Introduction. Transmediality and Transhumanization: in Honour of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s First Centenary Celebration

Author di Dagmar Reichardt

Pasolini’s Transcultural “Classicism” in the Year of his Centenary

This bilingual (English/Italian) collection of essays, authored by internationally acknowledged and renown scholars, intends to reread the transmedial aspects of the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975) by combining them with the transcultural paradigm. Based on a panel dedicated to Pasolini at the 49th Annual Convention of the International Northeast Language Association (NeMLA), held at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 12th to 15th April 2018 and then thematically subsequently expanded for a special issue of the academic review «Diacritica», this collection of essays aims to rethink Pasolini’s role, his standing, and acceptance from different points of view, as well as in various societies and academic contexts. The never-ending actuality of the oeuvre authored by this symbolic Italian figure, exceptional director, prolific artist, creative poet, intellectual, author of the Corsair Writings (Scritti corsari, 1975) and figurehead of the Italian generation of 1968 is of particular importance in 2022, the year of the centenary of his birth.

As is known, Pasolini stands for the protests of 1968, and more precisely for the “Movimento del Sessantotto” in Italy of the late sixties, historically associated with the so-called “anni della contestazione”. One of the main factors of the success of Pasolini’s work and being is the transcendent level and intellectual depth of his major life themes, i.e., his critique of culture, society, and ideology. In its thematic richness and the intended multifariousness of their style and staging — in the broad arc from entertaining to apocalyptic, from gender debates to questions of faith — the keynote of his legacy appears so topic, prevailing and even “classic”, nowadays, because of its transcultural traits. The authenticity that his written words transmit to the reader, still today, is rooted in the congruency of Pasolini’s personal life and his public statements that his publications emanate: Pasolini was an icon of transculturality, as are his works still today.

In fact, Pasolini is not only known as writer of novels and prose (such as Ragazzi di vita, 1955; Una vita violenta, 1959; La Divina Mimesis, 1975; or Petrolio, 1992), poems (e.g., La meglio gioventù, 1954; La religione del mio tempo, 1961), essays (Passione e ideologia, 1960; Empirismo eretico, 1972; Scritti corsari, 1975), newspaper articles (in «Corriere della sera», among others), radio features (Paesaggi e scrittori: il Friuli, 17.8.1956, RAI) and plays (e.g., Porcile, 1968; Calderón, 1973), but also as screenwriter (e.g., Accattone, 1961; Mamma Roma, 1962; Uccellacci e uccellini, 1966 and many others), director of artistic films (Teorema, 1968; Medea, 1968; Il Decameron, 1971 etc.) and documentaries (Sopralluoghi in Palestina per il “Vangelo secondo Matteo”, 1964 etc.). Furthermore, Pasolini performed as songwriter (e.g., Il valzer della toppa and Cristo al Mandrione, 1961; Che cosa sono le nuvole, 1967; I ragazzi giù nel campo, 1974), actor (e.g., Monco in Il gobbo, 1960, directed by Carlo Lizzani; or Giotto in Decameron, 1970, directed by himself), translator (from Latin, French and Greek into Italian and Friulian) and political activist (not hiding his homoerotism, for instance, as a political statement, freely expressing his anti-capitalistic attitude etc.).

As a courageous, outstanding and passionate fighter for freedom, Pasolini also took a great interest in a wide range of various cultural and sociopolitical topics, values and manifestations, including religion (particularly Catholicism), philosophy, history (including religious history), paganism (particularly rural culture of South-Italian peasants etc.), ethnology, anthropology, music, figurative arts, painting, sports (as he was particularly fond of football himself), travel activities (e.g., Germany, India, Israel, Jordan, Africa, New York) and iconic figures of the past and presence (saints as St. Matthew or St. Paul, and popular cultural figures such as Dante, Boccaccio, Caravaggio, Martin Luther King, Maria Callas, amongst others).

While often criticizing certain facets of these issues and disciplines — particularly those concerning the politico-economic world — Pasolini was surely a trend-setter, not only on the aesthetical level, but also as an intellectual committed to inter- and/or transdisciplinary processes. As his book Le ceneri di Gramsci (1957) shows, he empathically regarded himself as a cultural and mental successor and innovator of tradition, who mainly orientated himself towards the subaltern, subproletarian and Marxist worldview outlined by Antonio Gramsci (La questione meridionale, 1924/1966). In the attempt to develop a new, contemporary, and progressive European, yet cosmopolitically aligned artistic position that, for instance, would be comparable to the one developed at the same time in French philosophy and sociology by Michel Foucault (1926-1984), particularly during the last period of Pasolini’s lifetime from 1968 throughout the 1970s, in his lyrical work Trasumanar e organizzar (1971), Pasolini coins the idea of transhumanization (transumanizzazione), which he originally found in Dante Alighieri’s Paradiso (1.67-70), thus, notably, taken from the Divine Comedy (Divina commedia, 1321/1472). Constantly driven by a dualistic motivation that oscillates between passion and ideology, between ephemeral poeticism and practiced cinematography, the narcissistic temptation of an individually tailored solution and the historical temptation of a collective compromise — i.e., metaphorically speaking, torn between the personification of a celestial “saint” and that one of an earthly “priest” —from today’s postmodern outlook, we could value Pasolini’s heritage as a transcultural vision ante litteram.

