As a city that seems to float between Europe and Asia, removed by a lagoon from the tempos of terra firma, Venice has long seduced the Western imagination. Since the 1797 fall of the Venetian Republic, fantasies about the sinking city have engendered an elaborate series of romantic clichés, provoking conflicting responses: some modern artists and intellectuals embrace the resistance to modernity manifest in Venice's labyrinthine premodern form and temporality, whereas others aspire to modernize by "killing the moonlight" of Venice, in the Futurists' notorious phrase.
Spanning the history of literature, art, and architecture—from John Ruskin, Henry James, and Ezra Pound to Manfredo Tafuri, Italo Calvino, Jeanette Winterson, and Robert Coover—Killing the Moonlight tracks the pressures that modernity has placed on the legacy of romantic Venice, and the distinctive strains of aesthetic invention that resulted from the clash. In Venetian incarnations of modernism, the anachronistic urban fabric and vestigial sentiment that both the nation-state of Italy and the historical avant-garde would cast off become incompletely assimilated parts of the new. Killing the Moonlight brings Venice into the geography of modernity as a living city rather than a metaphor for death, and presents the archipelago as a crucible for those seeking to define and transgress the conceptual limits of modernism. In strategic detours from the capitals of modernity, the book redrafts the confines of modernist culture in both geographical and historical terms.
About the Author
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Venetian Modernity: A Troubled Present
1. "The Entanglement of Memory": Reciprocal Interference of Present and Past in Ruskin's Venetian Histories
2. Nearer Distances and Clearer Mysteries: Between Patches and Presence in James's "Visitable Past"
3. Adriatic Fantasies: Venetian Modernism Between Decadence
4. From Passéism to Anachronism: Material Histories in Pound's Venice
5. Fabulous Planning: Unbuilt Venices
What People are Saying About This
Killing the Moonlight is a shimmering, brilliant reflection on Venice's making of a modernist aesthetic, one not simply to be understood as a minor modernism, but one arising on the thresholds of the city's lagoons and lacunae. We here meet an amphibious modernism that emerges out of the very materials and structures, out of the waters and stones of the Serenissima herself. In a tour-de-force reading of John Ruskin, Henry James, Ezra Pound, the Italian Futurists, Massimo Cacciari, Italo Calvino, and Jeanette Winterson, Scappettone has written what will be a classic work on the spaces and times of modernity.
In Killing the Moonlight, a rich and satisfying book, Scappettone offers her own Benjaminian arcades of Venice, replete with seductive phantasmagorias grounded in material culture. Venice attracts modernist impulses negotiating endlessly between the past and modernity exemplified by Henry James, Ezra Pound, John Ashbery, Andrea Zanzotto and even, despite his bluster, by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Demonstrating how floating, porous, and transient archipelagos can replace the hardness of virile utopias, Killing the Moonlight will make you revisit the city once again, bathing its canals, palaces, and monuments in a truly new light.
Troping its object of study, the field of studies of modern(ist) Venice long seemed exhausted. That is, until the arrival of Jennifer Scappettone's superb Killing the Moonlight. From the Bruce Nauman Venice Fountains with which the book opens to its closing valediction on the Las Vegas Venetian Resort Hotel, Scappettone moves among historical epochs with ease and erudition, making a highly original scholarly contribution of uncommon finesse.
A theoretically sophisticated project, far-reaching in its comparativist approach, and methodologically rigorous throughout. Scappettone's work brings to our attentionand patiently walks us through, so as to let us appreciatethe interrelation of imaginary and lived spaces, literary and cultural history, textual and urban terrains.