Renato Poggioli. Between History and Literature
A pioneer of Slavic studies in Italy during the pre-wwii years, Poggioli graduated in Russian philology under Ettore Lo Gatto in Florence before spending most of the 1930s between Prague, Vilnius and Warsaw as a lecturer for the Italian government. In 1938 he emigrated to the United States to teach Italian at Smith College and Brown University. After the War he went to Harvard as a professor of Slavic Studies and Comparative Literature. This essay shows Poggioli’s role during the first part of his career in making Slavic literatures, and modern Russian poetry in particular, accessible to Italian readers and scholars through his translations (La violetta notturna, 1933; Il fiore del verso russo, 1950). It also highlights his pan-European cultural vision, soon to be further extended to the transatlantic perspective after 1938. Looking beyond his specific work as a translator, a literary critic and theorist (Teoria dell’arte d’avanguardia, 1962), and his active engagement in antifascist initiatives in the u.s., Poggioli is depicted as a sophisticated intellectual against at the backdrop of the crucial decades centered around the years of wwii. Poggioli is not only a “cultural mediator” between the traditional eastern and western geo-cultural spheres, but also covers a key role in the transition between the late season of European Modernism, of which he was an offspring, and the age of the neo-avant-gardes, symbolically inaugurated in Italy in 1963, the same year of Poggioli’s premature death in a car accident in California, half a century ago.