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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

The Destiny in the Name

A Piemonti
Centro Interdipartimentale di Servizi Informatici , Italy

'The Namesake' – the novel by the 2000 Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri was made into a film in 2006. In Italy, the movie was released to great success that same year with the title 'Il destino nel nome' (The destiny in the name), an interesting transformation of the original title. What most appeals to me is the concept of homonymy of which the namesake is a particular case. This will be the starting point for my examination of instances in which names have played crucial roles in masterpieces of the western artistic tradition, while revealing their ties to a wider multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world. A few examples: 1) Vittore Carpaccio created one of his best-known and powerful paintings because of his misunderstanding of the name of a certain holy martyr in the famous cycle 'Legend of St. Ursula'; 2) in the opening lines of the tragedy 'Emilia Galotti' by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, a homonym is the device that provides the first hint of the Prince’s tyrannical character. Through such case-studies, I interrogate the intriguing ways in which homonyms have been used as a powerful discourse shaping factor and a rethorical device and and thus, I build further on the seminal theoretical reflections on names by Ingeborg Bachmann (Der Umgang mit Namen, 1959/1960).

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