In this introduction to the life and literary contributions of a Nobel Prize winner and one of Italy's most distinguished writers, Fiora A. Bassanese surveys the stories, novels, and plays of Luigi Pirandello and evaluates the significance of his influence on twentieth-century literature. Describing Pirandello as a prototypical modernist, Bassanese traces his artistic development from his early roots in Sicilian provincialism and positivist thought to his attainment of international fame as an innovative dramatis and a thought-provoking narrator. She contends that his works helped to bring an end to nineteenth-century optimism. They transformed Italian theater and fiction by catapulting both into the modern era. Bassanese's discussion begins with an overview of key episodes in Pirandello's life and with an explanation of how such events shaped his fictional universe. She reveals Pirandello's literary microcosm to be a world marked by paradox, relativity, uncertainty, madness, and existential angst. Bassanese examines individual works in the Pirandellian canon, with each chapter highlighting a representative period in the development of Pirandello's art and thought. She draws attention to the unforgettable characters created by Pirandello's fertile imagination and explains how they embody his views on epistemology, ontology, and artistic creation. In chapters dedicated to his theater trilogies and other later works, Bassanese reviews the dramatist's contributions to the stage and discusses his late fascination with the uses of myth. Illumining the connections between his nondramatic works and his plays, she argues that in his seminal play Six Characters in Search of an Author, Pirandelloemploys stagecraft to challenge the traditional notions of the theater, much in the same way that his novels challenge the postulates of naturalism in fiction.
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