Annali d'Italianistica

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Edited by Dino S. Cervigni with the Collaboration of Paolo Cherchi, Gustavo Costa, Valeria Finucci, Albert N. Mancini, Massimo Maggiari, and John P. Welle.  

The Feminist Encyclopedia of Italian Literature. Ed. Rinaldina Russell. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1997. Pp. 402.

This volume is the first feminist encyclopedia of Italian literature. As the editor points out in the introductory essay, "it is not an encyclopedia of Italian women writers, although, of course many writers considered here are women; it is rather a companion volume for those who wish to investigate Italian literary culture and writings, penned by women and men, in a feminist perspective" (vii). In presenting a broad panorama of Italian literary and cultural scene throughout the ages, it is useful as a complement to another recent Greenwood publication, Italian Women Writers, a collection of fifty-one monographic chapters on the most important women writers from the fourteenth century to the present.

The aim of the present volume is to provide a general audience in the United States with access to a feminist perspective of Italian literature, so far limited to a group of specialists, for the most part within the academic circles of Italian studies, history, and comparative literature. "Among the general college-educated readers, knowledge about feminist approaches to Italian writing, and even about the existence of Italian women writers, remains scanty," observes Russell (vii). Tracing the presence of women in Italian literature and culture poses a particularly difficult task since "with the exception of writing by religious women, few literary forms and examples of female expression remain other than those provided by canonical genres. No corpus of letters, diaries, or other types of literary outlet has been found and collected in Italy, besides those already known in literary circles" (viii).

Russell believes that the reasons for that peculiar situation are to be found in Italian history. She draws a brief overview of Italian society with its rigid division due to widespread illiteracy into low and high (institutionalized) culture components. Women, she claims, "while not totally excluded from it, have been cramped by the very sponsorship they received" (viii). As an example, she discusses the sudden resurgence of literary women in sixteenth-century Italy and "the absorption of their literary talents to the demands of patriarchal middle-class society in the ages that followed" (ix). The relationship between women and writing is crucial to the understanding of the overall picture of the western cultural tradition, claims Russell, and the present volume hopes to illuminate that relationship.

The alphabetically arranged entries encompass eight centuries of Italian literature. They cover a number of different categories selected according to the relevance of each category to Italian culture and feminist thought. The broadest category is devoted to writers and contains entries on authors, both male and female, canonical and marginal. In each case the focus falls on the ways in which their writing explores gender relations and constructs images of women. Each entry contains a brief biographical note, followed by a discussion of the writer’s works from a feminist perspective, and a short bibliography. In some entries the contributors map possible new approaches to a number of subjects as well as offer valuable suggestions for their future exploration. This is particularly interesting in the case of canonical authors or texts, because until recently they have rarely been considered from a feminist viewpoint. For example, in her entry on Dante, Regina F. Psaki points to recently opened venues in Dante’s criticism hoping that they will "yield up new perspectives on women as bearers and makers of meaning" (62).

Other categories include historical periods and literary-cultural movements, both international, (for example, modernism/postmodernism), and specifically Italian, such as scapigliatura or verismo. These entries present the period’s or movement’s main characteristics and offer a brief discussion of the relationship between them and women’s writing. For instance, the entry on Fascism highlights the role of women during the Fascist period and the Resistance, and contrasts the importance of their contribution with the scarcity of scholarly work on women’s participation in both movements. Cross-references help the reader establish the link between Fascism and such related topics as futurism, motherhood, novel, romance, etc. Disciplines, schools of thought, and trends in criticism that influenced the feminist perspective are also given substantial attention. As the editor points out, some subjects "such as cicisbeismo, questione della lingua, and weak thought are considered here for the first time in relation to feminist positions" (ix). Literary and theatrical genres are analyzed from the viewpoint of women’s participation or exclusion.

Some entries explore themes, ideas, social issues, and stereotypes which have shaped women’s lives, e.g. abortion, disease, female bonding, prostitution, hagiography, courtesan, nun, etc. These entries present the reader with an historical perspective, emphasizing the interplay of social and literary influences responsible for creating stereotypical images of women, as well as resistance to these images. In view of the particular impact of women’s publishing houses and cinema on the general public, the editor decided to include these categories as well.

