What do Giacomo Leopardi, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Italo Calvino, and Elena Ferrante have in common? Enrica Maria Ferrara’s new volume (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) places these authors at the center of contemporary posthumanist discourses, by proposing that they share a concern with decentering the human subject and challenging human-non-human binaries. In her introduction, Ferrara traces the philosophical and literary lineages of posthumanist discourses within the Italian intellectual tradition, arguing that Italy is the «nest of posthumanist culture» (p. 14). Ferrara supports her claim through an examination of two specifically Italian philosophical trends: feminist thought, specifically Luisa Muraro’s ‘pensiero della differenza’ and Adriana Cavarero’s «relational ontology» (p. 14), which destabilize unitary and consistent views of the subject; alongside Gianni Vattimo’s ‘pensiero debole’ and Giorgio Agamben’s exploration of biopolitics, both of which highlight the limits of western metaphysics and the humanist tradition. The essays included in the volume explore, from a variety of theoretical perspectives and methodologies, how these philosophical traditions have led to a radical «repositioning of the intellectuals as creators of knowledge» (p. 17).
The volume is organized into three parts, each comprised of four essays. The first part, Becoming Posthuman, explores the process through which humanistic views of the subject are upended, both in the historical continuum that connects Leopardi’s Zibaldone to Ferrante’s Neapolitan ‘quartet,’ and through the different processes through which a posthuman subject develops in literature. Gianna Conrad considers Leopardi’s «ecological system of infinite possibility and multiplicity of absolutes, swarming with hybrid identities generated by interactions of human and nonhuman entities» (p. 17). Alberto Godioli, Monica Jansen, and Carmen Van den Bergh examine Pirandello’s posthumanist modernism as emerging from his «awareness of animality as a continuum encompassing both the human and the nonhuman» (p. 52). Marco Amici’s essay steps into the twenty-first century to analyze Laura Pugno’s fiction and its «awareness and perceived necessity of re-calibrating the relationship between human and nature» (p. 74), which leads to «a complex, unresolved process» (p. 87) of posthumanist interrogation. Ferrara’s essay on Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels moves from the concept of ‘smarginatura’ – the loss of boundaries between the self and the world that Lina experiences at critical times – to the «digital notion of authorship – dispersed, polyphonic and collaborative» (p. 112), which Elena Ferrante’s own elusive authorial identity signifies.