De Chirico

ELENA AGAZZI

SENIOR FELLOW

Dr. Professor of German studies, Bergamo University

Curriculum Vitae

Elena Agazzi is Full Professor of German Studies at the University of Bergamo. Her research focuses on  eighteenth- to nineteenth-century German culture, interdisciplinary studies on European Enlightenment and memory studies on contemporary literature. She is a Fellow of the “Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung” and has done extensive research in Germany, where she has also been Visiting Professor at the University of Mannheim. She collaborates with the Italian and German Research Societies on the XVIIIth century, with many literary and scientific reviews and magazines and with the Florentine “Società italiana di Scienza e Letteratura” (SISL). She translated works by Fr. Schlegel, Goethe, Döblin, Benn, Aichinger.

Project: Literature and Archaeology, the archaeological material world and poetic imagination 

I have chosen to work on the reconstruction of the cultural and literary panorama of Germany between 1945 and 1961 and decided to examine, in a formal, cultural and stylistic reading, the pictorial memory of Greek and Roman Antiquity based on two criteria: a) in the context of literary prose and parallel in specialised books, and b) in the context of their reciprocal relationship. I plan to achieve my most important objectives in a division of work into the following phases: 1) the preparation of an “inventory” of literary texts that, between 1945 and 1961, brought close to us the landscape and the persons of Antiquity via the reconstruction of a world surrounded by myths (as a place of desire), or via a restructuring of the narrative according to a poetry of myths indicated in the titles of the works. The contrasted thematic poles of the relationship between past and presence also appear in the utopian dialect of imaginary towns, which are arranged into casts around an authoritarian leading centre and in which the shaken and sad picture of a Germany, ruined and close to a complete reconstruction, revives according to a system, regulated by the allocation of competences and by the parallel word of Hades, which is underground and hidden. (e.g. Hermann Broch, Der Tod des Virgil (1945), Arno Schmidt, Leviathan (1946), Hermann Kasack, Die Stadt hinter dem Strom (1947), Hans Erich Nossack, Nekya (1947), Ernst Jünger, Heliopolis (1949), Elisabeth Langgässer, Der Torso (1947), Das Labyrinth (1949), Märkische Argonautenfahrt (1950), Ernst Schnabel, Der sechste Gesang (1956), Ich und die Könige (1958)).
2) To understand the extent to which a few professional books on forgotten cultures performed various functions in the cultural panorama of post-war Germany, such as e.g. the establishment of a thematic order related to the antique world as a result of the most recent archaeological activities, or the bridging of the gap between archaeological excavation and the presence of readers together with the requirement that a civil society should be allowed to emerge from the ashes that is far more overwhelmed by people’s vandalism than by time.
The comparison between the term “ruins” and “debris” leads in this field to an interesting theoretical presumption and allows for the verification of the facts of how love in the 18th Century for Greek and Roman role models, for archaeology and the study of Antiquity again led, at the end of the war, to the expansion of the dreams of the Midland and the Roman Empire, also as compensation for the ethical and moral value vacuums accompanying World War II. (compare C.W. Ceram, Götter, Gräber und Gelehrte (1949), Rudolf Pörtner, Mit dem Fahrstuhl in die Römerzeit (1959), Bevor die Römer kamen (1961), Die Erben Roms (1964).  The cultures of the DDR and the BRD in the 50’s do, of course, offer themselves for comparison because of the different perspectives and the exploitation of archaeology from a political-cultural point of view.
3) Examine the extent to which professional literature on archaeology and the world of Classicism contributed to the emergence of the literary imagination of a few post-war authors inclined to nurture the Antiquity myth and revise the role of the philological work of a few Germans of the 50’s, like Robert Cirtius and Bruno Snell.

Related publications

Il prisma di Goethe. Letteratura e scienza nell’età classico-romantica (Neaples: Guida, 1996).

Il corpo conteso. Rito e gestualità nella Germania del Settecento (Milano: Jaca Book, 2000), La memoria ritrovata. Tre generazioni di scrittori tedeschi e la coscienza inquieta di fine Novecento (Milan: Bruno Mondadori, 2003) which was also published in Germany by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in 2005.

She edited with Eva Kocziszky Der fragile Körper. Zwischen Fragmentierung und Ganzheitsanspruch (Göttingen, V&R Unipress, 2005)

She dited with Vita Fortunati Memoria e saperi. Percorsi transdisciplinari (Rome: Meltemi, 2007). Her last published book is La grammatica del silenzio di W.G. Sebald (Rome: Artemide, 2007).