Abstract

In this article, I address Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s writing that borrows from the cultural discourses of the Atlantic African diaspora of the interwar years. I analyze two texts, the play The Drum of Fire and the short story “The Black Man,” both written in 1922; these are traversed by contemporary anticolonial discourses in Africa and the Black American rhetoric of emancipation, which Marinetti appropriates as prime examples of modernity and revolutionary politics. Far from expressing anticolonial and emancipatory sentiments for people of African descent, I argue that Marinetti coopts these discourses to project Italy at the center of the Atlantic world, as the locale of technological and cultural novelty. Between primitivist stereotypes and celebrations of cultural hybridity, these texts reflect Marinetti’s attention for Black cultures of the Twenties, beyond the well-known “jazz craze.” Steeped in current historical events, including Italian migration to the United States, the texts analyzed here demonstrate the contribution of African diasporic cultural discourses to a pivotal phase of Italy’s own nation building, when the country is striving to establish itself as a modern, politically relevant nation on the international stage.

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