The volume is very well organized and allows an easy access to the needed information. All the entries are arranged alphabetically and follow an internal pattern: a general presentation of the subject, a critical discussion, and a selected bibliography set chronologically. Asterisks guide the readers to other related topics. The volume also contains an appendix where entries are listed by period and subject, a brief selected bibliography on women writers, an index, and a list of contributors.

The Feminist Encyclopedia is an invaluable help for readers interested in exploring less-traveled roads of Italian literature. They will appreciate the wealth of information provided by each entry as well as possible suggestions for further research. The present volume is a very useful reference tool and a necessary acquisition by any library.

Barbara Zaczek, Clemson University    

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Italian Cultural Studies: An Introduction. Ed. David Forgacs and Robert Lumley. Oxford: UP, 1996. Pp. Xv + 368.

Given the wide range of interests and theoretical approaches that Cultural Studies embraces, and the relatively short time it has been on the academic and scholarly scene, it is probably too early to offer a definition of this fast growing field which would be accurate enough to satisfy its practitioners on both sides of the Atlantic. Indeed, a great deal of space in the debate on Cultural Studies which has taken place over the last few years has been given over to the vexed question of what exactly this new field is. Still, despite the uncertainties which both surround and characterize Cultural Studies (to the delight of some of its practitioners), a few points at least seem fixed enough to warrant the status of founding principles: namely, a concern for and interest in a plurality of cultural practices and discourses; a concern for and interest in those subaltern discourses, practices and subjects which have been dispatched to the margins of the master narrative(s) of history; and a decidedly oppositional stance vis-a-vis established cultural practices and discourses and the modes of studying them. From this two further points can be noted: first, that Cultural Studies is thus far probably the academic world’s best and most concrete response to the crisis in values which has been the characteristic mark of the post-modern epoch; and second, that the implications which Cultural Studies has on the construction of curricula and canons, on the who, what and how of study, are enormous.

Herein lies the importance of Italian Cultural Studies: An Introduction, a collection of eighteen essays edited by David Forgacs and Robert Lumley. Thus far Italian Cultural Studies has already produced a consistent and high-level body of research work, particularly studies published in Great Britain by the likes of Zygmunt Baranski and Stephen Gundle, among others. Yet, material for teaching undergraduate-level courses on Italian Cultural Studies has been almost non-existent. The greatest merit of Forgacs’s and Lumley’s book – the work of scholars who, along with Baranski and Gundle, have been at the forefront of British Italian Cultural Studies ( Forgacs, with his study of Italian Culture in the Industrial Era, and Lumley, with his recent anthology Italian Journalism) – is that it supplies for the first time a text with which to teach such courses.

Aiming to "stimulate a critical reassessment of what ‘culture’ means in the Italian case and indicate new ways into the study of Italian culture and society" (1), the two editors present their readers with a good picture of what a course on twentieth-century Italy inspired by the principles of Cultural Studies might look like. Accordingly, attention is given not so much to manifestations of high culture as to popular culture (and here the chapter on football/soccer that the editors mysteriously were not able to include is sorely missed) and the post-war Americanization of Italian patterns of cultural consumption; not so much to culture conceived of as elite aesthetic experience as to culture as lived experience, understood anthropologically as a manifestation of "symbolic social forms" (1); not so much to conventional centers of power as to the South and to subordinated groups like women and immigrants; not so much to literature as a channel of communication as to the press and the mass-media industry.

The text is divided into four parts: "Geographies," with essays by John Dickie, Michael Eve, Paola Filipucci, Gabriella Gribaudi, and Tullio De Mauro; "Identities," with essays by Simon Parker, Jeff Pratt, Luisa Passerini, and Vanessa Maher; "Media," with essays by Peppino Ortoleva, Lumley, Christopher Wagstaff, Elena Dagrada and Ann Hallmore Caesar; and "Culture and Society," with essays by Forgacs, Franco Bianchini, Massimo Torrigiani and Rinella Cere, Gundle and Marcella Filippa. Each section is accompanied by some very useful instances of Cultural Studies in action, the kind of work students approaching the field might themselves do: for example, brief analyses of the paninari, a scene or two from Ladri di biciclette, or the Lega Nord’s fantasy map of what a newly divided Italy might look like.

