Words Against Words is the first book to consider the philosophical works of Carlo Michelstaedter (1887-1910) from a stylistic point of view. It focuses on the links between poetic and rhetoric in Michelstaedter’s major work, La Persuasione e la Rettorica, well known for its original multilingualism, embodiment of subgenres, dialogues, apologues and parables, technical jargons. In the context of the early twentieth century ‘crisis of language’ in Central Europe, Carlo Michelstaedter, a young Italian speaking Jew from Gorizia who left the Austro-Hungarian territory to study in Florence, articulates one of the most radical examples of ‘negative thought’, while at the same time struggling to define a way to regain freedom from contingency, unity of meaning, and the absolute state of ‘persuasion’.
Malcolm Angelucci’s book reads La Persuasione e la Rettorica, against itself, demonstrating how it is in the practice of signification, in the ‘writing’ of a philosophy and a poetic, that the challenge against the inadequacy of words is played out, in one of the most interesting examples of Italian speculation of the period. Angelucci’s post-structuralist approach and analysis of rhetorical figures adopts and reworks the Bakhtinian concept of ‘dialogism’, in order to demonstrate the peculiar ‘loss of centre’ of Michelstaedter’s text, and the relativisation of the pretences of the hero/narrator in ways which are coherent with the best examples of early Central European Modernism.
This book intervenes in the growing debate on Michelstaedter in the English speaking world, and suits an audience of academics and tertiary students interested in Italian and Central European literature and culture in the first decades of the Twentieth century. Nevertheless, it also caters for the growing number of Michelstaedter-enthusiasts and readers interested in expressionism, avant-garde, and early Modernism.