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September 2017


December 2020



Italo Calvino Atlas. Literature and Visualization


September 2017


December 2020



Literature, as Italo Calvino conceived, practiced and modeled it between the 1940s and the 1980s, had only one purpose: to keep an open mind.
To make it elastic enough, certainly not to understand all the complexity of the world, but at least to measure it and draw some consequences from it, such as that we need stories so that our mind does not limit itself to reproducing only itself.
The process of metamorphosis, which Galileo already placed at the foundation of the living matter that we are, is activated through narration, which transforms our mind into a great laboratory of possibilities. Open to the future, thanks to the multiplicity of looks with which it participates in the construction of the past.
This is why the spirit of literature that Calvino advocated during his life should push us to experiment.

The project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation has bet on literary criticism as an intellectual exercise of open-mindedness and experimentation.
For three years (2017-2020), the project brought together a literary team from the Italian Unit of the University of Geneva and the DensityDesign Research Lab of the Politecnico di MIlano, specialized in Digital Humanities and data visualisation projects, with the collaboration of the Mondadori publishing house, which holds the rights to Italo Calvino's entire oeuvre.
Today Calvino would be almost one hundred years old and in front of the deep transformations that literature, press, media and research are witnessing, he would not have remained closed to defend the besieged humanistic citadel but would have come out to see.

The concrete work consisted in the creation of a web platform, capable of offering the possibility of exploring the writer's well-known work from an unprecedented point of view: that is to say, through a number of visual elaborations, which would correspond to as many questions addressed to the corpus of Calvinian texts. The identification of the most interesting phenomena of the work and of the most suitable visual solutions to represent them, as well as to explore them interactively, occupied the two teams in the first phase of the research, dedicated to the methodological set-up and to the collection of data; afterwards, the research continued with the set-up of the web platform and with the preparation of a series of critical cards to complete the visual part.

As far as the scientific impact of the research is concerned, the union between a fundamental author of the literature of the 20th century and an innovative study methodology aims to offer a valid example of research in the field of second generation Digital Humanities, which contributes to the current need for renewal of the literary disciplines.
The scientific impact of the project should be combined with its pedagogical, aesthetic and communicative qualities, proposing a new "visual narrative" of the author.

Project details


Literature as conceived, practised and modelled by Italo Calvino between the 1940s and the 1980s had only one aim: to keep the mind open.


The project financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation and entitled "Atlante Calvino: literature and visualisation" focuses on literary criticism as an intellectual exercise in open-mindedness and experimentation.


Elli, T., Briones Rojas, M. de los Á., Gobbo, B., Parigini, M., Giustetto, V., Cavalloro, V., & Mauri, M. (2021). Metaphors as Knowledge Activators in Data Visualizations: The case of the Archipelago of Calvino’s literary works. Proceedings of Cumulus Conference Roma 2021.

Bagnato, R. (2018, October 22). Nuova frontiera dell’analisi letteraria. In Telegiornale RSI. RSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera ↗

Elli, T. (2018, October 7). La grafica per mettere in relazione i volumi. La Lettura, 358, 17.

Falcetto, B. (2019). Vedere i testi, leggere le immagini. Le visualizzazioni per l’“Atlante Calvino”. In V. Spinazzola (Ed.), Tirature ’19 (pp. 203–206). il Saggiatore.

Ghidinelli, S. (2019). Vedere i testi, leggere le immagini. Le visualizzazioni per ‘La Lettura’. In V. Spinazzola (Ed.), Tirature ’19 (pp. 197–201). il Saggiatore.

Giustetto, V. (2018, December 16). Nella biblioteca di Italo Calvino. La Lettura, 368, 16–17.

Parigini, M. (2018, October 7). I racconti su rivista poi la necessità delle raccolte. La Lettura, 358, 16.

Rastelli, A. (2018, October 7). Così si disegna il dubbio. Calvino diventa mappa. La Lettura, 358, 16–17.

Rastelli, A. (2021, June 13). Tutto Italo Calvino in 215 «isole». La Lettura, 498, 15.

Serra, F. (2021, June 12). Dove ci perdiamo? La Lettura (App.).

Vos, A. (2018, October 28). Italo Calvino relu à la lumière des humanités digitales. Le Journal, 151, 4.

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