Impegno, engagement,— a persistent trait of Italian culture —seems to escape precise definitions. It is often conceived as an intellectual’s tendency to take position in his work about the major social and political issues of his time. Others, however, understand it as decoupled from politics; a cognitive, philosophical and / or ethical attitude and they attribute to the word meanings similar to those of the English term commitment. Equally varied are the ways in which the linguistic and stylistic mediation between culture and social and political life has been understood, since the literary and social–political discourse intertwine, but at the same time differ from each other. From the Forties to the late Seventies, a large number of Italian intellectuals devoted themselves debating the relationship between culture, society and politics, and works were published that in various forms and with different content, took a stand in regard of the social reality and political life of the country.With the appearance of postmodernism in the late Seventies, and during the following couple of decades, the concept of impegno has disappeared from the cultural debate in Italy to reappear vehemently at the beginning of the new millennium. But what role shouldwe ascribe to the concept today in the so–called epoch of globalization and post–politics? How have the radical changes occurred in recent decades in the field of culture changed our capacity to intervene critically on the social reality? What should literature ’do’ today to call itself engaged? In the first part of this paper, I try to give a short description of the way in which the radical mutations in the field of culture at the end of the last century were discussed in Italy, outlining in particular Oltre il postmoderno? the debate between proponents and opponents of postmodernism or between ’apocalyptic’ and ’integrated’ according to the successful formula introduced by Umberto Eco already in 1964. In the second part, I will focus on the Memorandum on the New Italian Epic, written and published in 2009 by the writers’ collective Wu Ming, which seems to me to represent one of the most interesting proposals of how to overcome the impasse between the dichotomy of the ‘apocalyptic’ and the ‘integrated’ positions, and how to pursue a new practice of artistic activism and political engagement in culture today.
Studi Di Italianistica Nordica: Atti Del X Congresso Italianisti Scandinavi, 2014, p. 225-240