Futurism, Fascism, and the Art of War
Michael Subialka, Powys Roberts Research Fellow in European Literature
St Hugh’s College, Oxford
29 April 2015, 5 pm, Taylor Institution Library, St Giles’, Oxford
The Italian entry into World War I was rooted in a complex mix of secret diplomacy, longstanding nationalist sentiments, and popular cultural provocation. One of the features of that mix is that it made for strange bedfellows and stranger combinations of beliefs even within single groups or movements. The Italian Futurists are no exception, and their years of provocation on behalf of intervention against Austria-Hungary (and in Africa) can be traced to a series of conflicting impulses that emerge out of the 19th century. In their thought, the basic irredentist cause of “completing” the Risorgimento’s unification of Italy is combined with the 19th-century discourse on vitalism, Darwinian visions of race theory and natural selection, and also an impulse toward the abstract, mysterious, and metaphysical, transposed from the realm of religion to human action and artistic creation. This blend of impulses makes the Futurist provocation emblematic both of the late 19th century and of the coming era of Fascism. It is in this light that we should approach the shift of alliances achieved by the Patto di Londra (Treaty of London), signed secretly 26 April 1915, nearly a month before Italy’s entry into the war.
All welcome. Lecture followed by Futurist book display and reception.