Tag Archives: literature


Multiplicity can be seen in many aspects of the world other than just literature. Similar to the connections of the letters, music has many qualities of multiplicity. Music is made up of notes. The notes can be combined together just like the letters, just with more than 26 options. To add or subtract notes from a piece of music is to change it totally. The notes are together though will always make up music, maybe not the best music, but music. The connection between notes is unlimited and the only thing that stops composers from forever combining notes in a song is our worldly concepts of time, creating limits.


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Carving in Possibilities” uses layers of text to convey the core meaning of the piece of work, the sculpture of David by Michelangelo. The process of building a skyscraper is very similar and can serve as an analogy. First off, as Larsen does with her E-Lit, the process of building a skyscraper must begin with a well thought-out plan. Calvino mentions this as one of the three core values of exactitude. Once the plan is laid out, all the areas of specialty must combine to build the towering building. Like the text does for Larsen, engineers, architects, etc. must combine to complete the project. The real representation of exactitude comes in the actually building of the skyscraper. The workers must use the least amount of resources and time to build the building but must keep up with the codes implied. Literature is held to this same standard. The author must use the least amount of words to describe the overall meaning of the piece of work.

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Calvino’s Exactitude

“To my mind exactitude means three things above all:

1. a well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work in question;
2. an evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images; in Italian we have an adjective that doesn’t exist in English, “icastico,”…
3. a language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination.”
Calvino quotes this in his memo from the book “Six Memos for the New Millennium”. Here he discusses his third quality of literature, exactitude. Calvino is explaining that literature needs to follow these three elements to be considered exact.

“The crystal, with its precise faceting and its ability to refract light, is the model of perfection that I have always cherished as an emblem, and its predilection has become even more meaningful since we have learned that certain properties of the birth and growth of crystals resemble those of the most rudimentary biological creatures, forming a kind of bridge between the mineral world and living matter.”

Here, quoting from the same book, Calvino discusses the emblem he selected for exactitude. He selects a crystal because it takes white light and is able to reflect it into the visual light spectrum. It takes something simple and is able to show it in its most complicated form through an exact process. Calvino also brings up that now that we know how complicated and exact the process is for creating a crystal, it is even more relatable. He explains that for literature to be exact it must be well planned and thought-out, like the process of crystallizing.

Calvino looks to better explain his concept by using a mentor of his. Giorgio de Santillana was considered by Calvino as a guide for him while he was in America. Santillana does a famous lecture in which he discusses the Egyptian’s emblem for the element of exactitude. They believed it was represented by Maat, the goddess of scales. They represented her as “a feather that served as a weight on scales used for the weighing of souls”.


While discussing Calvino’s exactitude, a famous haiku I studied in a Poetry Workshop class comes to mind. The haiku, “The Solider” by Udiah, conveys the thought of exactitude Calvino mentions. A haiku is intended to convey the thought of the author through a process of three lines, broken down to a 5-7-5 syllable count. This is about as exact as it gets. “The Solider” uses the thought of fallen soldiers, something that many would consider a deep thought, needing a lot of words to convey the real feeling that associates with the death of soldiers. Udiah, a famous author of Haikus, is able to convey the feelings and thoughts of fallen solders with just 17 syllables. This shows that exactitude, as Calvino mentions, is a powerful quality of literature.

“The Soldier”

Fighting for freedom,

Fall of a valiant soldier

Resting in the Lord


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Calvino’s Lightness

Italo Calvino explains lightness as the extraction of “weight” from a piece of literature. He believes that there are three senses of lightness and explains them all through Guido Cavalcanti, a character from Boccaccio’s “Decameron”. His first sense is lightness of language, described as ” meaning is conveyed through a verbal texture that seems weightless, until the meaning itself takes on the same rarefied consistency”. The second sense referenced is the narration of a train of thought or psychological process. The last sense that Calvino describes is the sense of “a visual image of lightness that acquires emblematic value…”. He is referencing the lightness of an image; his example here is the emblem he selected to represent lightness, Cavalcanti leaping over a tombstone to avoid his antagonists. This emblem shows that Cavalcanti has embraced lightness by leaping over death.

Cavalcanti is not the only example that Calvino uses. His first example given in the memo is the mythological story of Perseus and Medusa. Perseus was only able to defeat Medusa’s death stare by reflecting her own image back onto herself. Once he was able to behead the beast, he found that the head of Medusa could protect him, using it against other monsters. The head, also, when laid upon sea tress turns them to coral. Perseus was able to step back and see his reality from a higher viewpoint. The story references Perseus’ ability to fly with his winged shoes, a literal translation of him flying to a high point, but the way he was able to accept something that was so evil as good with the right use shows his true lightness in character. Calvino believes that our current world has trouble seeing lightness because our view of the world is too dense. He believes we will only be able to see true lightness if we are able to “fly away” like Perseus and see the world from a different perspective.

When referencing my own knowledge of lightness, I am drawn to the idea of comics. A simple comic strip can bring about a sense of humor with very little meaning or weight. A famous comic that comes to mind that exemplifies lightness is “The Far Side” by Gary Larson. He uses simple images and short captions to appeal to one’s humor about an everyday idea.

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