On November 9 at noon, at Penn State (in 102 Kern), I'll be giving a talk titled “From Corpse to Specter: Venice as Antagonist and Emblem of Modernity.” There will be lunch! When in 1910, F.T. Marinetti and comrades airbombed crowds with 800,000 copies of the Futurist manifesto “Against Passéist Venice” from the Clock Tower of St. Mark’s Square—symbolically hijacking the timekeeping function of the medieval belltower across the plaza—they ushered the burgeoning leisure class into a new, accelerated tempo, and defined the futurist mission in unprecedentedly concrete terms. The city of lagoons forms a crucible for the values of twentieth-century artists because its topography and cultural heritage seem to embody all that the modern ethos wishes to pathologize and suppress: the sentimental, the fluid, the feminine, the “Oriental,” the decorative, the decadent, and the obsolete. Jennifer Scappettone will discuss how a city that gave rise to a transnational fantasy of an exception to modernity comes to function as a touchstone for projections and critiques of the modern project across literature, art and architectural history and theory, and urbanism.

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