Multisensory Law and Italo Calvino’s “Lezioni Americane”

Marcilio T. Franca-Filho


On June 6th, 1984, Italo Calvino – one of the most important Italian writers of the 20th century – was invited by University of Harvard (USA) to give the traditional and respected Charles Eliot Norton Poetry Lectures for the 1985/1986 academic year. Set in 1925 to pay homage to one of the first professors of art and literature in Harvard, the Charles Eliot Norton Poetry Lectures are a set of six conferences given by a great name in the field of arts, literature, painting, music or architecture on a topic of his/her choice in the course of one academic year. In the previous years, names such as Leonard Bernstein, Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, Meyer Schapiro, Igor Stravinsky e T. S. Eliot had accepted University of Harvard's invitation. Calvino was the first Italian ever invited. Overcoming the excessive liberty he was given – “believing as he did in the importance of constraints” over the literary work – Italo Calvino set the theme of his six conferences: he would cover some of the literary values that deserved to be preserved in the course of the new millennium which was to start some years later. Lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity and consistency would be the themes and titles of each of his lessons. He wrote five of them before getting to Harvard and he intended to write the last one (consistency) after his arrival in the city of Cambridge, in the US state of Massachusetts, where the renowned university is located. However, Calvino passed away on September 19th, 1985, shortly before setting off to the United States, thus before the conferences and before preparing the last of his six lessons. Posthumously, the five conferences written so far were collected in one volume entitled Lezioni Americane: Sei Proposte per il Prossimo Millennio, whose English version is entitled “Six Memos for the Next Millennium”. Although it was conceived as an aesthetic-literary discussion, Italo Calvino's book had great impact in arts in general, including design. This text will care to examine if and how those five literary values described by Italo Calvino – lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility and multiplicity – have echoed in the world of Law of the present millennium, especially in the discussions over new forms of production and understanding Law. In other words, our intention is to find out what Calliope could say to Themis many years after those conferences were written.

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Comparative Law Review is registered at the Courthouse of Monza (Italy) - Nr. 1988 - May, 10th 2010.
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