Man and boy : homoeroticism and myth-making in Umberto Saba's Canzoniere
My thesis investigates the relationship between male same-sex desire and myth-making in the work of the Italian twentieth-century poet Umberto Saba (1883-1957). I analyse the pervasiveness of homoeroticism in Saba's collected poetic work, the Canzoniere, arguing that same-sex desire is not only relevant in itself but also plays a decisive role in relation to the heterosexual and family attachments on which Sabian scholarship has concentrated up till now. The foregrounding of homoeroticism thus results in the first comprehensive reading of the Canzoniere , in which the various poles interacting in it are shown to acquire their full meaning only when viewed as parts of a whole. More specifically, I read the Canzoniere's renowned autobiographism as the articulation of a self-aware homoerotic subject through myth-making. The identification of the nexus between homoeroticism, mythopoeia and the process of construction of identity allows me to demonstrate that, contrary to established critical notions, Saba's ostensible traditionalism serves ideological purposes which sharply diverge from the dominating idealistic framework of the Italian poetic tradition. This surfaces in the way in which poetic language is bent to articulate issues of a complex and strikingly modern psychological nature, and to serve goals which are narrative rather than poetic in the strictest sense. It is also exemplified by Saba's tendency to re-appropriate classical myths (the Odyssey and Oresteia in particular) from a specifically homoerotic perspective, a phenomenon which leads to a proliferation in the Canzoniere of male figures whose resonance is at once personal and archetypal. The connection between mythopoeia and the process of self-understanding and self-fashioning also informs the methodological slant of my research. Whereas scholars still tend to view Freudian psychoanalysis as a major hermeneutic key to Saba's world, I lay great emphasis on the fact that the Canzoniere 's mythopoeia shows numerous significant points of contact with the archetypal psychology of C. G. Jung. Accordingly throughout this study I have made use of a number of theoretical sources (Karol Kerenyi and James Hillman, as well as Jung) which have not previously been applied to Saba and his work.