Transmediality and Transhumanization: a New Approach

If we wish to start from this premise, the next step is inevitably to ask how to detect those universal, perpetual values and transcultural aspects of Pasolini’s novels, films, poetry, plays, as well as of his presence in the media in terms of transculturality and/or transculturalism, transmediality, and transhumanization. In order to elaborate on those merits, which make revisiting his overall production so worthwhile, this introduction attempts to provide the reader with an overview of the research approaches, topics, and facets embraced by this special issue of «Diacritica» dedicated to Pier Paolo Pasolini for the first centenary of his birth. It offers nine essays in total, five of them written in Italian and four in English language (in addition to this Introduction, the Foreword by Marco Marino, Vice-President of the Academic Affairs at Sant’Anna Institute in Sorrento, and the Postface by Ugo Perolino, Chair of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures at “G. d’Annunzio” University of Chieti-Pescara), all structured following a red thread that groups the essays according to the political, ideological, performative, and psychological interests first, before focusing analytically on Pasolini’s conception of theater and, finally, on his iconicity in the cityscape of today’s Rome. Meanwhile, the permanent linguistic oscillation between Italian and English in the essays aims to invite the readers to leave their comfort zone and to face the transcultural challenge by opening themselves to alterity, and if it were only a matter of constantly entering foreign linguistic territory.

Firstly, right after this introductory note, the reader will find a more specific introduction to what the term of transculturality (or, formulated in a more phenomenologically pointed way: transculturalism) implies in the context of Literary and Cultural Studies. This purely methodological opening text is entitled Theoretical Approaches to Transculturalism and was written four-handed — in tandem and, in line with the current global conditions, intentionally presented in the global language of science, i.e. in English, the postmodern lingua franca par excellence — by the Afro-Italian writer of a postcolonial Italy, Igiaba Scego (La mia casa è dove sono, 2010; La linea del colore, 2020) — born 1974 in Rome of Somali origin — and by myself, Dagmar Reichardt (Latvian Academy of Culture) as a literary and cultural scholar with particular interest in interdisciplinary approaches and Transcultural Studies, as well as translator of Pasolini’s film scripts San Paolo (1977; Der Heilige Paulus, 2007) and Porno-Teo-Kolossal (1975; Porno-Theo-Kolossal. Pasolinis letztes Filmprojekt, 2022) in German language. This brief propaedeutic overview tries to define the umbrella term of Transculturalism, which serves as central theme to the present homage to Pasolini, questioning its origin, evolution, demarcation problems, and relevance in discourses during the third millennium. Those readers who prefer to read this scientific premise in Italian language will find the article in Italian easily by following the source reference at the end of this Introduction.

After leaving the bridging article about Transculturalism that, metaphorically speaking, serves to warm us up to a transcultural “temperature” on the theoretical level, we go straight into medias res with Francesco Chianese’s (Cardiff University / California State University Long Beach) seminal analysis of Transmediality as a Transcultural Dialogue: Pasolini between the Other and the Self. Chianese — for his part, author of a sagacious monograph on Pasolini’s mature reflections about paternity and the relationship between father and son (“Mio padre si sta facendo un individuo problematico”: Padri e figli nell’ultimo Pasolini (1966-75), 2018) — combines transcultural parameters by positioning Pasolini between the Other and the Self. Starting with the hardly veiled critique that Italians don’t read English research results, through his essay Chianese leads the reader to Pasolini’s critique of the American consumerism that, as we know and according to Pasolini, is the acme of a transformation process that turns into a civilizing downfall by corrupting and corroding Italy’s cultural identity. After systematically analyzing Pasolini’s image of Italy in Petrolio as well as in two symptomatic poems from a contrasting alterity point of view, Chianese comes to a hybrid but compelling conclusion: it’s the space, in which both transculturality and transnationalism meet and/or melt, which designs the alternative civilization Pasolini might have dreamed of.

While Chianese started from the assumption that Pasolini’s concept of trasumanar corresponds to a hybridization process that implies a fusion of transculturality and transnationalism, thus producing the transmediality of his artistic output, the Italo-Australian semiotician, philosopher, and comparatist Susan Petrilli (“Aldo Moro” University of Bari) succeeds in rereading it with the help of a “semioethical” formula. As one of the leading semiotic scholars world-wide, author of philosophically and linguistically crucial publications (e.g., Sign Studies and Semioethics: Communication, Translation and Values, 2014), Petrilli’s proactive interpretations of Pasolini’s transhumanising vision gives her reasons to pronounce the thesis that his literature and films lead us also back to ourselves, while encouraging us to think critically, i.e., out of the box which means, in this case: Otherwise than the traps of identity! Following Pasolini as a role model, her alternative constructive proposal is to think beyond dogmatism and duality by favoring communicative values and skills like alterity, uniqueness, hospitality, “feminine” involvement with the Other, artistic freedom, dissymmetrical contamination, polyphony, openness, and, as she writes, a “detotalising” attitude or mind-set. Trasumanar, in Petrilli’s sense is, then, a sign of a possible human growth that offers a wide range of ethical choices, nuances, and remodeling.

