose to dismiss the “crazy experiments” of his own generation of artists. See T. Jels-


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their institutional partners, had to replace it with a more general Central European definition like “expressionistic”. This topic, together with others related to the Avant-gardes, has in the meantime been debated in many national and international publications edited by Nordic and international research groups. This is not the place to summarize the work of many cultural historians, philosophers, art and literary scholars who in recent – and less recent – years have debated the boundaries of the dichotomy of ‘high art’ and ‘low culture’. However, a mention is due of Andreas Huyssen’ book After the Great Divide, considered by many scholars to represent a real turn in the articulation of Avant-garde and Modernism, and whose idea of a ‘hidden dialectic’ has inspired this introduction of mine.3 Other indispensable reference works have been: En tradition af opbrud. Avantgardernes tradition og politik (A Tradition of Ruptures. The Avant-gardes’ Tradition and Politics),4 and A Cultural History of the Avant-garde in the Nordic Countries 1920-1925,5 the first of a four-volume series intended for readers outside the Scandinavian countries. Both studies, although from different angles, aim at giving a historical and cultural perspective to somewhat isolated experimental expressions, in tune with what was happening in the rest of Europe. Only apparently isolated, though, since, as Hubert van den Berg’s article Mapping old traces of the new has demonstrated, more than a coherent movement, the Avant-gardes were a network of people, encounters, short-lived collaborations.6 In the light of recent international research, the opposition bak, ‘Lifeless Glaciers’: The History of Futurism in Denmark, in G. Berghaus (ed.), The International Yearbook of Futurism Studies, vol. 6, De Gruyter, Berlin-Boston 2016, pp. 147-168. Jelsbak’s studies on the Avant-gardes are a major reference for the experimental aesthetic movements in Denmark in the first decades of the 20th century. 3 A. Huyssen, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism, Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1986. 4 T. Ørum, M. Ping Huang og Ch. Engberg, En tradition af opbrud. Avantgardernes tradition og politik, Forlaget Spring, København 2005. 5 H. van den Berg et al. (eds.), A Cultural History of the Avant-garde in the Nordic Countries 1920-1925, Rodopi, Amsterdam-New York 2012. 6 H. van den Berg, Mapping old Traces of the New: For a Historical Topography of 20th-Century Avant-garde(s) in the European Cultural Field(s), in «Arcadia», 41 (2006), pp. 331-351. The concept of rhizome used by van den Berg in this essay is considered by Jelsbak as a positive stepping aside from a monolithic definition of the Avant-garde and, instead, a new and more inclusive way to represent it. See T. Jelsbak, Avantgardefilologi


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between avant-garde and modernism is not as sharp as before. That said, the range of the essays included in these proceedings testifies to the complexity inherent in defining the aesthetics of the two currents.7 This material, and the reflections generated by these studies, deserved to be shared and proposed for discussion in Italy, in the academic context of Sapienza University of Rome, where the Scandinavian languages and literatures are taught alongside other humanistic disciplines. We were challenged by the fact that the research on the Avantgarde produced and published in a Scandinavian language and the research published in Italian are isolated within their national borders. We hence felt the need to extend the attention from national areas to a wider international landscape. By prompting comparisons, affinities, divergences, for example revisiting well known authors, we aim at tracking trajectories that establish promising dialogues between different traditions. What once again emerges then, is that, in spite of the apparent indifference of the Scandinavian poetic circles at the beginning of the 1910s – Yvan Goll’s image of “glaciers déserts” stands as a symbol for cultural rather than geographic distance – , some daring poets, for instance Harald Landt Momberg and Broby-Johansen in Denmark, were fascinated by Marinetti’s innovations and tried new, abstract types of lyrical composition.8 However, after a first sparkle of interest, the bourgeois og teksttransmission: den historiske avantgardelitteratur som udfordring til den moderne filologi og litteraturforskning, Museum Tusculanum, København 2008, pp. 66-67. 7 Drawing on Huyssen’s theoretical approach, in the article entitled Arbejdshypotesen om en menneskehed in «Danske Studier», 106, Bind, 2011, pp. 11-133, T. Jelsbak outlines the role of the Danish journal «Kritisk Revy» (1926-29), and especially of his main editor architect Poul Henningsen, as a balancing attitude between, on one side, the adhesion to the 1920s constructivist movement, on the other the political struggle for the transformation of people’s daily life-style in the frame of a popular culture. Huyssen’s dialectical model is judged by Jelsbak as perfectly apt to explain the Danish (and Scandinavian) specificity in cultural modernity. 8 See P. Stounbjerg’s authoritative essays on the Danish Avant-garde explosion: Emil Bønnelycke, in A.M. Mai (ed.), Danske digtere i det 20. Århundrede, vol. 1, Gads Forlag, København 2002, pp. 199-205, and Harald Land Momberg, in A.M. Mai (ed.), Danske digtere i det 20. Århundrede, vol. 1, Gads Forlag, København 2002, pp. 248-254. Per Stounbjerg is among the contributors to quite a number of international publications on Avant-garde issues and is therefore to be considered a necessary Nordic reference. On Rudolf Broby Johansen, see O. Harsløf (ed.), Broby – en central outsider, Museum Tusculanum, København 2000.