Although the standard of these contributions is uniformly high, some, however, are more useful than others. The main limit to Passerini’s essay on "Gender Relations," Ortoleva’s on "A Geography of the Media since 1945," Dagrada’s on "Television and its Critics: A Parallel History," and Bianchini, Torrigiani and Cere’s rather drab essay on "Cultural Policy" is that they do little more than pass on fairly well-established facts about their respective areas. The text as a whole, of course, has the primary function of introducing the field, but the main drawback of the essays above is that, interesting and important as they are, they leave very little space for discussion. Perhaps such matters could have been dealt with in a more perfunctory manner in an enlarged introduction to the volume. As it is, these are essays from which largely one is invited to take notes. Most of the other essays fare better, the highlights of which are Dickie’s essay on identity formation, "Imagined Italies," which builds on the work of Benedict Anderson; the two essays on the South by Filipucci and Gribaudi; the essays on "Political Identities" by Parker, "Catholic Culture" by Pratt, and "Immigration and Social Identities" by Maher, all of which are extremely illuminating; and Forgacs’s excellent essay on "Cultural Consumption."

Although the choice of what to include in such a collection was probably the editors’ most difficult decision, nevertheless the virtual absence from the collection of Antonio Gramsci, a seminal figure for Cultural Studies, whose theory of hegemony has been of great critical gain for the field, is surprising. Gramsci’s almost total absence, except for fleeting references in Filipucci’s essay in connection with folklore and Gribaudi’s on the Southern question, is a sign, however, of two further limits to the book: namely, a certain reluctance to address some of the theoretical questions that underpin Cultural Studies, and what seems to me its overly narrow concentration on post-war Italy. Even though it has been done before, it would have been a service to students and teachers alike to have a handy, concise account of Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, illustrated with his analysis of why the Risorgimento failed to be the revolution he believed, rightly or wrongly, it could have been. This could have been tied in with many of the themes the book addresses so effectively like the Southern question and the issue of national identity. Furthermore, students would also be exposed both to the founding narrative of post-Risorgimento Italian national identity and to the subaltern narratives which have sought to challenge it. On this point, Dickie’s otherwise marvelous piece on national identity, which limits itself to post-war Italy, is lacking.

The decision to concentrate on the post-war period was probably dictated by reasons of space. This is, of course, understandable. It does mean, however, that the text is less useful in US-Italian curricula than it otherwise could have been. Given the differences in organization of undergraduate majors between Great Britain and the US, there are relatively few departments of Italian in the US which can allow themselves the luxury of offering a course limited to post-war Italy. For this reason, although it is undoubtedly a major asset in the promotion of Cultural Studies within the world of US-Italian Studies, and can be adopted as a course text book (as I have done), it does need to be supplemented with material from the pre 1945 period.

My suspicion, however, is that this is a text which was not really intended to cater to the needs of US curricula. Reading Forgacs’s and Lumley’s introduction, one notices a polemic with the reluctance of Italian academic institutions to embrace Italian Cultural Studies. The reasons for this reluctance are many, go to the roots of Italian history and culture, and are examined in the introduction, albeit briefly. The impression one receives from the introduction is that the major function of this collection is to present a recalcitrant Italian academic world with examples of the best that the British and Italian practitioners of Cultural Studies can produce. Indeed, none of the contributors is either a US or US-based scholar. Nevertheless, Forgacs’s and Lumley’s book is a welcome first and we must hope that its arrival will give other publishing companies the courage to furnish Italian Cultural Studies with the kind of teaching materials it needs if the field is to progress beyond the sphere of research.

David Ward, Wellesley College    

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Paul Colilli. The Idea of a Living Spirit: Poetic Logic As a Contemporary Theory. Toronto Studies In Semiotics. Toronto: Toronto UP, 1997. Pp. 290.

The Idea of a Living Spirit è un testo lucido e necessario, soprattutto per la chiarezza con cui discute alcune delle tematiche più presenti nella cultura filosofica e letteraria italiana. L’opera di Colilli è ancor più meritoria se si considera l’imbarazzante disinteresse di troppi italianisti al riguardo di ciò che viene genericamente definito come "teoria." Ci si puù solo augurare che il libro di Colilli, non scevro di una qualche incertezza strutturale e tematica, divenga un punto di riferimento per lo studio e l’insegnamento del rapporto tra filosofia e teoria letteraria nella cultura italiana.