After that Petrilli’s intriguing and rich ensemble of secondary literature tested Pasolini’s limits and profoundness building the base of her argumentation — ranging from Dante’s condition of trasumanar coined and expressed by the sommo poeta in his Paradiso, to Bakhtin, Deleuze, Roland Barthes, and Levinas, to Sebeok, Eco, Ponzio, Victoria Welby, and many other – the Italianist and expert in literary criticism Maria Panetta takes us back to modern media reality and Pasolini’s physical world. In her essay, the Director of «Diacritica», Vicepresident of CRIC (Coordinamento Riviste italiane di Cultura) and lecturer for several years for “Editorial mediation and literary culture” at “History anthropology religions art and entertainment” (SARAS) Department at “La Sapienza” University of Rome, focuses on Pasolini’s performative image in interviews that she retrieved from online sources. Panetta’s analysis, entitled Pasolini oggetto di visione: l’intellettuale-attore e l’aspetto performativo delle sue interviste, examines the ambiguity of the real while observing how Pasolini himself performed in front of the camera and spoke in public. It is not surprising that Pasolini considered television an undemocratic, unfree medium, which — as per Pasolini — was revolutionizing the Italian society at his times, transforming the heterogeneous Italian language and its characteristic dialectic components into a homologous “language of technology”, thus anticipating the digital revolution of the Third Millennium. Nonetheless, from Pasolini’s point of view, art must be idealistic and decentralized but, at the same time, it must become commercial, too, in order to reach the masses. Pointing out that this circumstance requires ethical and cultural responsibility and, ergo, particular reflection, Panetta leads to the didactic utility in class of this kind of research material in general and of the four video interviews in particular, which are presented and discussed in her paper and that were conducted with Pasolini in the period 1968-1974.

Returning to Pasolini as an incarnation of transculturality beyond his media appearances online, literary scholar Lisa El Ghaoui (Université Grenoble Alpes) succeeds in demonstrating how the transcultural approach helps us to understand Pasolini’s basic longing for transformation (of the society, of his own biography). In her essay Dal desiderio di transculturalità all’autotrascendenza. Un percorso nell’opera di Pasolini tra viaggi e teatro, the French Pasolini expert, comparatist, author and (co-) anthologist of various volumes about Pasolini (e.g., Le tradizioni popolari nelle opere di Pier Paolo Pasolini e Dario Fo, 2014) traces the representation of the Other in Pasolini’s depiction of India — just as in his passion for the Roman borgate — under the banner of transculturality. Her essay is extremely relevant because, showcasing Pasolini, it unfolds not only that transculturality always depicts a lifestyle (as Wolfgang Welsch also states) that is beneficial because it satisfies a basic need of mankind, but, more than that, El Ghaoui shows that the India in Pasolini’s travel diary L’odore dell’India (1961) stands for transtemporality, i.e., for a third space in between of Occident and Orient, where the notion of trasumanar equates with resilience (first spiritual, then physical). This force becomes even more evident in his Manifesto per un nuovo teatro (1968) in which Pasolini defines theater as an act of protest. This protest is connected to a transcendental dimension of human existence that he captures with the idea of “trasumanar” in the sense of a “revelation”, of the “ineffable” and/or a “conversion”.

At this point, as an intermediate result, we may already keep hold of the practical utility to use the transcultural, transmedial and transhumanizing approach to highlight Pasolini’s highly ethical and aesthetical dimension that is hidden behind his anti-conformist attitude. As El Ghaoui points out, it is neither so much about being able to see the room for interpretation as a real space between Pasolini’s travels and theatre plays, nor actually to understand the masses when you are an intellectual like the widely noticed and exceptionally gifted Italian author and film director. But what rather does count is how we deal with it and how we interact with the Other and with each other: by metamorphizing reality with the help of poetic or dialect expressions, for instance, or by cultivating conviviality and hospitality, as El Ghaoui suggests. Diversity becomes something sacred, then, something that adds value if it is not suppressed or regarded as abnormal. Without denying the paradoxes and ambivalences that are connected to such an unclear and hybrid identity concept — also regarding sexual orientation — as we find it in Pasolini’s life and work, it becomes obvious that trasumanar means, in the end, to go beyond ourselves. Transhumanization is therefore to be seen as a transcultural skill to overcome a crisis in a double sense: by resisting to a misfortune, to suffering, dolor and pain, on one hand, and, on the other hand, by achieving salvation, grandeur, and catharsis, fully developing one’s own human potential.

If, in this regard, El Ghaoui is quite right to refer to the Austrian neurologist and philosopher Viktor Frankl in order to pinpoint Pasolini’s vision, it can be said that transculturality has, indeed, a lot to do with self-efficacy and self-determination. El Ghaoui’s conclusion — which finds that Pasolini’s language of desire can be characterized as transcultural in those moments, in which a fatality is transformed into a life decision, and in which a radical protest is rightly raised against tendencies of dehumanization — may serve as an Ariadne thread to reconcile with the rest of the research findings gathered in this special edition of «Diacritica».

