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Prose fiction in the current millennium: Reading and writing Italo Calvino’s six memos

Wright, David (2018) Prose fiction in the current millennium: Reading and writing Italo Calvino’s six memos. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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In 1985 Italo Calvino wrote a series of lectures (later published as ‘memos) in which he proposed five values he deemed crucial to literature as it moved into the next millennium: lightness, quickness, ‘crystal’ exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity. This creative thesis addresses Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium in three ways. First, the rise of these values within the Calvino corpus is explored, including Calvino’s creative theoretical approach used in Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Second, Calvino’s values are reimagined in relation to contemporary literature and context. As Calvino’s memos address the current millennium, this thesis responds from the current millennium by contrasting the memos with recent works that can be read as exhibiting Calvino’s values and their binary opposites (i.e. weight, lingering, ‘flame’exactitude, ephemerality, and singularity). Third, Calvino’s memos are explored through creative practice by applying Calvino,s memos to produce five fictional works: The Perfect Democracy, Executive Chairman’s Letter to the Shareholders (a sample of the larger work Paige & Powe), 뻐꾸기 (a sample of the larger work Little Emperor Syndrome), Unlabelled Bottles, and Las Artes Hypnóticas (2022). The creative works serve as a conclusion, as evidence of the relevance Calvino’s memos have in addressing the predicaments in contemporary literature addressed in the theoretical portion of this thesis. This thesis examines each of Calvino’s memos in the various forms that contemporary prose fiction has taken. As the current millennium has been defined as an age of ‘too much’(i.e. too many subjects and issues to examine, too many potential associations to make, too many competing voices to vii represent, too many forms of competing media, and too many potential readers and readings to account for), this thesis examines how this has impacted contemporary fiction:

(a) The values of weight and lightness are explored in the ‘Maximalist’ novel (as defined by Stefano Ercolino);

(b) The values of quickness and lingering are explored in contemporary digital literature (i.e. prose fiction that is ‘digital born’);

(c) The values of crystal and flame exactitude are explored in the contemporary use of ‘stream-of-consciousness’ prose and interpretations of the ‘ideal text;

(d) The values of visibility, ephemerality, and ekphrastic strategy are explored in multimedial prose fiction; and

(e) The values of multiplicity and singularity are explored in contemporary encyclopaedic fiction, paranoid fiction, and the ‘novel of information multiplicity’ (as defined by John Johnston).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Mishra, Vijay and Lazaroo, Simone
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