Lecture Series

Leopardi: his life, his work, his times

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Regardless of his short existence (1798-1837), Giacomo Leopardi left an immense philological, literary, and philosophical work. Also, his abundant letter correspondence (with an intrinsic aesthetic value) and the testimonies of his contemporaries, draft the profile of a fascinating character. The wandering and tormented life of Leopardi is attractive, first, due to its novelesque nature: it appears to be extracted from the pages of some of his contemporary Italian narrators that would later be taken to the screen by Luchino Visconti o Ettore Scola. But in his biographic writings, Leopardi offers us an acute portrait full of charm of an Italy prior to the Risorgimento. An Italy that is not united yet, and thus, is very heterogeneous. With cities where he detects among the provincial environment, the seed of some of the most representative phenomenons of European modernity like fashion, cultural industry, and the new conditions of metropolitan life.

The reception of the vast and varied work of Leopardi has hardly culminated with the recognition of the centrality that his intellectual diary, the Zibaldone, has. This reception has been progressive and slow due to the unclassifiable complexity of his figure. Leopardi is at the same time a philosopher and a poet because he thinks imaginatively: with his imagination he has a conflictive and discontinuous relationship with the escaping reality, and at the same time, with imagination he expresses the pain that is dissatisfaction causes him. The existential unhappiness is for Leopardi the corner stone from where he negatively judges the human condition, all of society, and its possibility of historical progress. This is why, when thinking, Leopardi is not only doing philosophy and poetry, but he also moralizes bitterly with a strict clairvoyance that makes him an outdated figure, a paradoxic "anti-modern" progressive, a real contemporary in disagreement with his time.

José Muñoz-Millanes