(Ghosts of) Generative Literature in Italy Between Past, Present and Future

Abstract (in English): 

In 2006 Tommaso Lisa stated that since Nanni Balestrini’s Tape Mark I, not
much has been done much to elaborate creative synergies between poetry and
computer in Italy. In fact, the absence of Italy - homeland of Calvino, Marinetti
and Toti - from major anthologies, collections, and exhibitions in the field of e-lit
confirms such a bitter statement. But it is still the case? What is the current state
of Italian electronic literature? What should be the reasons for its absence on the
international scene? What actions are being made and what still could be made
to spread electronic literature in Italy?

The paper is primarily articulated according to those questions, on which it intends to introduce a critical thought. To start, an attempt will be made to give an overview of Italian electronic literature, chiefly focusing on generative experiments. After a brief introduction on the precursors of generative dynamics, the analysis will focalize on the first example of Italian electronic literature: the aforementioned poetic combinatorial experiment made by Balestrini in 1961 using an IBM 7070 calculator. The work will be placed in the international and national context, in order to identify its affinities with coeval experiments – from Love Letters by Christopher Strachey (1952) to Autopoeme by Gerhard Stickel (1966) - as well as its role within the cultural milieu of the Sixties in Italy. A close look on the development of the Italian poetry generators which is the most vivid and dynamic field of artistic research in Italy nowadays, will be of help to understand the importance of Balestrini’s legacy. The analysis will then concentrate on some examples of multimedia generative poems up to the experiments conducted in the fields of chatbots and storytelling which exploits the capabilities of AI. Finally, an attempt will be made to extend the spectrum to generative art projects more closely related towards visual and sound aspect, as well as to generative design, projects that hybridize gaming and 3D technology, or explore the new frontiers of Cognitive Storytelling.

The paper aims primarily to provide room for further comparative studies, secondly to investigate untold archeologies between electronic literature and other expressive and material practices (Visual Poetry, Design, Marketing) and thirdly to reflect on the potential - but also the difficulties - that a social and cultural practice such as electronic literature may face in contexts like the Italian one.


(Source: Author's Abstract)

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Roberta Iadevaia