The following three contributions also closely regard theater. In his subtle essay about Il teatro in Pasolini: la soglia della contraddizione, the US-American independent researcher Mark Epstein explores, sounds, and finds as creative as instructive knots of contradiction in Pasolini’s word theater, particularly examining his complex relationship with tradition, on one hand. But on the other hand, Epstein reasons that these paradoxes are instrumental in practicing a “dialogic-dialectic interaction” with the audience and within us, at the same time, because all discrepancies in Pasolini’s plays enhance democracy, introspection, and self-confidence, thus also having a constructive didactic effect. In this respect, Epstein’s sensitive search for the transmedial meaning of Pasolini’s dramas and essays, for the educative effect of Pasolini’s concept regarding a New Theater (Manifesto per un nuovo teatro), and for the life lesson of this outstanding Friulian artist in general, confirms the pedagogical value of Pasolini’s thought and work, which Panetta already pointed out on a practical didactic level.

While the threshold between the text, the performance, the audience, the author, and the actors is, for Pasolini, the doorway to “intermediality”, as per Epstein, the philosopher and professor for Italian Language and Literature Domenico Palumbo (Sant’Anna Institute Sorrento) revisits Pasolini’s theater manifesto Manifesto per un nuovo teatro (1968) and film Medea (1969) through a semiotic lens (as Susan Petrilli did in the beginning). In his contribution that carries the title Pasolini e la parola: dal “teatro di parola” alla Medea, “cinema di parola”, Palumbo finds a symbolic figure of transformation in the central character of Medea. Reverting to Pasolini’s concept of a “theater of words” as well as to his notion of a “cinema of poetics” (cinema di poesia), Palumbo coins the cross-over-neologism of a “cinema of words” (cinema di parola). In this sense, theater and cinema produce — more than just a synergy — a truly symbiotic language of forms. According to Palumbo, Pasolini’s Medea is inspired by Euripides’ myth as a blueprint to depict metaphysical truth and to reveal the dehumanizing effect of power. Palumbo finds the reason of Pasolini’s almighty authenticity in his conflicting ideas and contrariness, in his irreconcilable oppositions, oxymorons, and incongruities. The mixing of genres, codes, times, scenes, and shots — thus concludes Palumbo —produces a hybrid transculturality. And we may add that this seems even more plausible as Pasolini’s play with the guiding theme of encounter vs. collision — as illustrated by Palumbo — is, on a theoretical level, a (if not the) core topic of transculturality at all.

Andrew Korn’s (University of Rochester) Pasolini’s Ambivalent Love-Hate Poetry in “Fabulation, “Orgy” and “Pigsty” deepens some of these aspects which regard Pasolini’s idea of the Italian theatre: the Italianist as well as Pasolini-expert and author (Subjectivity and Politics in Pasolini’s Bourgeois Tragic Theater, 2018) confirms not only the hybridity as an essential characteristic of Pasolini’s theater per se, but also its transcultural function. Starting from Pasolini’s profound aversion to the “bourgeois cultural hegemony”, Korn justifies Pasolini’s antipathy with the fact that it was, at that time (and sometimes maybe still is), completely against any attempt of heterogenization, mutual hybridization and, therefore, transcultural progressiveness. With the help of a Freudian approach, Korn rereads just as critically as attentively Pasolini’s three plays Affabulazione, Orgia and Porcile, all written in the late sixties, at the very height of the 1968 student movement. As per Korn, the non-dialectical vision of history that these works let shine through is influenced by Freud: his essay discloses Pasolini’s poetry of ambivalence, oscillating between love and hate, against the backdrop of Freud’s theses about sexuality (the sacred), death drive (sadomasochism), and aggression (rebellion and/or violence). Surprisingly, also Korn concludes — just as the other authors in this volume, resulting in a particularly evidential manner from the analyses of Pasolini’s theater, though — that the three bourgeois tragedies call on the reader or spectator to overcome the destructiveness of the establishment by creating a new transcultural hybrid identity of us that reconciles the archaic with modernity, thus allowing more heterogeneity and diversification.

Going back to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis, Korn’s psychological approach deepens Lisa El Ghaoui’s key of reading from a historical and therapeutical point of view confirming its usefulness and pushing it even further. First, El Ghaoui opened this aspect with reference to Viktor Frankl — who was the founder and representative of the human-existential Logotherapy recognized as the third school of Viennese Psychotherapy after those established by Sigmund Freud (psychoanalytic therapy) and Alfred Adler (individual psychology) — even if mentioning Frankl only at the end of her essay. Now, Korn’s text starts directly with Freud. So, his contribution completes the circle shedding light on some inner processes that become manifest in Pasolini’s theater of the sixties, thus reflecting not only the slogan that “The private is public” (i.e., “Il privato è pubblico”) of his time, but also proving that Pasolini’s theater has a component that transcends time and remains expressively true even nowadays. This mediatic, analytic, and performative impact that we have called an effect of Pasolini’s “transcultural classicism”, before, is widened and amplified by Igiaba Scego’s atmospheric text about “San Pierpà”: Pier Paolo Pasolini a Roma Est tra sacralizzazione e gentrificazione, dealing with Pasolini’s presence in the cityscape of Rome nowadays. The commitment of this outstanding Italian female author, an emblematic figure of the so-called New Italians (in Italian: I nuovi italiani) and Italian icon of transculturality herself, commands her to turn both critically and lovingly towards the turbulent urban life of today’s Rome — once, Caput mundi and the navel of the world — by following the presence of Pasolini’s spirit through the streets, across the quarters and squares, into the bars and into the mind of the people.

