Giovanni Pascoli Analysis

Other Literary Forms

Giovanni Pascoli dabbled in Dante criticism, and between 1898 and 1902 he wrote Minerva oscura (1898; dark Minerva), Sotto il velame (1900; under the veil), and La mirabile visione (1902; the marvelous vision). His assertion that La divina commedia (c. 1320; The Divine Comedy) “is not a strong and living poetic organism, a harmonious whole . . . but a great ocean, in which the poetic moments are the pearls” was not well received, although he did influence the views of the scholar Luigi Pietrobono. Pascoli’s critical essays are more revealing of Pascoli himself than they are of the works that he attempts to interpret. In defense of Italian colonial activity in Africa, Pascoli wrote the essay “La grande proletaria s’e mossa” (the great proletariat has moved) in 1911.

In his famous essay “Il fanciullino” (the little boy), written in 1897, Pascoli explains his theory of poetry, derived from the story of the child who led the blind poet Homer by the hand. A true poet, says Pascoli, listens to the child within him, to what the child sees and perceives. The blind man’s fanciullino strives not to become famous but only to be understood. In his endeavor to present as many objects as a child sees in a world that is always new and beautiful, Pascoli found fault with literary Italian, cramped by classical tradition and condemned to an extremely restricting “poetic” vocabulary, and he invented...

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As one of the nineteenth century triad (Giosuè Carducci, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and Giovanni Pascoli) of Italian literary greats, in company with the other two triads of Italian literature (Dante, Petrarch, and Giovanni Boccaccio; Alessandro Manzoni, Ugo Foscolo, and Giacomo Leopardi), Pascoli is one of the sacred nine included in every survey of literature course offered to Italian students.

While not as assertive or outspoken as Carducci or D’Annunzio, Pascoli was ultimately more influential than either. Some modern critics are offended by his sentimentality, but other aspects of his poetry in one way or another anticipated almost all Italian poetry that was to follow: the work of Guido Gozzano, Sergio Corazzini, Marino Moretti, and that group of poets known as the crepuscolari; F. T. Marinetti and the Futurists; the hermeticism of Eugenio Montale; and the religious poetry of Carlo Betocchi and Paolo De Benedetti. By translating his sense of the mystery of life into images and sounds, he anticipated the neutral, grayish tones of consciousness elaborated by the crepuscolari. His use of onomatopoeia, when successful, pointed the way to Marinetti’s less successful “tumbtumb” and the like. Umberto Saba was influenced by Pascoli’s use of humble subject matter, as were such local color poets as the Sicilians Lucio Piccolo and Giuseppe Villaroel. The tone of his Myricae (tamarisks) poems, when uncluttered by sentimental...

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Brand, Peter, and Lino Pertile, eds. The Cambridge History of Italian Literature. Rev. ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Includes introductory information on Pascoli’s life and work and pertinent historical background.

Donadoni, Eugenio. A History of Italian Literature. Translated by Richard Monges. New York: New York University Press, 1969. Contains introductory biographical and critical information on Pascoli’s life and work.

LaValva, RosaMaria. The Eternal Child: The Poetry and Poetics of Giovanni Pascoli. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Annali d’Italianistica, 1999. A critical interpretation of Pascoli’s “Il fanciullino” with the text of the poem in English and Italian. Includes bibliographical references and index.

Perugi, Maurizio. “The Pascoli-Anderton Correspondence.” Modern Language Review 85, no. 3 (July, 1990): 595. An analysis of the correspondence between Isabella Anderton and Giovanni Pascoli, including the text of some of their letters.

Perugi, Maurizio. “Pascoli, Shelley, and Isabella Anderton, ‘Gentle Rotskettow.’” Modern Language Review 84, no. 1 (January, 1989): 50. A discussion of the English attributes of Pascoli’s work and the influence Percy Bysshe Shelley had on Pascoli’s poetry.

Phelps, Ruth Shepard. Italian Silhouettes. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1968. Provides brief historical background to the works of Pascoli and other Italian literature.