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David Birdsong, Chair 201 W 21ST STREET STOP B7600, HRH 2.114A, AUSTIN, TX 78712 • 512-471-5531

Fall 2009


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
37380 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
HRH 2.112

Course Description

It was certainly his plays that brought Luigi Pirandello world fame and the Nobel Prize in 1934. George Bernard Shaw considered him the most original playwright of the time, and his revolutionary theatrical ideas influenced not only European authors such as Ionesco, Artaud, Beckett, Brecht and Durrenmatt, but reverberated on the other side of the Atlantic in the works of writers like Eugene O'Neill and Thornton Wilder. Already during his life, Pirandello's plays were being translated and performed successfully on Broadway. Yet his personal relation with the theatre was for decades greatly troubled. Already as a child he was attracted to the theatre where he went evening after evening. At the same time, however, he considered theatre an art form inferior to fiction, as he repeated in various theoretical essays. Actors and stage directors were the culprits, because they necessarily betrayed the world of the artist. Even after his famous Six Characters in Search of an Author and Henry IV made Pirandello the world's most original, though controversial, playwright, his feelings about theatre as a second-rate art form still remained. It took the work of some of the leading stage directors of the time, like the French Pitoeff and the German Reinhardt, but above all the momentous encounter with his muse, the actress Marta Abba, to make Pirandello revise his ideas on theatre.

We will read from his theoretical essays, narrative and plays to uncover a more profound and basic issue that lay at the bottom of Pirandello's change — a philosophical issue: the paradox that theatre, precisely because of its constant change through various performances and different productions, was the art form closest to life, which Pirandello had defined as "constant flux." Dramatic art was thus capable of escaping the fossilization of the written word to which narrative instead was doomed.
The class will be taught in Italian.

Grading Policy

The final grade will be determined by class participation and discussion (25%); one oral report (25%); and one final paper of 15 to 20 pages (50%).


Selection from Pirandello's theoretical essays and short stories (Packet of xeroxed copies).
Novels: Il fu Mattia Pascal; Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore; Uno, nessuno e centomila.
Plays: Così è (se vi pare); Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore; Enrico IV; Ciascuno a suo modo; Questa sera si recita a soggetto; Come tu mi vuoi; Trovarsi; I giganti della montagna; Non si sa come
Theoretical writing by Gerard Genette, Cesare Segre, and others will be on reserve at PCL.


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