Like in her book Roma negata. Percorsi postcoloniali nella città (2014), her text is underlaid with photos of graffiti and reminiscences of Pasolini in the Capitale and, once, City of the Popes (“Città dei papi”), taken in the public space in the eastern districts of Rome: particularly, in the Pigneto and in Tor Pignattara. Only that this time, it’s not the photographer Rino Bianchi to take black and white pictures of monuments that display Rome’s hidden and cruel colonial past, but it is the author herself who walks through her hometown, with her eyes wide open, photographing, observing, reflecting, writing, thinking of Pasolini and taking us — her readers — with her. Even if Scego’s text paints an ambivalent picture of a decadent, gentrified Rome, the elegance of her writing and the colored pictures with which she adorns her text, leave no doubt that she is always looking friendly, affectionately at her city — and at Pasolini. “She” rediscovers “his” Rome: a theatrical — nowadays postmodern — beauty with a gaping rupture between culture and consumption.

Here, in Scego’s “written walk”, leading us in a sort of armchair travel through the streets, Rome mirrors Pasolini (and his passion for the borgate), but Pasolini also mirrors Rome. Without revealing too much of this sophisticated, ingenious report, Scego’s crucial chapter about the iconic urban antitheses of a “sacred” Pasolini (Le iconiche antitesi urbane di un Pasolini “sacro”) illustrates that, in the Rome of the late postmodern era, Pasolini has become both an object of (economic) speculation and a public object of (cultural) discussion. What mostly attracts Scego’s attention is the double-faced, dilemmatic Pasolini: on one hand, he is her soulmate (as a writer, as somebody who liked the outskirts, living in Rome, loving but also quarreling with it) and a persona (a highly artificial character, constructed by others, short: an icon). Based on Pasolini’s revolutionary understanding of (the rotten, poor, crafty) Rome as pure poetics or “essenza poetica”, as Scego puts it, the Italo-African writer observes, questions, and precisely perceives the city’s transformation — also in its contrary, i.e., in its gentrification — in the 2000s. Now, seen that urban gentrification is based on the principle of glorification — Scego argues — Pasolini becomes “sacred”.

The alienation effect of the somehow clandestine portraits of this extremely unusual “sacred” (Roman) hero by means of street art manifests not only the transformation and sanctification of Pasolini’s life and work in contemporary Rome. It also reveals that art is only pure if it is not exploited, not crudely commercialized, but purposeless, in the pursuit of knowledge for its own ends if it is done just “because” or just for the sake of it. From this angle, the task of art and literature is to change our way of seeing, of looking at things, at the world and at the Other. This “transcultural gaze”, that Igiaba Scego seems to suggest to the reader, is a message pronounced by an artist. While she presented herself as an academic author (she is undisputedly also that) at the beginning of this special issue of «Diacritica», in the co-authored philosophical text about what Transculturalism is, the closing of the subsequent series of Pasolini-interpretations is set by her literary text about “San Pierpà” venerating Pasolini in the Roman dialect on the occasion of his centenary in 2022.

Pasolini would have probably also liked this transformation and switch from a philosophical approach to a literary one, and this combination of reflection, thought and art, both as an intellectual and a man of letters. Our journey across Pasolini’s world, from a present-day point of view, through his artistic, imaginary, and spiritual spheres ends here, in the in-between of two different languages (English and Italian) and of Pasolini’s various texts reread against the grain, with the Postface by Ugo Perolino (Il sacro e l’impuro. Letteratura e scienze umane da Boine a Pasolini, 2012). This focuses, in particular, on the brilliant pages that a Pasolini scholar of the caliber of Walter Siti has dedicated over fifty years to his work, but then broadens the field to some aspects of research in Pasolini’s studies, focusing on the network of critical and theoretical readings and analyzes between Foucault and Gramsci.

Pasolini’s Legacy: a Bridge to Third Millennium Challenges

The essays in this issue of «Diacritica» intend to reveal not only that the transcultural approach is a useful and clarifying method to better analyze Pasolini’s artifacts, but also that one of the most striking specificities of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s work itself is, indeed, its transculturality. As we know, the Friulian author was a multitalented all-round artist, who pursued an oxymoronic approach to the arts. Always aiming at a totality and plurality of artistic expression, Pasolini left us a work that we could define as an “unaccomplished accomplishment”. It sometimes takes on tragicomic features in the attempt to defeat history, sometimes its hybridizations become a crucial tool to transmit a transcultural vision of Italian culture while placing it in a universal world context. Pasolini’s rebellious transformation discourses target on transmediality — propagating a Transmediatic Turn — and, thus, transmit to the reader (or audience) the innovative potential of a glocal, double-coded transculturality that interweaves antipodes and envisages nothing less than a radical new Italian identity.

