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Learned Online Journal of Modern and Contemporary Studies  -  POETRY   PROSE   CINEMA

Forthcoming Special Issue:

Poetry as the ‘Verb Incarnate’, Illness and the Phenomenological Body

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1) opens John’s Gospel of the King James’s translation of the Bible. It is the very first verse whose three sentences introduce the principle of creation through the ‘Word’ and then progressively associates it and identifies it with God. Over the imperfect translation of the original ancient Greek λόγος (logos), we shall prefer the Latin verbum, which renders more aptly the full totalising meaning of the original λόγος, which comprehends both the linguistic nature of ‘word’, a sound with a semantic meaning produced by a thinking/speaking subject, but also the idea (ἰδέα) which is included in the vision and design of such subject, i.e. God’s idea, design and act of creation. ‘Verb’, with its extra function of giving agency to the subject (the Italian, Portuguese and Spanish verbo, and French verbe), will be our favoured version of the original λόγος.

‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us’ continues John (1:14). Here the evangelist reveals to the reader more of God’s original idea and design, the incarnation of the Verb, which descends into the space and time, the historical dimension we inhabit as human beings to act our salvation. It is the revelation of the Incarnate Verb (the Christ) that is able to save humanity exactly because it assumes our own nature in order to experience it and to fall in love with us and our imperfection – therefore ‘living among us’ is the necessary condition to experience the essence of His created marvels. The Incarnate Verb is already at the origin of the idea, design and eschatological destiny of humanity: God as idea, architect and agent of creation and salvation. ‘In the beginning was the Verb’ [my change] identifies the Verb as God and God as the absolute entity that breathes life into all things by naming them. The Verb names (and creates) with auctoritas in its numinous meaning of ‘sacred’ and ‘awe-inspiring’, in a pure language of total communication that we cannot even imagine or comprehend and that, here, we associate, very imperfectly, to the poetic word: the ‘verb’ that names, creates and saves.

The Roman poet Valerio Magrelli, author of Nel condominio di carne (2003), attributes the role of the guide in his poetic writing to the very daily coexistence with illness from the young age of 17 – not serious debilitating illness, but incidents that accompanied him along his life and his writing often enough to become intrusive life companions whom he recognises to be at the foundation of his poetic inspiration. Magrelli’s search into the body as a condominio di carne (e di lingua) looks at illness as a pre-existing condition within the human phenomenological body, with the consumption of the body seen as the very reason of its existence: a body which is consigned to a physical force of disaggregation that allows it to continue to exist. A body which, in its disaggregating nature, is colonised by illness as well as by language: illness allows it to live on whilst consuming it, whilst language becomes the authoritarian discipline, alongside medicine, that tries in vain to cure its natural condition. Within the paradoxical biological system that Magrelli examines, a body suspended between physical consumption and living force, both language and medicine become the cures that, in a sort of bio-political colonising fashion, try to control the human body and consequently the people (and peoples) that own those bodies.

In our research into the phenomenological body in its (natural) condition of illness, we shall research the poetic word as its antidote. Poetry, therefore, will be our means of researching the power of the verb for a very approximative, human, nonetheless powerful salvation. We shall not approach the ‘Verb’ in its numinous dimension in this context, but in its therapeutic value in the context of illness as the pharmakos (φαρμακός) that can transform stigmatised, marginalised and passive human beings by giving them agency and dignity. The poetic word will be re-thought as a quasi-numinous poetic ‘incarnate verb’ that can function from its textual (both oral and written) dimension as art and as therapy for the healing of the ill body explored from the perspective of phenomenology.

The First Issue of Il Pietrisco Journal, seeks to attract articles on the subject of Poetry as the ‘Verb Incarnate’, Illness and the Phenomenological Body in Anglophone, Francophone and Italian literatures spanning the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

We would like to invite scholars (both established, early career and doctoral students) to send contributions on the following research themes:
- the poetics of the ill body;
- sacred and profane poetry and the ill body;
- diaries and memoirs in verse written from the perspective of illness (also terminal); 
- poetry therapy in the context of the clinic/hospital institution;
- narrative medicine in poetry form.

Proposals, in the form of an abstract must be sent to journal@pietrisco.net or to either of the co-editors of the Issue: Dr Rossella M. Riccobono (rossella.riccobono@pietrisco.net) or Dr Cinzia Gallo (cinzia.gallo@unict.it) by 28th February, 2021 and must be no longer than 300 words and a short biographical note. Full articles must be received by 15th July 2021. Articles will go, as normal, through a double-blind peer review. Acceptance for publication will be communicated by 30th September 2021. Publication will be guaranteed by 31st December 2021.
Contributions may be in Italian, English or French.