Theses Doctoral

Spiritual Voices: Antonia Pozzi, Cristina Campo, and Margherita Guidacci

Di Nino, Nicola

My doctoral dissertation examines the relationship between the sacred and literature, explores how the Bible has influenced the literary production of Antonia Pozzi, Cristina Campo, and Margherita Guidacci, and reveals that each author had a distinctive way of dealing with the Sacred Book. In the first chapter I retrace the studies on the topic of Bible and Literature, and I show how literary critics only recently have begun to work intensively on them (in the past the "historical school" founded by De Sanctis and followed by Croce devoted few studies to the subject of the sacred and even so, only to those periods where the influence of the Scriptures was clear and indeed obvious, such as the Middle Ages and the Counter-Reformation). In the same chapter I explain my reason for deciding to study Pozzi, Campo, and Guidacci. These three authors share analogous biographical experiences and episodes that deeply influenced their lives (the presence of an authoritarian father, family losses, and sad love experiences). Moreover, their studies (specifically, European writers and philosophers) were of the same nature. I demonstrate that, although contemporary Italian literature is heterogeneous and varied, these three women astonishingly shared the same background that explains their concentration on the sacred. In the following chapter I consider the writers individually, in order to examine the path that led them to a dialogue with the religious and the sacred. In Pozzi, the sacred is something that lies beyond human understanding and, for all her attempts to reach it, she always fails due to her incapacity to fully free helself from human passions. In Campo and in Guidacci on the other hand, the sacred search is always consistent and, notwithstanding some missteps and second thoughts, they are able to basically fulfill their task. After the study of their ideas, in the last chapter I move to the poetical language used by these writers. It has been very interesting to see what is essentially the same vocabulary appearing again and again in our poets. As it is known, the biblical language is based on symbols that evoke a union between the contingent and the Absolute. Pozzi, Campo, and Guidacci were not only able to interpret the biblical symbology but they also used some of those terms in their poems; specifically I focused my attention on the recurrence of five words-symbols: assenza, deserto, nulla, fiore, luce (absence, desert, emptiness, flower, light). It is really significant that the writers in question use the same biblical symbols as poetical words: it is a vocabulary that ties together literary and religious experience. Their connection is also strengthened by the reference and the predilection for same specific books of the Bible, such as Job and The Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet for Pozzi, and the Gospels, Psalms, and The Song of Songs for Campo and Guidacci. In my analysis I show that already in the desert we can see the first signs of Pozzi's weakness: In this solitary place, where the soul must deal with herself to reach the emptying of earthly passions, Pozzi got lost and fell into the error of looking backwards, to the beloved she had left. On the other hand, Campo and Guidacci were able to reach the spiritual light, so their journey through biblical symbolism can be finally considered complete. In other words, Pozzi's path towards the Scripture is fulfilled piecemeal and never ends in it, while in Campo and Guidacci the Scripture becomes an integral part of their lives, so they are constantly enlightened by the Word of God, while Pozzi misses this Light and sinks into the darkness of death. Finally, considering the fact that they have been relatively isolated from the literary world until recently, I do not believe they were rejected by a misogynist society, but rather by the fact that those years were demanding an active social participation. The women treated here never made that choice, instead they dedicated themselves to the search for the sacred, an issue not "present" in the years in which they lived. So I think that it was this combination of poetic themes and lifestyle choices that excluded them. In conclusion my work, which could have considered many other poets, confirms the point of view from which I started: the theme of the sacred in the twentieth century literature does not seem to present itself as a school or current, but is characterized by its inevitable uniqueness so that each poetic experience is described for its extraordinary authenticity and uniqueness. If anything, we can talk about similarities and links between these poets based on common readings that provide the basis on which to develop their own religious experiences.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Valesio, Paolo
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 23, 2013


Dissertation in Italian; Abstract in English; English translations of Introduction and Conclusion in appendices.