Antonio Mercuri

Panel 1E: Transcoding the Artist’s Life
Session 1 – July 1, 11:00 – 13:00

Life is a Cabaret: reality, fiction, and intermediality from Isherwood to Fosse

My proposal aspires to be a contribution to the understanding of the way semiotic processes peculiar to different media generate different stories building upon the same core narrative. More precisely, I aim to explore the strategies through which reality becomes fiction. As a case study, I will focus on the ways Christopher Isherwood’s real-life experience in Berlin during the downfall of Weimar Republic has been narrated through different codes of representation. The corpus I will analyse is composed of the following works: The Berlin stories (1945), a short story collection including Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935) and Goodbye to Berlin (1939), by Isherwood; I Am a Camera (Van Druten: 1951), a play based exclusively on Goodbye to Berlin; the movie I Am a Camera (Cornelius: 1955), and the stage musical Cabaret (Masteroff: 1966), both based on the play; Cabaret (Fosse: 1972), a musical film which was initially to be based on the musical, but which eventually relied extensively on the play and The Berlin stories. Regarding the non-fictional accounts of the same story, I will focus on Isherwood’s diaries and his autobiography Christopher and his Kind (1976), itself adapted in the movie Christopher and his Kind (Sax: 2011), and on the biography Isherwood (Parker: 2004). I will tackle the heterogeneous nature of media, genres and modes represented in this corpus by employing a methodology drawn from studies on multimodality (Kress: 2010), transcodification and adaptation theory (Hutcheon: 2006). Applying a perspective derived from studies on intermediality will allow me to reflect both on the role of literary techniques in hybrid forms of mediality, and on the status of theatre as a media in this chain of adaptations. I will focus on theoretical issues; therefore, I will draw on a limited number of examples from the listed texts to make my point. 


My name is Antonio Mercuri, I am a MA student in Euro-American Literatures and Philologies at University of Pisa, where I received my bachelor’s degree in 2016 with a dissertation about Amélie Nothomb’s work. I am currently writing my final dissertation on the works that constitute the hypertext of Cabaret, from Isherwood’s life experience to Bob Fosse’s music film. In December 2018, I published a review of the journal DEP, Deportate, esuli, profughe, n° 23, July 2013, on the journal Comment S’en Sortir; in June 2019, I have presented a paper at the CIRQUE conference about the performative dimension of the act of reading. I have been attending the Seminario Queer managed by Carmen Dell’Aversano since 2018. My main interests are intermedial studies, literary theory and queer studies.