Submission Date


Document Type





Rebecca Jaroff

Committee Member

Jon Volkmer

Committee Member

Roger Florka

Department Chair

Rebecca Jaroff

Project Description

In this thesis I present three readings of Italo Calvino’s later novels: Invisible Cities (1972), If on a winter’s night a traveler (1979), and Mr. Palomar (1983). My primary aim is to defend Calvino against dominant scholarly interpretations that position him as a Postmodern nihilist, a literary trickster interested solely in toying with the mechanics of language. My analysis of Calvino’s work re-envisions him as a special breed of Postmodernist concerned with humanity’s ability to create spaces for meaning in spite of an indifferent cosmos. Drawing from psychoanalytic theory, cognitive science, analytic philosophy, and phenomenology, I synthesize my own critical lens to demonstrate Calvino’s ecstatic faith in human creativity. I claim that Calvino’s later novels contain a fundamentally ethical message: they call on us to live our lives with the intensity and vigilance of the artist, to see the world as a landscape for the collective life of our minds, to endure “the inferno of the living” through acts of creation.