Pinocchio & Everything Else

Cross-listed with RMST 343

Pinocchio’s statue in the town of Collodi

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

In this course we re-visit Pinocchio, the original educational story for children (the would-be Bildungsroman, if one will) authored in Italian by the Florentine Carlo Collodi (1881 and 1882-83), seeing it in the light of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s critical dictum «It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society». Along with it we also study a panoply of other modern classics from mostly (though not exclusively) Romance civs and lits which also – very diversely – examine the issue of how the individual and society can be (mis)aligned with each other.

The course is articulated in two parts. The first is devoted to reading and interpreting Collodi’s Pinocchio; the other, to everything else. However, to aim for a better synergy between the two components, we do not tackle the two concepts sequentially but in parallel.

Each week, a first item includes relevant topics or texts to be presented & discussed from mostly (though not exclusively) Romance civs and lits. These may range from the birth of the picaresque novel in Spain to the 19th-century French “novel of ambition”; or from the issue of compassion in Parzival to selfishness and/or happenstance in U.S. “rags-to-riches” narratives; or from Don Quixote’s “visionary” archetype to Oblomov’s multi-layered social superfluousness … This, with tweaks that may depend on students’ preferences based on their own spheres of interest and specialization.

Also each week, a second item follows pretty closely the Italian context – and, of course, text – of Collodi’s Pinocchio: nationalism in Italian history and cultural history, the birth (and nature) of modern Italian literature and identity, and more in this vein.

Italy’s nation-building blueprint since the early 1800s is here considered an exemplary small-scale case of one of today’s most burning issues on the global stage: How previously scattered and colonized peoples may successfully coalesce into a single-identity country in consequence of a deliberate political program, with all the positive and the problematic sides therein implied.

Learning Outcomes:

Our desired learning outcome is to develop the factual knowledge + the critical skills necessary to question, in a well-informed, articulate manner, the mainstream current approach (concept/precept) of adapting-fitting-bending individual behaviour to dominant standards of “social success” that are often destructive, and/or unethical, and/or alienating (commodifying), and/or – tragicomically – a lot more childish than the very child they purport to “train.”

Assignments and Evaluation:

  • Draft of ideas for Midterm composition (10%)
  • Midterm composition (20%)
  • 2 x Drafts of ideas for Final composition (2 x 10% = 20%)
  • Final composition (35%)
  • Participation (15%, which covers both attendance and its quality)

Required readings:

  • Giuseppe “Pinocchio” Collodi. I, Pinocchio, The True and Only One: Confessions of a Puppet Who Converterd from Matter to Soul. Vancouver: Finisterrae, 2022. Available on in the Kindle Store (USD 5.oo). This text is presented and commented in class.
  • Any edition of Carlo Collodi. Pinocchio: Adventures of a Puppet – any English translation (there are many), or any Italian edition of the 1883 text. (There are free web versions of both, as discussed in class).
  • Further readings of literary classics (primary literature, secondary literature) involve texts available in the public domain – in practice, on the web – and are to be established as the need arises, in consequence of the discussion in class.

Prerequisite: None

Language of instruction: English