Hermetism


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Hermetism

 

a movement in Italian poetry of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The name itself emphasizes its exclusiveness, alienation from real life, and withdrawal to the world of subjective emotions. The poetry of hermetism, permeated by the feeling of the loneliness of man, was combined with a negative attitude toward the fascist ideology. Hermetism preserved humanistic interest in man’s inner world.

The principle of modernist hermetic poetry is disengagement from “nonpoetical” reality—hence, the complexity of images arising from a chain of subjective associations. The hermetists sought to make words a supreme means of expressing feelings rather than thoughts: through rhythm and harmony words must express the hidden world of emotions and mental states. The meaning of words as used by the hermetists is also subjective and subordinated to individual associations and often is entirely devoid of the generally accepted meaning.

The outstanding hermetist poets are E. Montale and G. Ungaretti. Montale’s work in the 1930’s was most eloquent in expressing despair and a tragic perception of the world.

The humanistic tendencies underlying hermetism and its hostility to fascism made it possible for prominent adherents of the hermetist style, under the influence of the resistance movement during World War II (1939-45) and the defeat of the fascist forces, to break out of the straitjacket of subjectivism. The poets S. Quasimodo and S. Solmi, who started out as hermetists, began to represent the emotional life of man in a close relationship with his struggle for a better future in the modern world.

REFERENCES

Flora, F. La poesia ermetica. Bari, 1936.
Flora, F. Storia della letteratura italiana [9th ed.], vol. 5. [Milan, 1957.]
Petrucciani, M. La poetica dell’ermetismo italiano. Turin [1955].
Ramat, S. L’ermetismo. Florence, 1969.

Z. M. POTAPOVA

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