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society they were attacking or provoking reduced them to a bitter silence that, as in Broby’s case, lasted for many decades.9 The collection consists of three sections, organized by grouping rather than according to national contexts or genre. The first section presents the emergent international manifestations of rupture with 19th century artistic and social rules in a path going from Norway to Russia through Sweden and Finland that includes a détour to the Danish-German border on Ibsen’s trail. Outstanding and celebrated figures of the Nordic arts such as Strindberg and Munch, as well as less known but very influential authors (the Finland-Swedish poet Parland, the German writer and early feminist Zu Reventlow, the Russian playwright Andreev) can be acknowledged as early pathfinders of new routes into experimentation in various fields. These artists cannot be overlooked if one is to understand the pervading anxiety of transferring the technical evolution of the material world into freer forms of expression and living. The second section illustrates how a perspective limited to national phenomena only gives an incomplete overview of the rich net of European connections between figurative and literary artists in the period. It opens with the questioning of the existence of a Nordic Avant-garde from a historiographic point of view, given the fact that the historical definition of “Avant-garde” was coined as a neologism in the 1960s. This critical dialectic position establishes a set of relations later explored in other essays. First, the global influence of Futurism in various parts of Europe and especially on Russian cinema. Almost at the same time, in France, a new literary trend voiced by Jules Romains. In the Netherlands, Van Doesburg’s reports on the international Avant-garde movements published on «Het Getij». To conclude the survey, the first reception of the Avant-garde in Sweden and Denmark in the works of Pär Lagerkvist, Emil Bønnelycke and Jens August Schade. The third section builds up a manifold view of coexistent practices and contaminations in unsuspected contiguities. Brecht’s drama production during his Scandinavian exile implies interesting aspects of his interaction with the Nordic culture. The fruitful encounters of Ekelöf with French Surrealism in the Parisian circles bear witness of a stylistic 9

T. Jelsbak, ‘Lifeless Glaciers’, cit., p. 13.


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development. Martinson’s world nomadism can be read as a distant echo of the Futuristic praise of the artist’s revolutionary action, even far from an urban context. The reasons for London’s refrain from the Avant-gardes’ aggressive call to arms, in spite of its outstanding urbanization, are examined within the circumstances of its being the epicenter of the English language Modernism. In music history, the adhesion of some Scandinavian composers like Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius to Modernism, in opposition to the militant attitudes of many Avant-garde musicians of their time, is here reconsidered in the light of Carl Dahlhaus’ historiographic categories. Section 1 The Precursors Björn Meidal’s essay Strindberg and the 20th century Avant-garde Drama and Theatre spotlights the many ways in which the Swedish author, and especially the dramatist, was an Avant-garde writer, regarded as such by his contemporaries before the word «avant-garde» existed with its actual connotation. For instance, he points out how the author’s feeling for the absurdity of human life was a great, although sometimes unacknowledged, inspiration for playwrights like Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard. As an example of Strindberg’s revolutionary innovations in drama and theatre, Meidal shows, among a number of other cases, how the spatial construction of The Ghost Sonata can be traced in Sarah Kane’s theatre of the extremes, or how the meta-dramatic structure of A Dream Play is echoed in Lars von Trier’s film Dogville. Meidal also mentions a host of Avant-garde directors who, since Strindberg’s lifetime, have been influenced by his dramatic form. Kari Brandtzæg’s Edvard Munch’s Impact on Norwegian Modern Art after WW I brings to light the trajectory of four Norwegian painters, Per Krohg, Henrik Sørensen, Willi Midefart and Reidar Aulie, who, younger than Munch, came to operate in his powerful shadow. Krohg and Sørensen, in particular, studied in Paris under Matisse and became central figures in the artists’ circle. Krohg was influenced by Futurism and Dadaism but, once back in Oslo in 1927, like other left-wing Norwegian artists, he turned to new aesthetical and ethical choices. These radical artists engaged now in a form of art called “tendentious art” or “social