These paradigms clearly result from the various topics, methodologies, and analyzes that the reader is now holding in his hands: from Francesco Chianese’s focus on Pasolini’s transmediality, to Susan Petrilli’s semiotic approach, Maria Panetta’s analytical view on Pasolini’s media-performance, and, in a second part of this collection, Lisa El Ghaoui’s proposal to examine the correlation between Pasolini’s travels and his theater. Mark Epstein, Domenico Palumbo, and Andrew Korn broaden this technique by enriching El Ghaoui’s toolbox (theater and travelling) with even more transmedial and comparative parameters while still sticking to Pasolini’s theater (combining it with didactics, cinema, and poetry). Having started the publication on a bilingual level both with the Foreword written in Italian and English by the Vice-President of the Academic Affairs at Sant’Anna Institute in Sorrento Marco Marino and with this Introduction (Transmediality and Transhumanization: In Honour of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s First Centenary Celebration), and then changing from time to time, switching back and forth between Italian and English, it is with the Roman dialect in Igiaba Scego’s poetic title “San Pierpà” that, in the end, this collection of essays finishes by finding its way back to the Italian language, Pasolini’s mothertongue.

Contemporary witnesses who knew Pasolini — like the photographer and reporter from Palermo, Letizia Battaglia (1935-2022), who met and photographed Pasolini occasionally in Rome and in the late 1960s at the Circolo Turati in Milan, when he was accused of pornography — are now slowly disappearing. On the occasion of the centenary of Pasolini in 2022, though, one of his closest friends and travel companions — the writer Dacia Maraini — published an epistolary novel about Pasolini, talking about their friendship, their dreams and conversations: Caro Pier Paolo (2022). And while the translation activity of Pasolini’s texts seems to take a slight dip in recent years, not so the secondary literature: in terms of research, studies regarding Pasolini go on and on. It would be certainly highly desirable also for the secondary literature to have more critical works translated in order to promote multilingualism on the academic level, too: this is even more desirable in view of the increasing globalization of our world society. Nevertheless, there are a few select new Pasolini titles worth mentioning in the context of the state of art filtered by transcultural, comparative criteria as we look back over the last decades.

It was already in 1990 that the Italo-Hungarian writer and film director Giorgio Pressburger (1937-2017) first published (in «La Repubblica», on March 24, 1990) a book review of Pasolini’s L’odore dell’India (1962), in which Pressburger insists that the book’s major asset is that Pasolini writes about another way of speaking about “feeling foreign” (or, we might add: “excluded”). Later, this recension was reprinted as a preface to L’odore dell’India in the paperback edition by Garzanti in 2009. Remaining consequentially faithful to this specific line of argumentation, only six years later a bilingual catalog (German | Italian) appeared under the symptomatic title of “Pasolini or the Crossing Frontier: Organizzar il trasumanar” (P. P. Pasolini oder die Grenzüberschreitung | organizzar il trasumanar, Berlin, Oberbaum, 1996; P. P. Pasolini. Organizzar il trasumanar. Oder die Grenzüberschreitung, Venice, Marsilio, 1999; translation of the book title from German in English is mine). Co-edited by Giuseppe Zigaina (1924-2015) and the Austrian curator and director of the New Gallery belonging to the National Museum Joanneum in Graz, Christa Steinle, the title of the catalog plays with Pasolini’s collection of poetry Trasumanar e organizzar, while exploring the thresholds of identity and difference. This volume is based on an exhibition with drawings and pictures by the boyhood friend of Pasolini and the Friulian painter Giuseppe Zigaina. In 2012, Zigaina co-edited a sequel with the German sociologist and Pasolini-scholar Peter Kammerer, which underlined Zigaina’s (then, highly controversial) “suicide”-thesis about Pasolini’s long-envisioned death scenario (Organizzar il trasumanar. Pier Paolo Pasolini: cristiano delle origini o gnostico moderno | Das Überschreiten organisieren. Pier Paolo Pasolini: Urchrist oder moderner Gnostiker, 2012). The follow-up volume is also bilingual and paradigmatically shows the long-time fascination emanated by the “polyartist” Pasolini abroad.

Although motivated by a clear transcultural curiosity, the incentive of these two initiatives is not only, but also driven by interest in the social significance of the sexual revolution, which in Pasolini’s case is explained by the use of sexuality as an instrument for the liberalization of society, as his documentary film Comizi d’amore (1964) shows, for example. At the same time, outside of Italy, theologians and the cultural sciences continue to show their interest in Pasolini’s art, passion, criticism, and vision: in 2014, the German theologian and film historian Reinhold Zwick (Passion und Transformation: Biblische Resonanzen in Pier Paolo Pasolinis “mythischem Quartett”, 2014) analyzes biblical resonances in Pasolini’s mythical quartet (Edipo Re, Teorema, Porcile, and Medea). Only one year later, the Italo-American expert in Italian Studies Stefania Benini presents Pasolini’s incarnational matrix of the Sacred as a materialist interpretation of the Christian legacy in postwar Italy (Pasolini: The Sacred Flesh, 2015).

