POTENTIAL LITERATURE IN ITALY: OPLEPO
International Colloquium Oulipo@50
Buffalo (New York, Usa)
5-8 ottobre 2011
Although French by official birth , the concept of “potential literature” and of its deliberately ambiguous meanings and interpretations has been the subject of experimentation by many writers (the “oulipian forerunners”), throughout many centuries, and in many languages. Despite these numerous examples of constrained writing, the only other country in the world who has followed the example of Oulipo is Italy: in November 1990, exactly 30 years after the birth of Oulipo, Raffaele Aragona, Ruggero Campagnoli and Domenico D’Oria founded, in Capri, Oplepo (Opificio di Letteratura Potenziale), a group whose purpose is the research of the “potential” within Italian literature and the creation of new Italian literary contraintes. Similarly to the French group, Oplepo’s members come from a diversified background which includes: writers, college professors, specialists in French studies, mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists, physicians and psychologists. The group’s popularity began in 1991, when the seminar Attenzione al Potenziale introduced Oplepo to an audience of scholars and field specialists and shed light on its purpose, philosophy, attitude and artistic activities. Other relevant public-facing events are the biennial Premio Capri dell’Enigma which regularly introduces to word game devotees and members of the press Oplepo’s latest efforts and publications. Arguably the most relevant moment in the history of Oplepo is the publication, in 2005, of Oplepo’s collected works (or plaquettes) by Zanichelli, a well regarded, main stream publishing house which greatly contributed to the dissemination of the literary production of the Italian group. A comprehensive view of Oplepo’s opus provides a reflective index of the group’s history and sometimes tumultuous intellectual debates, mainly centered on the definition of contrainte and its underlying issue: why and for whom is Oplepo writing? Opinions and views differ, but the path implicitly chosen by the oplepiani is the one of readability and intelligibility, thus moving them farther from the research of forced and complex structures which may lead to original although sterile results. An overall look at its 20-year production shows that the range of Oplepo’s experimentation is wide and diverse; a non-exhaustive inventory includes the exploration of: existing literature’s potential (Falchetta’s work based on Dante and Petrarca; Chiti on Leopardi; Cavazzoni on Manzoni; Addomine on Dante/Shakespeare); music’s potential (Serra on Puccini; Kierkia on Chopin); semantic contrainte (Aragona’s work with homonyms); letter-based manipulations (Varaldo’s Mitografemi), multi-linguistic potential (Addomine’s homographic translations), quantitative experimentation (Spinelli’s statistical rules ; length-constrained stories included in Giallo d’Anghiari), visual experimentation (Albani’s visual poetry); and a vast array of theme-based texts often combining traditional structures such as acrostics, paranomasie, corone, acronyms, etc. The diversity, originality and playful attitude of its production are Oplepo’s trademark. Their work demonstrates how they are both researchers- of new contraintes and new structures - and provocateurs: they are pushing for a change in the relationship between writer and reader, the latter called to be engaged in the same game with a mind open to discover its own creative potential.
* * *
La relazione di Elena Addomine, intitolata "Potential Literature in Italy: Oplepo", tenuta al Colloque su Oulipo@50 - L'Oulipo à 50 ans svoltosi dal 5 all'8 ottobre 2011 presso il campus della State University of New York (Buffalo) è stata pubblicata sul n. 16, 2012 (pp. 311-321) della rivista Formules revue des créations formelles.