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art”, or “New Expressionism” related to the social anxieties of the working class. They enjoyed a short period of fame and were seen as continuing Munch’s line of expressionistic elements. Camilla Storskog’s Songs about Iron and of Iron. Henry Parland and the Poetic Potential of Technology aims to highlight the Avant-garde role of Parland, «the wonder-boy» of Finland-Swedish Modernism. His peculiar type of «technofilia» is neither spectral, as in many modernist writers, or aggressive, as in the Futurists’ aesthetics. In Parland’s writings, telephony, trains, cars and motor-cycles become anthropomorphic, even superhuman: they are endowed with an emotional life. Besides, they call for a new imagery in the relationship between human beings and objects in motion, a central question in the Futurist rhetoric of speed. As Storskog shows, Parland’s approach is unique in that he suggests a humorous, positive interaction between technology and human behavior. Flavia Arzeni’s Franziska zu Reventlow: Striving for Freedom on Ibsen’s Trail sheds light on the influence exerted by Scandinavian literature on the eccentric, unconventional writer Franziska zu Reventlow and in particular on her first autobiographical novel Ellen Olestjerne. In the years spent in her youth in Lübeck, Franziska entered the Ibsen Club, a secret, literary circle where one discussed progressive ideas and talked about free love. Her extensive readings of Strindberg, Hamsun and J.P. Jacobsen were a decisive source of inspiration in her struggle for the conquest of individual and sexual freedom. Arzeni underlines the importance of works like Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea for the generation of women who grew up during the Gründerjahre. Franziskza’s vision of women’s role in society anticipated the cultural debate around feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. Rita Giuliani’s Two precursors of Expressionism: August Strindberg and Leonid Andreev explores the two writers’ shared formal strategies. The author refers, for example, to Andreev’s play The Life of Man, whose structure reproduces the medieval morality play, its stylization and allegory. Strindberg, too adopted a similar composition in his play To Damascus, where the action is fragmented into scenes; in both works, moreover, the characters’ name are standardized, with a common tendency towards abstraction that will later be adopted by the German Expressionists. In Andreev’s play Anfisa, the character of the Grandmother – suggests Giuliani – reminds closely of the Mummy in The


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Ghost Sonata. Although there is no certainty of a clear influence, the similarities between the two writers are striking and can be explained by a similar perception of the social crisis of their time. Section 2 Crossing the borders: The European Avant-gardes’ trajectories Hubert van den Berg’s essay, The Late Arrival of ‘The Avant-Garde’ in the Nordic Countries. Some Notes on ‘Avant-Garde’ as a Critical Frame in the Late 20th and Early 21st Century, is a comprehensive historiographic placement of the notion of Avant-garde in the Nordic countries. Van den Berg, who has authored manifold articles, introductions and editions of cultural histories of the early 20th century’s experimental arts, discusses whether the attribution of the label of “Avant-garde” to literature and art produced before 1945 is well-founded, since the conceptualization of the pioneering forms of art as «Avant-garde» only becomes fashionable in the 1960s. A retrospective glance allows us to see that in the Nordic countries the local labelling follows the Anglophone humanities, in which «Modernism» covers what elsewhere considered «Avant-garde». Van den Berg argues that drawing division lines after the Nordic artistic developments of the late 19th century (The modern breakthrough, Munch and Strindberg) can be disputable, since those lines cut out a certain type of continuity. The involvement or, alternatively, the absence of Nordic artists in the frame of the Avant-garde, is probably a matter of narrative, although it can be observed that histories of the Nordic arts began to partake in this representation of a European tradition with considerable delay. Claudia Salaris’ Marinetti and Futurism in the World, an overall evaluation of the influence wielded by Marinetti and Futurism, aims at restoring the true role of the movement, which had a deeper impact, also on other vanguard currents, than is generally admitted. One of the examples Salaris brings forward to support her thesis, is Ezra Pound’s late awareness of Marinetti’s influence at the time he launched Vorticism. No less important is Guillaume Apollinaire’s acknowledgment of the Futurists’ primacy in introducing typographic inventions. Even when underestimated, as in the case of the Russian Avant-garde’s historians, the school founded by Marinetti in Milan gave an impulse to many