Nella prefazione Colilli si cura di spiegare come con "logica poetica", il vichiano convincimento dell’esistenza di un originario e mitico dire il reale attraverso la retorica poetica, egli intenda significare ed investigare quel ""linguaggio di mezzo" (middle speech), posizionato tra prosa e poesia, tra comprensione razionale ed intuizione spirituale (viii-xi). L’"idea" di uno "spirito vivente" si identifica quindi con l’ipotesi di un possibile darsi della "concretezza" di un’entità esistente, di ciò che Colilli anche chiama "la concreta spiritualità" dell’oggetto (xi). Colilli giustamente considera il Neoplatonismo ficiniano come il punto di origine di un tale discorso teorico. È appunto nel Rinascimento italiano che si ipotizza un’essenziale unione del tutto, di una "armonia" del mondo, nella quale percezione, ragione, e poetico dire si fondono come aspetti o passaggi di un unico sistema conoscitivo. Per sostenere il suo discorso Colilli si rifà a testi di Giorgio Agamben, Giordano Bruno, Vico, Paolo Valesio e Franco Rella, al cui pensiero, insieme a quello fondamentale di Pier Aldo Rovatti e Massimo Cacciari, avrebbero potuto essere dedicato un ben più ampio spazio.

Il libro si apre e si conclude con un breve "Threshold" ed è ripartito in tre sezioni. Nella prima ("The Invention of Poetic Logic"), divisa in tre capitoli, Colilli pone in risalto la necessità di "ripensare la relazione tra ragione, espressione umana ed ecologie culturali" (29). L’atto di conoscenza, sottolinea Colilli, è essenzialmente un atto retorico, un processo tropologico che procede verso la fusione del dire mitico e di quello tecnico. È appunto questa rottura che, secondo Colilli, deve essere "riparata" attraverso un recupero del linguaggio tropologico. Nel primo capitolo ("New Life of the Poetological") Colilli menziona il suggestivo passo dallo Zibaldone in cui Leopardi parla di una "ultrafilosofia", che esamini ed esprima la complessità dell’esistere senza ricorrere né alla disperazione né ad un’ irrazionale speranza (17). Nella ricerca di un dire "poetologico" Colilli offre un affascinante esame del pensiero di Giorgio Agamben e del volume di Paolo Valesio Ascoltare il silenzio (48-72). Sia Agamben che Valesio pongono l’accento sul centrale ruolo della "Voce" e del silenzio all’interno di ogni forma retorica. Con "Voce" Agamben significa "una dimensione del negativo . . . poiché [Voce] non è più voce ma non è ancora significato." "Voce", spiega Colilli, non è ancora significato perché "non ha ancora verificato la sua ipotesi" (58).

Nella seconda sezione ("Quotidie: The Signs of Lived Experience") il testo esamina come il concetto di "spirito vivente" risieda nella quotidianità dell’esistenza, ciò che l’autore, riferendosi alla poesia di Valesio, chiama "la memoria culturale del quotidiano" (91). La terza, e conclusiva, sezione del volume ("Spiritus vivens") torna al centrale tema dell’influenza del pensiero neoplatonico fiorentino sullo sviluppo dell’intero dibattito filosofico-retorico italiano. Colilli offre un suggestivo esame della filosofia dell’immagine in Ficino e di come essa venga sviluppata in Bruno e Vico. Il tentativo di Bruno di formulare una scienza delle immagini che si traduca in un linguaggio tropologico, soprattutto in De imaginum, signorum et idearum compositione, viene messa a confronto con il vichiano concetto di "universali." Particolarmente interessanti sono le pagine in cui Colilli analizza in dettaglio come Bruno struttura la sua "alchemia delle immagini" attraverso un processo che potremmo definire come "retoricizzazione" (139-44). Altrettanto riuscito è il settimo capitolo dedicato al processo metaforizzante formulato nella Scienza Nuova ("Cognitive Properties of the Mental Gaze").