Then, in 2016, the first truly transcultural publication is released in Italy under the aegis of the then Director of the Centro Studi Pier Paolo Pasolini di Casarsa della Delizia, Angela Felice, who co-edited with Arturo Larcati and Antonio Tricomi the trendsetting Italian collection Pasolini oggi: fortuna internazionale e ricezione critica (2016), featuring essays about Pasolini’s reception history in Russia, France, Spain, and Germany. One year later, on the other side of the globe, the Brazilian review «Mosaico» brought out a special issue about the concept of freedom of speech and expression coined by Michel Foucault, dedicating it to The bodies of Pasolini (I corpi di Pasolini, 2017). Another collection that attracted attention on the transcultural level is Ryan Calabretta-Sajder’s Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions: Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini (2018). It presents various Pasolini-specialists and original contributions, crossing genres (poetry, theater, cinema, and Italian culture) and historical periods, as a memory of this Italian anti-bourgeois forty years after his death, and concluding with an interview about Pasolini with Dacia Maraini who considering their friendship and travels, underlines the transcultural relevance of “the idea that you had to know the world to learn about Italy”.

While in Belgium, in 2019, another bilingual (French | Italian), comparative, and transmedial collection edited by Costantino Maeder and Amandine Mélan discussed the original approach of Culture queer: Les héritiers de Pasolini (2019), clearly showing Pasolini as a forerunner of a new conception of sexuality, in Italy newcomers as well as acknowledged intellectuals and critics continue to update the Italian studies on Pasolini. Thus, Lavinia Spalanca authored a didactically useful compendium with excerpts of the best of Pasolini’s texts (Pier Paolo Pasolini: polemico – passionale – proteiforme, 2019), enriching them with summaries and inspirations for the work in the classroom. Whereas an evergreen, as it seems, is Roberto Carnero’s book on Pasolini’s literary life and his death, with a crucial appendix about the trial (Morire per le idee: Vita letteraria di Pier Paolo Pasoloni. Con un’appendice sul caso giudiziario, 2010), which saw its third edition in 2020. Intriguing also Pasolini’s special connection with Rome: Dario Pontuale (La Roma di Pasolini. Dizionario urbano, 2021) contributed with a black and white illustrated “Urban Dictionary” tracing all places of a certain importance to Pasolini during his lifetime and those that have become significant after his passing, including the Pasolini-graffiti in Pigneto and Tor Pignattara described by Igiaba Scego (“San Pierpà”) in our volume.

To round up this brief overview of exemplary titles in the transcultural and/or transmedial field of research, on one hand we see that, also abroad, Pasolini maintains the ranking of a “classic” author, who figures in relation to Dante’s Divine Comedy: lately, e.g., in the book of the Austrian Pasolini-scholar Peter Kuon, who reserves a whole subchapter to Pasolini’s Divina Mimesis in his monograph about adaptations of Dante in a modern key (Sulle spalle di Gerione. Riscritture novecentesche della “Commedia”, 2021). On the other hand, to stay in the Germanophone area and in the same year, we see that the German documentary film director Pepe Danquart brought a new road movie into the cinemas in 2021 (Vor mir der Süden, 2021). Walking in Pasolini’s footsteps, Danquart’s work is inspired by Pasolini’s travel diary La lunga strada di sabbia (1959), adapting it for a film. The transmedial and transcultural dimensions fully unfold when we consider that the same text had been re-edited in the French language by a French photographer — Philippe Séclier — before, with a beautiful interplay between Pasolini’s texts and Séclier’s photographic images (La longue roue de sable, 2005). Later, this edition was then published also in Italy by the Roman publisher Contrasto (La lunga strada di sabbia. Fotografie Philippe Séclier, 2014), followed by an equally photographically well-presented book containing Pasolini’s film script Comizi d’amore with photos by Mario Dondero and Angelo Novi.

Like in Italy, also in Germany we observe that reprints perpetuate critical, comparative achievements such as, for instance, the “duography” about Pasolini and the German representative of the New German Cinema, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1945-1982), authored by the Italian specialist in German studies Mauro Ponzi, first published in the German language in 1996 and now reissued in the centenary 2022 (Pasolini und Fassbinder. Eine Duographie, 2022 [1996]). At the same time, further new scientific accomplishments have been published abroad: for instance, just to stay in the Germanophone picture, the critically commented translation in German of Pasolini’s last film project, scheduled for its production after Salò (1975) and before Pasolini wanted to devote himself entirely to writing. Its German edition — Porno – Theo – Kolossal (PornoTeo – Kolossal, 1989) — was released in the year of the centenary 2022, after it had already been translated in French language in 2016.

The entirety of these dynamics and bibliographic evidence, in fact, document the global circulations of cultural assets and the social transformations proposed and propagated by Pasolini himself, but, at the same time, his work also becomes a body of transformation itself in a historical sense: no person, no secondary analysis exists, indeed, independently from others. The transcultural principle that everything is connected to everything merges in Pasolini’s non-dualistic reflections, which show that the archaic past is the source of the future renewal of humanity. It is in this sense that transformation also promises healing. Pasolini’s networking and collage techniques —e.g., in the Notes Towards an African Orestes published in 1970 — express themselves still today. The alternative, transforming thinking of all sorts of interactions and connections on the level of disciplines, media, generations, and gender in Pasolini’s opus gives us a feeling of how spiritual our human reality is, in fact, and how we can connect to a cosmic order despite all alienation that controls our lives in Western industrialized societies.