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aesthetic experiments and, what is more, its founder was very much aware of the fact «that all the Avant-garde schools in the literary or artistic field after 1909 owe something to Futurism». Franco Perrelli’s Lagerkvist, la vitalità dell’arte moderna e la decadenza del realismo traces an exhaustive trajectory of Lagerkvist’s relation to the European Avant-garde painters in the development of a personal literary poetics. Himself the author of two important Manifestoes, Ordkonst och bildkonst (1913) and Modern Teater (1918, latest revised in 1946), Lagerkvist combines an acute perception of the contemporary chaos with a feverish need to conceive a new form of narration and drama. Inspired by the rational architectonical principles of Cubism, the Swedish writer is equaly influenced by the expressionistic rediscovery of a mystical, archaic sort of theatre. The effect of essential simplicity he pursued is to be placed between an intimate existential research and the need to find a new meaning in the fragmentary experience of modernity. Davide Finco’s Copenhagen into the Avant-garde: Literary Dreams and Nightmares about a City explores the somehow opposite reactions of the poets who, in the years before, during and after World War I, witness the frenetic development of the Danish capital into a modern international metropolis. They adopt the linguistic code of the European artistic Avant-gardes to represent a contradictory reality. In Asfaltens sange Bønnelycke chooses a hyperbolic, almost religious feeling of love to describe the revolutionary experience of speed and technological innovation, or the seductive presence of advertising in the urban space. On the contrary, in Sjov i Danmark, eller som man ser det (1928), Schade describes a very fragmentary, elusive society with artificial and cynical attitudes. Copenhagen is thus both seductive and nightmarish, suspended between simplicity and hallucination. Massimo Blanco’s The Lyricism of Matter. Jules Romains and the French Avant-garde, calls attention on Romains’ poetry collection La Vie unanime (1908) and the anticipatory theory behind it. Romains’ central idea is that there exists a continuity between subject and space, the individual and the collective. An osmosis between them can create an aesthetic dimension of musical fluidity, where movement reveals the dynamic forms of man and space. Blanco finds an echo of Romains’ theory in Marinetti’s Manifesto del Futurismo (1909) and especially in Boccioni’s aesthetic conviction that sculpture is «the bridge between the infinite plastic exterior and the infinite plastic interior».


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Part of this message was absorbed by the Surrealists, who reduce the individual to an intermittent presence, and space to a dusty substance, which gathers both the subjective element and the energies of the collectivity. Francesca Terrenato’s ‘To be continued’: Van Doesburg’s Reviews of the Avant-garde (1921-1922) presents the articles about the contemporary Avant-garde groups from France, Germany, Belgium and Italy written by Theo van Doesburg, Dutch founder of «De Stijl», and later its only editor. These Dutch texts, never hitherto translated into other languages, appeared in the magazine «Het Getij», and mirrored his clear understanding of the historical turn towards an abstract-synthetic form of the artistic expressions. From the columns of «Het Getij», the radical artist and opinion-maker expressed appreciation for the Futurist dynamic vision of life and for its clear-cut break with traditional poetry and art, a break that he advocated within the Dutch literary landscape. Terrenato underlines how Van Doesburg’s essays represent an exceptional documentation of the artistic developments of his time and an early perception of their transnational feature. Paolo Bertetto’s La velocità e la dynamis. Il futurismo italiano e l’avanguardia cinematografica sovietica, deals with the influence of Futurism on Russian Soviet Avant-garde cinema. The author focuses on the concepts of “dynamis” (energy) and speed, which represent the spirit of modernity. Cinema becomes the technological art par excellence, since it consists of the dynamism of light. This, in turn, implies ubiquity, intensification of time, simultaneity and fluidity. The superiority of the machine on human beings and the technological eye of the camera, two intrinsic features of Futurism, are resumed in Vertov, whereas Kozincev and Trauberg and especially Ejzenstejn, resort to an aggressive linguistic code in order to change, by creating a shock, the public’s imaginary world and its taste. Section 3 Avant-garde and Modernism: A Dialectic Relation Rikard Schönström’s A Productive Alienation. Bertolt Brecht’s Exile in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, outlines Bertold Brecht’s activity in the Nordic countries, between 1933 and 1941, a period of remarkable pro-


