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Galvano Della Volpe was the dominant philosopher of Italian Marxism for twenty years after the Liberation. His most important book was a work of aesthetic theory—Critique of Taste. Della Volpe, proponent of a robust materialism in all his writings, was concerned to rehabilitate the inherently rational and intellectual nature of art. Opposing both the sociological reductionism of Plekhanov or Lukács, and the formalist irrationalism of Croce or New Criticism, Della Volpe’s aim was to demonstrate that conceptual meaning is always inseparable from aesthetic effect.
Whether he is discussing Pindar or Góngora, Cleanth Brooks or Roland Barthes, Goethe or Mallarmé, Della Volpe is always challenging, always illuminating. Critique of Taste represents one of the major crossroads of twentieth-century aesthetics.
“One of the most original Communist critics the West has had ... confronts with rigour and intelligence the most difficult aesthetic problems we face.”