Interlocutors & lovers of cities as utopias or disasters: On Friday, May 9 at 6:15 pm, I'll be presenting a paper/talk on "Fabulous Planning: Unbuilt Venices" at the Columbia Seminar on Studies in Modern Italy.

The event will take place in the 5th floor conference room of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University:

1161 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY

Ara Merjian of NYU will be the respondent.

Please come!

This paper explores the generative legacy of Venice’s lasting resistance to modern design in the period after World War II. I argue that the noncompliance of the “anti-Euclidean” city of lagoons, both material and symbolic, with the imposition of any modernizing project incites theorists, urbanists, and novelists to return to it in the postwar period, presenting it as a generatively open text for the future. I trace a fertile debate across theory and practice at the Architectural Institute of Venice (IUAV) that returns to the Venetian version of Enlightenment to find solutions for the impasses of modern planning, reading in the “capricci” of Piranesi and Canaletto the capacity of unbuilt invention and even whimsy to alter the destiny of the city. In this light, the fabulous recombinations and migrations of Venetian landscapes in fictions of empire by Italo Calvino emerge as extensions of a carnivalesque Venetian tradition: the vertiginous narratives of Le città invisibili find inspiration in Venice as a place that resists appropriation by any imperial design. I will end my oral presentation with a brief discussion of Robert Coover’s 1992 novel Pinocchio in Venice, which—in resituating and scrambling the teleological nation-building narrative of Carlo Collodi—presents the veritably hypertextual, apocalyptic topography of the lagoon as a concretion of the global network that forms the backdrop to his essay of the same year, “The End of Books”—thereby locating in an end a new beginning.