CFP: Crossing borders. De Martino and the Arts

Submission deadline: June 15, 2024

Topic areas


CoSMo. Comparative Studies in Modernism


N.26 (June 2025) 


Call For Papers

In recent times, scholarly research on Ernesto De Martino’s work has given rise to a forceful revision of the intellectual and scientific figure we had inherited from previous years, starting from the fifties up to at least the end of the past century. Relevant insights have emerged from a new comprehensive view of De Martino’s oeuvre, when scholars started exploring areas lying outside the author’s specific fields of research, such as folklore, magic, myth, and under-privileged cultures. Fresh interpretations have revealed a structurally open-ended and problematical kind of work, impelling scholars to revise its meanings and limits. So modern has De Martino’s cultural enterprise proved as to stimulate people from diverse horizons and cultures to reinterpret and translate his work, performing a “translating gesture” (Charuty), which retroacts on, and enhances his original texts with new perspectives, and moving from one language to another has widened possible readings of his texts. International conferences have added new aspects to the interdisciplinary nature of his explorations, and widened the range of his reception. On the literary side, De Martino is known to be critical, yet fascinated by European “crisis” literature, i.e., the great modernist artistic creations. Although some trends and authors from early and late twentieth century are not part of his preferences, one can reasonably and fruitfully investigate upon the astonishing and remarkable affinities connecting him with our recent and contemporary scene, not only on the Italian side, as Carlo Ginzburg has demonstrated.

Therefore, one could reasonably conjecture that De Martino’s theoretical and methodological experimental thinking has been somehow grounded in, and moulded by the various artistic languages he employed in his research. Whether recording the forms of popular and vernacular singing, of mourning lamentations, or musical cathartic rituals, De Martino constantly comes to rely on all sorts of aesthetic practices which, incidentally, are not foreign to his “theatrical calling”, i.e., his readiness to understand and display human frailties, with important consequences for the manifold artistic practices related to such experiences. It goes without saying that in order to retrieve and report on the forms of cultural heritage of the peoples he was studying, De Martino necessarily made use of direct field recordings of oral testimonies, employed photography and film in order to both chronicle and circulate his research, deftly rehearsing and anticipating, if unwittingly, the artistic side of such practices: one can only think of American and European photography, reportage and film-reportage of l’ entre-deux guerres, which not only chronicled but invented the realities they were engaged in. Likewise, he would resort to radio broadcasting (1953-54) to publicize his works’ more specialistic topics among a wider audience, thus experimenting in several artistic techniques introduced by the new media and paralleling the new forms of theatrical performance, that enriched, or were still enriching the range of new artistic fields in the twentieth century (reportage, montage, cinema, photography, performance). In all this, De Martino enhances the very peculiarities of each aesthetic language, thanks to his keen sensibility for the concrete plurality of artistic practices, the specificity of their media, the new formal solutions and techniques required to achieve new ranges of expression. To sum up, De Martino encounters various kinds of aesthetic languages, he constantly implements them so that they may further his research, and studies them as relevant documents both in their historical and their anthropological status.

All these areas will be dealt with in a CoSMo issue by the title De Martino and the Arts/De Martino e le arti due to appear in June 2025. The editors invite proposals for papers focusing on the crossroads between various clusters of themes, various traditions, disciplinary areas, and points of interest, in English, Italian, or French. We encourage contributions to “cross borders”, venturing in unexpected ground, discovering unforeseeable links and original parallels, starting from the assumption that possible new interpretations of De Martino’s works may profit from a sustained attention to recent, or less recent exploits in the world of art. Proposals may centre around the wider domains of Word, Image, Performance, covering the more specific fields of life writing, reportage, cinema, photography, music, visual arts, performance, etc.. We will consider proposals addressing, but not limited to, the following topics:

  •    De Martino’s engagement in visual culture: photography, painting, visual studies
  •    “Realism effects” and pictographic language
  •    Performance and body language: symbolic and performative aspects of ritual
  •    De Martino and cinema : influences, uses, anticipations
  •    De Martino’s themes in contemporary art
  •   Translating De Martino: at the crossroads between literary language and invention of new concepts
  •    Travelogue, stream of consciousness, interior monologue, and association of ideas
  •    Montage techniques
  •   Ethnography and life writing; autobiographic style, facing others and the Other
  •   Demartino’s analysis of art in comparison with contemporary and later aesthetic theories
  •    Psychotic occurrences, impersonality, the decentred “I” in literature
  •    De Martino and many-faceted forms of music
  •    Improbable, unexpected connections: ideas, authors, experiences
  •    Aesthetic languages and spiritual pathologies: art, creativity, madness
  •    De Martino’s international reception.

If you are interested in submitting a paper, please let us have a short abstract (250 words) in English along with a brief bio-bibliography, by 15 June 2024, sending it to the issue’s editors’ addresses:

Roberto Dainotto  ([email protected]),

Francesco Lesce ([email protected])

Luisa Sampugnaro ([email protected]).

We will select paper proposals and let you know by the end of July 2024.

Contributions should not exceed 8.000 words (including spaces, bibliography, and footnotes) and will be peer-reviewed.

Final contributions are due by 15 December 2024.

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