Literature as natural philosophy: Italo Calvino's (post)modern re-evaluation of cosmogony

Kerstin Pilz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the foremost concerns of Italo Calvino’s work – both in his fictions and in his essays – was the quest to recuperate a unified view of knowledge, akin to the traditional cosmogony which preceded the (post)modern fragmentation of knowledge into separate branches and fields of specialization. Focusing on Lezioni americane, this essay analyzes Calvino’s concept of interdisciplinarity and the link he makes between literature and cosmogony as the earliest literary genre. Calvino called for literature to return to “its original specific vocation as ‘natural philosophy’”; namely, a cultural unifier that negotiates meaning across disciplines and genres. This essay demonstrates the extent to which the American lectures, which became the author’s literary testament, constitute an important example of literature’s role as a unifying framework situated within the broader context of emerging, new, interdisciplinary sciences, notably complexity science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-210
Number of pages20
JournalAnnali d'Italianistica
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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