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ductivity. In the years spent as an exile in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, Brecht wrote some of his best plays and perfected his epic theatre’s working rule. He began to experiment the use of a parable in order to be understood by a foreign audience. This gave rise to an aesthetic distance, which became the fundamental principle of the epic theatre. In Denmark, in 1936, Per Knutzon staged the first production of Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe, which contributed to establish Copenhagen’s Riddersalen as an Avant-garde theatre. In Sweden, Naima Wifstrand inspired Brecht to devote time and energy to the training of the actors. Finland, though, is the Nordic country where the playwright had the deepest influence. From the mid-1960s to the beginning of the 1980s, his plays were performed everywhere, also thanks to Ralf Långbacka’s remarkable stage productions, which laid the foundation of Modern Finnish Drama. Maria Cristina Lombardi’s Surrealism in Gunnar Ekelöf’s Poetry in the early ’30s investigates Ekelöf’s contacts with the French Surrealists during his stay in Paris and the deep suggestions that came to his poetry from his interest for both literary and pictorial expressions. The emphasis given by Surrealists to dreams and the unconscious is congenial to Ekelöf, who, in his writings, and especially in his notebooks from the 1930s, here quoted by Lombardi, reveals an inclination towards a trance-like form of expression. The associative technique is central to his first collection Sent på Jorden and to his editorial experience in the journal Spectrum, where he encourages experiments of textual automatism and collective writing. However, this attitude declines in his next collection Dedikation. Here, under the influence of Rimbaud, Ekelöf reaches a more personal and complex view, where images are borrowed from different myths and religions, according to a method akin to Lagerkvist’s or Eliot’s, and homogeneous to Modernism. Massimo Ciaravolo’s Harry Martinson’s Prose Nomadism. A Comparative Reading of Resor utan mål, Kap Farväl!, and Vägen till Klockrike presents a critical assessment of Martinson’s travel stories arguing that their non-linear and non-chronological structure, as well as their use of associations, returns and repetitions, places them in a context of Modernistic narration, which deserves no less attention than his nature poetry. The author’s vitalistic programme of world nomadism conveys an Avant-garde flavour due to its intellectual internationalism. Although Martinson doesn’t have any faith in «the stupid religion of machinery»,


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Anna Maria Segala

his new epic rhythm is not only the formal principle of his prose, but also a strategy to cope with the dark side of modernity while in search for a new form of humanism. Giovanni Luciani’s Modernism and the City: The Exception of London tries to explain the paradoxical anomaly of London compared to Paris and Berlin. Before the First World War, London, at that time the biggest city in Europe, attracted artists from all over the world and was the centre of English-language Modernist activity. But the urban history of the city was characterized by a distrust of public spaces, which accounts for the lack of an artistic community. In spite of the many opportunities for experiments and innovations in the arts, the only two British Avant-garde movements, Imagism and Vorticism, had a very short life. Edwardian England had little sympathy for the aggressive language of Futurism and didn’t share the continental imperative of a break with tradition. Antonio Rostagno’s Modernism without Avant-garde between Nielsen and Sibelius. The Lack of “War Soundscapes” in the Music of Northern Europe accounts for a recent development in the field of musicology, which allows a reconsideration of the historical position of two Scandinavian composers of the early 20th century: Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius. After 1914, the distance between the Avant-gardes of Central and Southern Europe and the musicians operating in the Northern countries becomes more evident. In their music, the former reproduce war sounds and violence resorting to a free atonality to express the chaos in political, social and moral life; the others reject this new soundscape. The Avant-garde movements pursue a confrontation with contemporary life; the two Nordic composers, Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius, look for the absolute music conception, for clarity and order: a world of art separated from the world of life. Their aesthetic is contemporary and modern without being in line with the Avant-garde.

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Le avanguardie dei Paesi nordici nel contesto europeo del primo Novecento  

a cura di Anna Maria Segala, Paolo Marelli e Davide Finco Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi (Roma, 22-24 ottobre 2015)

Le avanguardie dei Paesi nordici nel contesto europeo del primo Novecento  

a cura di Anna Maria Segala, Paolo Marelli e Davide Finco Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi (Roma, 22-24 ottobre 2015)

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