Più che offrire possibili ed in realtà inesistenti soluzioni all’irreversibile separazione tra diverse aree linguistiche, tra intuizione e scienza, tra retorica e realtà esterna, il libro di Colilli pone in risalto l’ancora ben sentito desiderio di tornare ad un’ "armonia" tra dire e conoscere. Tuttavia, il segno ermetico, come si legge nel capitolo nove ("Unsignable Conjuctions"), il quale si muove verso un assorbimento del "nonreale", del caos e del contraddittorio, più che significare un più alto contatto con la realtà a parer nostro esemplifica l’irriducibilità del reale stesso, la reale inesistenza di uno "spirito vivente" che non sia momentanea proiezione del soggetto retorico. La "logica poetica," come lo stesso Colilli sottolinea all’inizio del libro, nasce da ciò che Cacciari definisce "la perdita," il lamentare un possesso ormai negato (15). Non è un caso che nelle ultime pagine Colilli parli del segno "mercuriale" di Pasolini, un gesto linguistico che accoglie la contaminazione come sua essenza (199-200). Tuttavia, piuttosto che vedere la poetica pasoliniana come una nuova alchimia, la si dovrebbe leggere come espressione dell’irremediabilità di un segno "unico," il comprendere appunto la definitiva assenza di un dire unificante e falsamente armonico nella sua stessa "contaminata" natura. Ciò che Pasolini rende chiaro è che più che aspirare ad una "nuova" tropologia, un moderno concetto di logica poetica deve utilizzare la tropologia per minare l’autenticità di un processo conoscitivo soggettivizzante (127). Colilli sembra alludere a questo nel suo esame di De vinculis in genere di Bruno (191-93). Nell’ esame del testo bruniano Colilli mette in risalto come, nel formulare il concetto di un "vincolo" che leghi realtà contrastanti, Bruno paradossalmente contraddice il legame tra significante e significato, e rivela il "non tematizzato spazio dell’abisso che è l’unità del significato" (193). Alcun processo di contaminazione può assorbire l’ "abisso" in un atto di significazione. Il nostro contemporaneo volgerci all’inesauribile fucina rinascimentale è un "necessario" atto archeologico, nel senso che, più che produrre sistemi conoscitivi, il soggetto contemporaneo è tornato all’antica arte della retorica, cioè dell’apparente dominio dell’abisso.

Armando Maggi, University of Pennsylvania 

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Graziella Parati. Public History, Private Stories. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996.

Graziella Parati presenta e analizza le autobiografie di cinque personaggi femminili e la complessità delle loro ricerche personali per il raggiungimento di una propria identità. La Parati non si propone di definire il genere autobiografico ma di evidenziarne l’uso fatto da queste scrittrici appartenenti a periodi storici ed a classi socio-culturali diversi ma accomunate dalla ricerca di una identità femminile nella sfera privata e pubblica. Per la Parati l’autobiografia è una narrazione in cui personaggi ed avvenimenti sono selezionati dallo scrivente per trasmettere un messaggio personale sul proprio passato e presente. La ricerca delle verità autobiografiche non interessa alla Parati. Il suo interesse la porta a privilegiare "those female autobiographies based upon the construction of nondichotomized portrayals of maternal and paternal roles" (9). In tal modo "the female characters become métisses, hybrid, the result of an intertwining of paternal and maternal traces" (10). Tuttavia il nocciolo dell’analisi della Parati non è il matroneum che definisce come sfera privata della donna nei suoi vari ruoli di moglie, figlia e madre "completed by the privileged ‘space of privacy’ inhabited by Man" (6). Il matroneo è uno spazio nello spazio delimitato dal patriarcato ma non totalmente controllato da questo. Tuttavia per eliminarne i confini le autrici considerate dalla Parati partono da una rilettura del ruolo materno all’interno del matroneo. E il ricupero quindi del "matrilinearism" di quella struttura che la Parati denomina "gyneology". Attraverso "gyn technique" è possibile intrecciare legami esclusivi all’interno del matroneum togliendolo dal suo isolamento anzi ricuperando la storia al femminile da questo delimitata e risalente a più generazioni di donne. Tuttavia i due primi capitoli del libro della Parati, dedicati a Camilla Faa’ Gonzaga e Enid Robert, non sembrano rientrare in questo schema. La Historia della Faa’, breve scritto autobiografico del 1622 "contains an explicit description of a woman’s journey through different roles, totally controlled by the Public Man, or Padrone (Lord and Master), as she calls the duke." Camilla scrive per dire la sua verità e l’importanza delle sue sedici pagine sta nel tentativo di definire l’indipendenza femminile in relazione al ruolo attribuitole dal Patriarcato. La Parati conclude che "What is missing in this context is an attempt to construct a dialectic of public and private in texts and how to shape the ‘space of literature’ as a realm in which public history and autobiographical stories can meet as equals" (43).

