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Italian Studies Research Seminar: Playing with Artworks: Interartistic Experimentation in the Works of Leonardo Sciascia

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Location: FAB4.52

Italian Studies Research Seminar Series

Wednesday 29th November, 5:15-18:30 in room FAB4.52.

Sara Parisi (Warwick SMLC) will give a talk on Playing with Artworks: Interartistic Experimentation in the Works of Leonardo Sciascia.

Leonardo Sciascia (1921-1989) was an Italian writer, intellectual and man of letters, whose interest in the visual arts is attested by the numerous contributions that he wrote on art and photography, by the frequent use of images in his novels and short stories, and by his private activity as an art collector. Although much has been written about Sciascia’s non-fiction and narrative production, the influence that his passion for the visual arts and his considerations on the physiognomy of art criticism exercised on his work has often been overlooked, with his contributions on art and photography rarely being published in anthologies.

The aim of this paper is to investigate the relation between interartistic practice and experimental creativity in Sciascia’s works, proposing a textual analysis of his writings, as well as offering an exegesis of the ekphrastic strategies he used, of the bonds established with contemporary artists and of his considerations on art. After a contextualisation of the writer’s relationship with the visual arts, this paper will answer the following questions: are Sciascia’s reflections on the ontological nature of art a confirmation of his expertise in the intricacies of the visual code? Does the familiarity with the visual arts provide him with alternative models for his fiction? Moreover, did the acquaintanceship with artists and photographers, as well as the collaboration he created with them, help him to understand their artworks and influence the experimentation in his novels, such as in Todo modo?

My analysis will show how, in Sciascia’s works, art ultimately serves the purpose of disclosing truth by spurring the protagonists to read the images, to look beyond appearances and make connections with reality. Ekphrasis is indeed ‘designed to produce a viewing subject’ (Goldhill, 2007), because it guides the readers’ eye and teaches them to become active observers, without passively submitting to the description of an artwork. Starting from Sciascia’s peculiar use of sight as a means to discern reality, I will explore the writer’s deeper subjectivity and ideology which come out from his use of ekphrasis, focusing in particular on his adoption of an intermedial perspective to understand the invisible – political corruption and the figure of God – through the visible pieces of art created by the artists he loved.

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