This is, in a nutshell, the main reason why this special edition of «Diacritica» relates particularly to the transmedial implications and effects of Pasolini’s œuvre, referring to the main theorem of transculturality (in German: Transkulturalität) as defined by German philosopher Wolfgang Welsch (b. 1946) since the 1990s. As will be defined more precisely in the article about the Theoretical Approaches to Transculturalism, according to the history of ideas, Welsch’s notion of transculturality is based on the neologism of transculturation (in Spanish: transculturación) coined by the Cuban sociologist, anthropologist, essayist, politician, musicologist, and cultural theorist Fernando Ortiz (1881-1969).

Finally, we are thankful to Pasolini’s intellectual wealth and never-ending inspirational power, which make of him as an artist just as much a symbolic personification of transculturality, as Ortiz and Welsch portray on a scientific level, and to which we owe the reflections and suggestions that the reader can now enjoy in the single chapters.

Selected bibliography:

  • L. Bond, J. Rapson (Ed.) The Transcultural Turn: Interrogating Memory Between and Beyond Borders, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 2014 (Media and Cultural Memory, vol. 15);
  • R. Calabretta-Sajder (Ed.) Pasolini’s Lasting Impressions. Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Madison/Teaneck, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2018;
  • A. Felice, A. Larcati and A. Tricomi (Ed.) Pasolini oggi: fortuna internazionale e ricezione critica, Venezia, Marsilio | Casarsa della Delizia, Centro studi Pier Paolo Pasolini, 2016;
  • A. Gramsci, La questione meridionale [1924/1966],; online:;
  • C. Maeder, A. Mélan (Ed.) Culture queer. Les héritiers de Pasolini, Louvain-la-Neuv, Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2019;
  • F. Ortiz, Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar [1995], Trans. Harriet De Onís, with an introduction by B. Malinowski, Durham/London, Duke University Press, 20034 ;
  • P. P. Pasolini, L’odore dell’India. Con “Passeggiatina ad Ajanta” e “Lettera da Benares”, Preface by G. Pressburger, Milan, Garzanti, 2009;
  • Id., La lunga strada di sabbia, photos by Philippe Séclier, Rome, Contrasto, 2014;
  • Id., Comizi d’amore, edited by G. Chiarcossi and M. D’Agostini, photos by M. Dondero and A. Novi, Rome, Contrasto, 2015;
  • D. Pontuale, La Roma di Pasolini. Dizionario urbano, Roma, Nova Delphi, 2021;
  • D. Reichardt, On the Theory of a Transcultural Francophony. The Concept of Wolfgang Welsch and its Didactic Interest, in «Transnational 900. Novecento transnazionale. Letterature, arti e culture» / «Transnational 20th Century. Literatures, Arts and Cultures», vol. 1, n. 1 (ISSN: 2532-1994 doi: 10.13133/2532-1994_1.4_2017 Open access article licensed under CC-BY), March 2017, pp. 40-56; online:;
  • Ead., Creating Notions of Transculturality: The Work of Fernando Ortiz and his Impact on Europe, in Komparatistik: Jahrbuch der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwisssenschaft 2017, edited by Joachim Harst, Christian Moser and Linda Simonis. Under the supervision of the Board of the German Society for General and Comparative Studies of Literature, Bielefeld, Aisthesis, 2018, pp. 67-82;
  • Ead., Pasolinis unvollendete Vollkommenheit. Eine transkulturelle Relektüre von PornoTheoKolossal in deutscher Übersetzung. Accompanying text authored by Dagmar Reichardt, in Porno – Theo – Kolossal. Pasolinis letztes Filmprojekt, authored by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Trans. Dagmar Reichardt. Edited by Dagmar Reichardt and Reinhold Zwick (Ed.), with accompanying texts by the two editors, Marburg, Schüren, 2022, pp. 137-202;
  • D. Reichardt, I. Scego, Transculturalismo, in Enciclopedia Italiana di scienze, lettere ed arti – Decima Appendice [former title: Parole del XXI Secolo], Encyclopedia edited by Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana fondata da Giovanni Treccani, Vol. 2 (L-Z), Rome 2020, pp. 649-52;
  • L. Spalanca, Pier Paolo Pasolini: polemico – passionale – proteiforme, Palermo, Navarra Editore, 2019;
  • W. Welsch, Transculturality: The Puzzling Form of Cultures Today, in Spaces of Culture: City, Nation, World. Ed. Mike Featherstone and Scott Lash, London et al., Sage, 1999, pp. 194-213;
  • G. Zigaina and C. Steinle (Ed.) P. P. Pasolini oder die Grenzüberschreitung | Organizzar il trasumanar, Venezia, Marsilio/Oberbaum Verlag, 1996;
  • G. Zigaina and D. Tarozzi (Ed.) Organizzar il trasumanar. Pier Paolo Pasolini: cristiano delle origini o gnostico moderno | Das Überschreiten organisieren. Pier Paolo Pasolini: Urchrist oder moderner Gnostiker, Venezia, Marsilio/Centro Studi di Pier Paolo Pasolini, 2011.

(fasc. 44, 25 maggio 2022, vol. I)