Assault on Aussie literature: Australian poetry desecration for Italians
By Domenico Pacitti
poesia australiana [Australian Poetry] by Pietro Spinucci.
Published in 1990 by Bulzoni, Rome, Italy, 310 pages,
€18.00, ISBN 88 7119 170 6.
Pietro Spinucci is reported to have given up the Roman Catholic priesthood a long time ago to teach English literature at Italian universities. It would be interesting to explore in which of these two areas Mr Spinucci has caused more damage, but this falls beyond the scope of our present review.
the evidence of his book, however, there can surely be little
doubt about the potential damage which Mr Spinucci has wrought on
the minds of generations of malleable students entrusted to his
care at the Universities of Trieste, Verona and elsewhere.
one might ask, is it possible to corrupt the minds of students in
a book on Australian poetry? The trick, ably demonstrated by Mr
Spinucci from his superior Italian academic armchair, is to view
the last two centuries of Australian poets as having been unable
to write poetry to Mr Spinucci’s standards on the grounds that
they were the descendants of criminals who had been exiled to
the implications of this belief. Criminality turns out to be
something that is handed down from parents to children and
grandchildren, presumably genetically, although Mr Spinucci does
not actually spell it out in this way. Nor does Mr Spinucci stop
to consider that criminal exiles may have been so branded for
having had the courage to challenge the dominant authority of
their day and not on account of any inherent criminality.
this framework it is hard to see how Mr Spinucci might avoid
boomerang accusations of promoting racism towards Australians. Mr
Spinucci, after all, clearly states (page 5) that his book is
aimed “especially at university students”.
Spinucci might like to consider the view that the poetic spirit
is, like nobility of mind and soul, something that is born with
the individual and not something that is genetically transmitted.
It is instructive to note that Italy’s supreme poet Dante held
this conviction, but perhaps that was because Dante did not have
the advantage of being able to read Mr Spinucci’s books or
attend his lectures.
set the relevant criminal constraints, Mr Spinucci romps
carelessly and irresponsibly through 200 years of Australian
poetry, desecrating the original English along the way perhaps in
an unconscious effort to drive home his thesis on Australian
poetic inferiority and mediocrity.
Mr Spinucci attributes a serious misquoting of Virgil to Barron
Field (page 27) and has him write “at fist” and
“incongrous”, while Charles Harpur is made to write
“poemas” and “conopies”. Similarly, Mr Spinucci has Henry
Kendall write “firs and stars” (instead of “fits and
starts”) and makes James McAuley write the Italian-English
“indipendent”. Other gems from Mr Spinucci include:
“monstruous” and much more.
Spinucci further mutilates his ill-fated Australian poets by
failing to indicate whether the verses which he cites constitute
the whole poem or only a part.
and in possible support of the racist hypothesis, Mr Spinucci
completely omits Aboriginal verse and the so-called Black
Australian poets from his book. Mr Spinucci may have felt that
their inclusion would have detracted from his criminal deportation
thesis – or, perhaps more feasibly, he may simply have been
totally unaware of their existence.
may also be interested to know that in addition to murdering
Australian literature Mr Spinucci has elsewhere also successfully
murdered Anglo-American literature from the Elizabethan theatre to
T.S. Eliot. Apparently still not content with this, Mr Spinucci
has more recently unleashed on unsuspecting readers a collection
of his own poetry. The collection is presumably intended to show
how poetry writing should be carried out but, sadly, it further
demonstrates Mr Spinucci’s own acute and embarrassing
insensitivity to the subject.
this point offended Australian readers might well find it puzzling
that someone writing from an Italian cultural institution that has
been well described as a moral vacuum should be engaged in
desecrating Australian poetry from a moral perspective.
Australians who have had the misfortune of experiencing Italian
academia from the inside might well have some “moral” and
“criminal” questions to put to Mr Spinucci.
Mr Spinucci must know about the rector who approached the language
faculty dean with an offer he couldn’t refuse? "Your
faculty can have five full professorships provided my son-in-law
gets one and you can do whatever you like with the other
four." When the dean died, the faculty’s main lecture room
was named after him as a token of gratitude by the five
beneficiaries and their colleagues.
what about the external examiner for a ricercatore competition
who helped the internal examiner get rid of the female candidate
who had been promised the post after dominating the internal
examiner for two years in a sado-masochistic sexual relationship?
the internal examiner’s wife had stormed into the English
department threatening divorce proceedings.
the concorso commission member who threatened the best
candidate that unless he stopped writing such long and
embarrassingly good answers, he would shortly find his work
published under the commission member’s name?
what about the professore who was caught filming himself
having sexual relations with his students in his faculty office
and whose case was subsequently dismissed from court on the
grounds that the protagonists were all adults?
do these and a myriad of other similar cases say about the moral
and criminal state of Italian universities? Doesn't any of this
occasion any shame or moral indignation from Italians? Or is it
that everyone simply wipes the slate clean at confession and
resumes sinning again the next day?
Pietro Spinucci recently retired from a senior post in English Studies at the University of Verona's Faculty of Economy and Commerce.