La Parati dedica il suo secondo capitolo all’analisi di A Woman’s Womb: A Surgical Novel (1919) e lo definisce come un tentativo mutilato di autobiografia letteraria. La Robert vuole e sceglie di essere diversa, vuole apparire come "an intermediate being", vicina alla creatività dell’uomo di cui proclama la naturale superiorità. Il libro della Robert ha per la Parati il pregio di essere uno dei primi tentativi femminili di testimonianza sull’isterismo femminile così spesso narrato dagli uomini (70). Il terzo capitolo, dedicato a Le quattro ragazze Wieselberg, teorizza la ricerca di Fausta Cialente per trovare una lingua appropriata a scrivere storie di donne. Presa tra il triestino materno e l’italiano paterno sceglierà il secondo ma sceglierà anche un volontario esilio che le permette di creare "a mediating condition between matricidal and patricidal tensions by deterritorializing the spheres and by reterritorializing her creative realms of authority. Her choice of voluntary exile becomes a protracted choice of marginality, because a new land to inhabit permanently is never found" (94).

Elogio dell’imperfezione, opera di Rita Levi Montalcini apparsa nel 1988, è trattata nel quarto capitolo. La Parati sottolinea il fatto che il libro si apre e conclude con citazioni maschili, rispettivamente De Chirico e Primo Levi, creando quindi un andamento circolare che mette in rilievo la predominante cultura maschile. Scrive la Parati che sia per la Cialente che per la Levi Montalcini, "womanhood and motherhood are, within the familial sphere, identified with passivity and acquiescence" e che entrambe cercano di distanziarsi dal silenzio ereditato dalle reciproche madri ed il naturale bisogno personale di farsi ascoltare (102). Attraverso la loro creatività si costruiscono entrambe un iter che permette loro il raggiungimento di un io indipendente. Il libro si conclude con un approfondito studio di Autoritratto di Gruppo di Luisa Passerini. Pubblicato nel 1988 il libro definisce il ruolo femminile pubblico non come meta finale ma come l’inizio "of an alternative path in which the public sphere is not privileged" (125). La Passerini, diversamente dalle altre scrittrici considerate, si propone di analizzare il significato della sua vita privata nel dominio pubblico. La sua scrittura si può definire un "ïbrido formale" che raccoglie la sua voce e quella di altri (attraverso interviste) creando una pluralità di voci che sono parte integrante della storia. La Parati scruta il complesso periodo storico di cui la Passerini è stata una protagonista a partire dagli anni sessanta e sottolinea il fatto che cinque anni dopo la pubblicazione della sua autobiografia scrive un saggio sulla stessa. Per la Parati tale saggio indica che "she has finally come to terms with the fact that the narration of the self is rightfully part of her public production, and that her public self is not at odds with the private identity as they are juxtaposed in the narrative of her life" (151).

Graziella Parati ha scritto un libro di notevole interesse per la scelta delle autrici da lei considerate ma soprattutto per la notevole preparazione e abilità con cui ha affrontato e creato legami nell’intricato tessuto del femminismo italiano. Le autobiografie da lei presentate sono oggetto di attenta analisi filtrata attraverso un’accurata e intelligente preparazione che non si limita alla cultura e società italiana, anche se predominanti, inserendo entrambe nel vasto panorama culturale europeo ed americano.

Per l’analisi del genere autobiografico, per la valutazione del suo diverso valore in epoche e personalità differenziate, per la ricchezza dei riferimenti e l’abbondanza delle citazioni il libro si presta a molteplici usi, sia in corsi di cultura italiana che come stumento di confronto in corsi globali o nei programmi di Women’s Studies. Lo si consiglia anche a chiunque voglia riflettere e capire il difficile iter femminile per la conquista di uno spazio pubblico e privato coesistenti in armonia.

Rosalia Colombo Ascari, Sweet Briar College  

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Gian Biagio Conte. The Hidden Author: An Interpretation of Petronius’s Satyricon. Trans. Elaine Fantham. Sather Classical Lectures, 60. Berkeley: U of California P, 1996. Pp. x + 226.

This volume presents the author’s six 1995 Sather lectures, ably translated from the Italian by Elaine Fantham, and supplemented by a bibliography, a general index, and an index of classical passages.

