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What is the Value of Literature in the Internet Age? Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium as a Guide to Meaningful Digital Communication

Luca Cottini, PhD, Villanova University

November 15, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · Louis A. Simpson International Building – A71

Program in Italian Studies

In his Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Italo Calvino offers a critical synthesis of his work, a rich appraisal of the Western literary tradition, and a forward-looking vision of the value of literature in the 21st century. In this presentation, Dr. Luca Cottini investigates Calvino’s Lezioni americane as a prophetic description of the internet age, and a complex reflection on literature as the ultimate value creator in digital communication.

Calvino’s concepts anticipate the key features of social media (e.g., rapidity and multiplicity), visual branding (e.g., lightness and visibility), and content marketing (e.g., exactness and consistency). Calvino’s metaphors (e.g., the cloud, the net, and the chase) outline the core epistemology of the internet and a new ethics of complexity, where literature and  storytelling act as creators and multipliers of meaning. Lastly, Calvino’s idea of literature as an “open encyclopedia,” and of writing as a dynamic vector connecting invisible points prefigure the polyhedral nature of digital communication and knowledge sharing.

In light of these considerations, the reading of Calvino’s Lezioni aspires to provide a novel perspective on digital communication, a diverse interdisciplinary approach to Italian Studies, and a renewed reflection on the status of literature in contemporary academia.


Luca Cottini is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at Villanova University, and the creator of Italian Innovators, a YouTube channel exploring Italy’s approach to innovation and entrepreneurship through profiles, interviews, and lessons (on fashion, food, technology, sports, music, and engineering).

Trained in Italy (University of Milan, BA) and the United States (University of Notre Dame, MA; Harvard University, PhD), his research and courses touch upon Italian literature of the 19th and 20th centuries; the intersection of arts and business; and the cultural history of industry, advertising, and design in Italy.

His books include a monograph on 20th century writer Italo Calvino (I passaggi obbligati di Italo Calvino, Longo 2017), an award-winning study on the origins of Italian design (The Art of Objects. The Birth of Italian Industrial Culture, 1878-1928, University of Toronto Press, 2018), and a recent biography of chocolate storyteller and entrepreneur Michele Ferrero (Il fabbricante di cioccolato. Nel mondo di Michele Ferrero, Piemme 2023).

His Italian Innovators project (YouTube, Spotify, LinkedIn, and Instagram) bridges academic scholarship and storytelling, creative and strategic thinking, as well as Italian and American perspectives on the processes and values underlying meaningful innovation. The channel (bit.ly/italianinnovators) has become a virtual piazza for academics, students, designers, and entrepreneurs across the world (more info at www.italianinnovators.com). His work has been featured in national Italian media (La Stampa, Sole 24 ore, Canale 5) and his expertise in content creation and digital communication made him a business mentor and a guest speaker at numerous academic and corporate venues.

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