Stefania Tarantino, Naples


Your life in a few lines, by starting from where it truly starts, your birth

I was born under the slopes of Vesuvio volcano from a northern Italy family – even if my father was from Apulia region. The condition of never being able to say something sharp about my origins drove me, since I was a little girl, to point out the sense of belonging to a specific place and the deep need of rooting which was part of the most charming reflections of the French philosopher Simone Weil as I later discovered.

This said, I elected the South, the Mediterranean as my elective land and sea. On this decision, the  awareness not only of the self but of the way to be in this world played a huge role according to a precise self invented size coinciding with my ‘second birth’, as I consider the meeting with an exceptional woman who was for many years my piano teacher and nowadays is one of my best friends. She is a feminist, a philosophy scholar and she was a lighthouse for me in the dark of the adolescence where every apprehension is felt in a very deep and unbalancing way because your are neither adult nor a child. With her I lived for real what the philosopher Hannah Arendt meant about the importance of ‘exemplary figures’ acting in our lives by bringing us back to ourselves transformed. If until that time I was self managing myself by keeping distance between me and what I did not want to become, with her I understood ‘who’ I wanted to be and which direction to give to my life. Then I had other meaningful encounters but I can say that is, above all, thank to this relation that nowadays I am what I am.



You incarnate the fact that, all in all, everything can be possible: being a philosopher and a singsong writer, a feminist, a mother, a scholar, an author and very keen observer of the most difficult city in Italy (either the most cultivated and the most fascinating) where you recognize yourself and returned to (Naples).

You also still write with the pen on the paper. Which is the place ‘wording’ has in your everyday life?

Do you diminish its value and/or do you dodge from a bodily battle with cultivated words to seek comprehension or do you always maintain your important register and use?

Which is the most important value circa the power of wording that you wanted to gift to your daughters?

Word is the fundamental of everything constitutes our humanity. Our words are important even when we speak of things may not seem so important. The expression, the ways, the tones we choose are essential for the quality of our relation and of our life in general.

Words, when they come to be very low and coward, put us toward the degradations of our humanity and our thinking. Music, as poetry and literature, is – as ultimate reason – the sentinel of this so fragile condition which is always on the edge between elevation and collapse.

I try to make everything possible ever and I am attracted by what seems to me impossible and what seems to escape from me. I try everyday and of course is not due that I succeed in everything I try. It is more a question of energy for me, a question of expression, of love and not of performance, or, worse, as rendering a service. I am convinced that ‘knowledge’ is not regarding only the head (brain) but all the body. The hands writing and playing, for instance, let me know that they know more than what I know. I have just to follow them and to make a little room for…

This is what I try to teach either directly and not to my two daughters, Antonia (12 years) and Francesca (3 years). For what pertains Naples, I can only say that I’d chosen it as my city for multiple reasons. The most important is that it offers a vision of the things from 360°. In their nudity and truth, for the better and for the worse.



#metoo | Did you ever asked yourself why in Italy they let speak (and write) about feminism some editors and journalists who are really disconcerting for their ignorance and inability to this analysis (one above the others can be Guia Soncini, according to me)? Why do they not ask someone keen to write about feminism, someone who cares about the ‘social body’ of women by being seriously knowledgeable? I think to those authors and researchers as you, who are often working as precarious in the world of universities. My idea is that the commissioners of the articles are the real problem and they have the fault to create the worse cases, the thousand of Guia Soncini out there…(not only in Italy).

Yes, I agree with you. I’d already talked about my ideas about Weinsten and the wave of  #metoo which washed especially the movie industry. The incredible women’s reaction against other women is a very old story, it is part of the same patriarchal social structure. To put women against themselves comes from very far, also the most interesting myths of our culture are speaking about it. We divide ourselves to rule, to gain always more power. The patriarchal pyramid includes either men and women: the patriarchal women are the worse enemies of the women and you need very small efforts to know why. There are women who are able to fight against another one in order to be recognized and appreciated by the closest by man. This is a very sad thing allowing us to see that the referring parameter is always the male glance and judgement. For this the Soncini’s analysis is more than a terrible one and, beside all this, is empty of any reason. Feminism is well alive and always did and said what had to be done and said. The biggest problem is that there is not enough space (on medias and in the government commissions ruling gender questions) left to feminists or to all these women (and there are a lot of them) fighting, writing, studying, working on the social and political body. In every case, we should question why NYTimes called someone who does not have anything to do with feminism to write about it. In my Italian interviews I have been questioned about it and answered, don’t you think so?



Music is the ‘other half of the sky’ for you: you always joined or founded bands, and before you’ve studied music and chant. And with your last band Ardesia (or before with a band in which you’ve playing in Geneva) you’ve always offered to your audience a sort of mimesis: a music to listen to and to dance but primarily to read, to sip and taste, to keep. Milestones, successes, happiness and hurdles or regrets about this very singular stylistic choice?

Yes, music is a crucial part of my life. At the same level of philosophy and of my engagement in the feminism theories. So, let’ say, I looked for a synthesis, something able to veicolate the great power and innovation of the poetic, philosophical, scientific, artistic, politic and existential thinking so many women of yesterday and today formulated. When I discovered that lots of girls and youngsters of today do not read the fundamentals of feminist thinking, I’ve chosen to put its main concepts in music. ‘Incandescente’ (means either incandescent and passionate in Italian) for instance is a song coming from the Wolf’s novel Three Guineas and also the title of our cd. I was always convinced of this choice and feel very happy of what our audience gives us back in terms of love and plause when we go live. This makes me able to go on without the fear to remain ‘on the outskirts’ of the fame. It has to be also said that many times the success is not coinciding with the love for what we are and what we do, but only with an economic revenue that is of course important but is not everything.