In Chapter 1, "The Mythomaniac Narrator and the Hidden Author," Conte defines the "hidden author" of his title: "as a deliberate strategy, the author refuses to play a direct role in the account, preferring to make himself a detached external observer, like the reader whose complicity he is seeking" (26-7). In Conte’s reading of Petrionius, the characters in the Satyricon are self-conscious scholastici, students of rhetoric who declaim about their lives. Thus, when early in the novel Encolpius rages at the unfaithful Ascyltus, he echoes Homer’s Achilles and Virgil’s Aeneas. With contrasting citations from pseudo-Longinus’s On the Sublime, Conte aptly characterizes Petrinius’s technique as a "deflation of the sublime" (21). The subsequent appearance of Eumolpus in the picture gallery occasions a useful discussion of parallel scenes in the Aeneid and the Greek novel. Conte concurs with Heinze’s theory that the Satyricon derives generically from the Greek erotic novel.

In Chapter 2, "The Mythomaniac Narrator and the Longing for the Sublime," Conte identifies a second source of Petronian irony in addition to the Greek novel: the exaggerated rhetoric of the school declamation. In particular, he cites three literary models for Encolpius’s furious declamation: Achilles’s quarrel with Agamemnon, Aeneas’s tirade against Helen, and Cicero’s Philippics. Petronius exploits another cliché of Neronian schooling by parodying the recognition scene, typified by Odysseus in epic and Orestes in tragedy. As Conte observes, "Petronius’s narrative can only present farcical recognitions like that of Lichas who, by casting a glance at the genitals of Encolpius, rediscovers an old acquaintance" (53). The storm at sea occasions similar treatment. Parallels from Seneca the Elder are used to illustrate the scholastic nature of Encolpius’s meditations on the shipwrecked corpse. Conte adduces important parallels to the poetic manifesto of Eumolpus, praecipitandus est liber spiritus (68-72).

In Chapter 3, "The Deceptiveness of Myth," Conte examines how Petronius exploits the extraordinary events characteristic of the ancient novel, and gives them a parodic twist. In the Satyricon, the melodramatic motif of attempted suicide becomes Encolpius and Giton tussling over a mock razor. The primary subtext is the epic model of Virgil’s Nisus and Euryalus. But Giton himself explicitly invokes a tragic precedent, that of Jocasta interceding between Eteocles and Polynices(79). By the same token, Encolpius’s encounter with Circe makes him a second Odysseus, reduced to an anti-hero afflicted by Priapus with impotence. Persecuted by Priapus, Encolpius imagines himself restored to virility by the ithyphallic deity Mercury.

Chapter 4, "Sex, Food, and Money: Low Themes versus High Scenarios," first examines Petrionius’s famed Milesian tale, the story of the widow of Ephesus. Conte notes a parallel between this tale and the episode of Encolpius’s slaying of a goose sacred to Priapus: in both narratives the lower elements of sex, food, and money reduce the romance situation to a coarser banality. Elsewhere in the novel, Conte notes, "sex, food, and money produce both an alternative scenario and two major antagonists: Quartilla and Trimalchio" (114). After a brief discussion of Quartilla’s Priapean vigil, the discussion turns to the Cena Trimalchionis, the most celebrated episode in Petrionius’s narrative. Conte notes that while this dinner party vulgarizes Plato’s Symposium, the immediate model is a Latin classic, Horace’s Satire 2.8, in which Fundanius describes Nasidienus’s banquet. Central to the language of the episode is Trimalchio’s linking of rhetoric with cookery, a comparison which originated in the anti-rhetorical context of Plato’s Gorgias.

Chapter 5, "The Quest for a Genre (or Chasing Will o’ the Wisps?): Some Skeptical Thoughts on Menippean Satire," examines the questions posed by the Satyricon’s prosimetric form. Conte notes how literary critics from Bakhtin on have defined Menippean satire in ways which add little to our understanding of the classical context. By contrast to Menippean satire, which ridicules gods and heroes in trivial contexts, the Satyricon portrays low characters striving for sublimity. At the same time, Petronius preserves the verisimilitude which Menippean satire so readily sacrifices to paradoxical humor. Even the prosimetric form, considered the hallmark of Menippean works, may in fact link the Satyricon to the Greek comic novel, as has been shown by the recent discovery of papyri fragments containing the so-called romances of Iolaus and Tinuphis (162-65).

In Chapter 6, "Realism and Irony," Conte observes that realism in literature lies not in Auerbachian mimesis. Instead, "Petronian realism, if we want to call it realism, is the capacity to transpose into the text different symbolic systems and different spheres and experiences of life, and to do so with an empathy that excludes both sympathy and the aggressivity of satire" (177-79). Conte compares Encolpius’s mythomania with the imperial taste for pantomime. Returning to the theme of realism, Conte concludes with a reading of the short poem, "Quid me constricta spectatis fronte Catones" (132.15). Far from constituting the author’s own apology for his work, Conte shows how this poetic outburst of Encolpius, precipitated by his impotence, confuses reality with literature.

