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Gadda’s Pasticciaccio and the Knotted Posthuman Household

Deborah Amberson, Elena Past


The celebrated final scenes of Carlo Emilio Gadda’s novel, “Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana”, find detective Ingravallo pursuing a clue as he investigates the brutal murder of Liliana Balducci, an upper-middle-class inhabitant of an apartment on the street of the novel’s title. The location for the book’s concluding showdown is a dilapidated house, or an “oikos”, to borrow from the Greek, into which the Investigator, an outsider, is introduced. “Oikos”, which became the prefix “eco” in both “economics” (literally, law of the house) and “ecology” (or, study of the house) here provides a dynamic lens for the final scenes of the Pasticciaccio, and for viewing its unremitting tension between singularity and generality, interiority and exteriority, anthropic and geological time, human and posthuman. Our article proposes the space of the impoverished Roman household as a key to entering the Gaddian narrative architecture, a space that resonates with what Jeffery Jerome Cohen describes as “the tangled, fecund, and irregular pluriverse humans inhabit along with lively and agency-filled objects, materials, and forces” (Prismatic Ecology, xxiii). The dwelling on Via Merulana, and even more distinctly the house (or hovel) in which the novel ends, challenge our notions of domestic spaces, their porosity, and their proper inhabitants. In fact, in the narrative’s exploration of these two houses and their occupants, we find intriguing portraits of the tensions that trouble the supposed borders of the human and the posthuman. The “Pasticciaccio”, as we argue, closes (or opens) the door on a narrative architecture of polarity, where material and ontological tensions lead to both human and posthuman conclusions.


Carlo Emilio Gadda; posthumanism; material ecocriticism; dirt theory; Via Merulana; Leibniz; monads; finitude; nomadic thought; stone

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2016-001-ambe

Copyright (c) 2018 Deborah Amberson, Elena Past – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Barbara Muraca - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo