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The Object-Fetish: From Memory to Alterity

Lecture | May 2 | 5 p.m. | Stephens Hall, 220 (Townsend Center Geballe Room)


Massimo Fusillo, University of Aquila

Department of Italian Studies, The Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory


The paper works at the intersection of two concepts, objects and fetishes, focusing on objects invested by psychological, erotic, emotional, symbolic values, that transform them into fetishes; and aims at showing that there is a profound parallelism between fetishism and artistic creativity: both infinitize details, mirroring macrocosm in microcosm. By this way the negative connotation still linked to the concept of fetish is totally questioned and subverted.

Starting from the main theoretical approaches to fetishism (anthropology, Marxism, psychoanalysis, cultural studies), and from the mythopoetic force of objects, the paper defines two different patterns of object-fetishes: a classical one, linked to the memorial function and to the elaboration of mourning, and a modernist one, focused of the fascination of pure matter; both have broad reverberations that are exemplified in literature and visual media, from Goethe’s Elective Affinities to Marco Ferreri’s Dillinger è morto, from Virginia Woolf’Solid Objects to Christian Boltanski’s installations.

Massimo Fusillo (Naples 1959) is Professor of Literary Criticism and Comparative Literature at the University of L’Aquila (Italy), where he is Coordinator of the PhD Program on Literary Genres; he is also President of the Italian Association of Theory and Comparative History of Literature. His major fields of research are: Theory of the Novel, Thematic Criticism. Modern Reception of ancient literature, Literature and Visual Culture, Queer Studies. His major publications are: Il romanzo greco: polifonia ed eros, Marsilio 1989; as Naissance du roman, Seuil, 1991; La Grecia secondo Pasolini. Mito e cinema, Nuova Italia, 1996; 2° revised edition Carocci, 2007; Il dio ibrido. Dioniso e le Baccanti nel Novecento, Il Mulino, 2006; L’altro e lo stesso. Teoria e storia del doppio, Nuova Italia, 1998; new edition Mucchi, 2012; Estetica della letteratura, Il Mulino, 2009; Span. transl. Antonio Machado, 2012; Feticci. Letteratura cinema arti visive, Il Mulino, 2012, forthcoming in a French version by Champion.


issa@berkeley.edu