You keep on writing very romantic texts powered by incredibly sounding rhythms which are also very cultivated and come not only from philosophers but also from poets (we published and translated Le Ombre here and Nu’ Segreto here): they’re often sung in other languages beside Italian and Neapolitan.

You have a creative urgency that is not stopping on the difficulty to produce this kind of performative art in a place like Italy.

I ask you a very crazy one now: crazy but not so much…Where do you dream to go with Ardesia and which kind of ‘commissioner’ you would love to have for a special concert?

A project like Ardesia has to be sold in theaters and in all those places where words can be ‘listened’ and tasted, as you say, until the end. I love very much the collaborations and I was already joining two docu-fictions and a theatre opera. It is nice to experiment my creativity with others, to play with and to re discuss it by sizing it with someone else creativity. Every encounter of this kind produces something new in us and we discover things we ignored to possess. I really wish to meet a producer able to value for the better what Ardesia expresses, to meet so many musicians with whom to share this passion and I would love to open up more to the theatre and to movie industry.



In one of your latest books, άνευ µητρός/senza madre (sans mere) L’anima perduta dell’Europa (La scuola di Pitagora editrice, Collana Diotima Questioni di filosofia e politica, Napoli 2014), you start with two philosophers you care a lot (the Spanish Maria Zambrano and the French Simone Weil) to speak (also) of the violence in Europe.

And especially you say that Europe is perishing – yes politically but mainly emotionally – because she had forgotten the value of relation by having lost the ‘mother’. And you end saying that from the East a salvaging thought can reach us…(according to a comment on your essay by Alessandro Bonesini)

As a philosopher (a thinkers’ category who is unluckily not so appreciated by politicians, I know) can you tell us which kind of Europe we could have the next year when Brexit will be reality and when East Europe will be totally conquered by extreme right wing parties? Which relation do you see between your assertion and the hugest nazi and gender violence in the old continent?

I worked, through the intuitions of this incredible philosophers, on the binomial Mother/Mediterranean which is the live print of a civilization preceding the Greek-Roman one. Europe has to restart from Mediterranean in order to seek again itself and its roots and has to make home again in it. We need to restart from all those knowledges able to lead us toward an augmented perception of ourselves and the reality in order to change mind and perspective, glance. It is not more possible to postpone a radical politica, social, economic shift; we know it and we live it everyday and so we owe this to us. Simone Weil and Maria Zambrano had a very deep understanding of human condition and of what grows in it without conditions. From this we have to reboot. To do so we have to privilege our ‘radicality’ and our braveness. In the present society where everything is monetized, Mediterranean sea itself became dark and lifeless, spreading only death. Nevertheless everyone knows that there is something more and different and we can put it in practice. There are other ways to be in this world, there are traces of it and if we only start to look for them we will see there are a lot doesn’t matter the effort to destroy and to cancel them since a very long time. The Mediterranean is about light and Europe cannot lose it forever in favor of an obscurity which already negatively and painfully marked its history.



As a reader when you do not deal with philosophy or with music: which places, which ways, which authors? For instance, which is the book and the music, not yours, with you now?

When I do not read, do not write, do not sing, do not write songs I’m used to do everything else. I love to dig, to traffic with trees, with plants, I love to cultivate the orchard – fruit, veggies, legumes – I love to seed, to hoe, to wander adrift and to pick chestnuts, nuts, mushrooms and flowers. I have in mind to attend a pruning course next year! It is a very important art, as it is the one to cut parts of ourselves we do not like and let us feel very bad. The last novel I’ve read is the one of Magda Szabò, The Door. If we come to music, I love to listen to a lot of radio and programs where they mainly spin singsong-writers.



What do you like to eat and drink when you love to treat you?

I really love raw shrimps, the spaghetti with mussels they are really well cooked and the eggplant in any recipe. I love wine as a sacred drink filled with good auspices and magic mixtures. If in summer, I love the whites from Friuli and Alto Adige; if in winter I prefer the very structured reds, from Aglianico to Lagrein.



A place – secret or less – where you take shelter if you want to slow the pace?

The Cilento. When I have to relax and slow the pace I need to be in nature, to walk around olive, almond and oak trees or around the wild apples with the sea over the horizon.



Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Let’s say that this 2018 represents the change for me and maybe is the one where I will be able to  chose where I will be in the next 10 years. I am actually faced toward a crossroad and of course it is not only about my will which is the street I will run. From one side there is a complicate story with the university where I struggle since years given I’m still a precarious researcher. Even if I’ve passed two national examinations toward the position of associate professor (in history of philosophy and in political philosophy) is not yet told that I will be able to have a tenure given how the Italian universities work. On the other side there is the music, the creative expression and the vital one which are nurturing me since ever and I would love they will transform themselves in something also economically rewarding. We will see. All the games are still open and my eyes too, glancing full of confidence over the world.



What did you learn so far from the life?

Everything I learn is in my books, in my essays, in the articles and in the everyday practices. And of course in my music. Stay tuned, or as we are used to say here, do not loose ourselves!



To learn more about Stefania Tarantino and her books (Italian):

To learn more about Ardesia:

To buy and to listen to Incandescente


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