Conte’s lectures read very well, thanks in part to the fluid translation of Elaine Fantham. Like the Petronian narrative, they occasionally digress to offer fascinating glimpses of ancient culture. Indeed, his episodic essays manage to create a Petronian atmosphere of novelty and variety while repeating the same thematic material. Conte characterizes the Satyricon in words which seem to describe his own study: "the echoes must be heaped up in order to recall powerful moments of the literary universe" (87).

One might protest that the "hidden author" of the title is merely what others call the subtext, which in turn is the traditional object of Quellenforschung, a field in which Conte has few peers. And one might complain that Conte is covering his tracks in his first lecture when, in highlighting the illusory world of the scholastici, he avoids the opening episode of the Satyricon, which explicitly introduces the theme. But such remarks detract little from what constitutes an important and engaging study of Petronius’s enigmatic masterpiece.

David Marsh, Rutgers University          

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Emilia Ferreiro, Clotilde Pontecorvo, Nadja Moreira, Isabel Garcia Hidalgo. Cappuccetto Rosso impara a scrivere, Scandicci (Firenze): La Nuova Italia, 1996. Pp.xiv + 326 + diskette.

Only a scholar of the caliber of Raffaele Simone could succeed in prevailing upon four professors of three different countries to cooperate and prepare six essays on psycholinguistics in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Simone does not need an introduction: not only is he professor of linguistics at the University of Rome "La Sapienza," but, for many years, he has been the prime mover behind the publishing house "La Nuova Italia". Emilia Ferreiro teaches at the CINVESTAV (Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados) in Mexico City. Isabel Garcìa Hidalgo is a researcher at the Coordinación de Servicios de Cómputo in El Colegio de Mèxico. Nadja Moreira is a specialist in reading and writing at the Departamento de Letras Vernáculas in the Universitade Federal de Ceará (Fortaleza, Brasil). Finally, Clotilde Pontecorvo teaches Educational Psychology at the University of Rome "La Sapienza." In addition, a fifth scholar participating in the preparation of the book, Daniela Fabbretti, is identified as a member of the Department of Psychology at "La Sapienza." These scholars are united by a common thread, namely, their interest in learning how children solve the problem of putting their thoughts in writing, when asked to prepare a composition on a familiar subject. In addition to the present Italian edition, the book appeared in Spanish under the sponsorship of Editor Gedisa and in Portuguese by Editor Atica, so that the Italian editor can justly boast that the present book is but one of three variants of an original that does not exist (xiv).

The challenges encountered in preparing the book were diverse and seemed, at first, overwhelming, since they were of a pedagogical and technical nature. The writers based their work on many previous studies showing that children, regardless of the language used, try to render the spoken language into written symbols at an earlier age than it was heretofore believed. The authors agreed that the text to be studied would be Cappuccetto Rosso (La Caperujita Roja in Spanish, Chapeuzinho in Portuguese), because of its great popularity among children speaking any of the three Romance languages. The main technical problem was the creation of a data bank and of the appropriate software supporting such data. The problem of a data bank was solved by the cooperation between the Mexican and the Italian committees on scientific research (CONACYT in Mexico, CNR in Italy) that resulted in an exchange of researchers. The solution of the software problem was TEXTUS, developed by one of the CNR’s subcommittees, and is explained by Isabel García Hidalgo in the Appendix (239-77) and in a guide, prepared by García Hidalgo and Daniela Fabbretti (279-310).

Once they agreed which software was to be used, the scholars had to agree upon the elements to be analyzed, such as line, punctuation, variants of transcription, and morphology. They then researched the hypothesis that children generally tend toward hyposegmentation, namely, they attach to each other many of the elements that would be separate in a grammatically correctly written string. This is similar to what occurs to someone listening to a foreign language with which he or she is not yet familiar and all sounds combine into what seems to be an unending word. The complexity of analysis confronting the authors was exacerbated by the different problems encountered in different languages. While Italian children, for example, have difficulties in transcribing double consonants, Spanish-speaking children are baffled by words whose meanings change according to punctuation, or lack thereof, such as ¿cómo? (how?) and como (as), or ¿por qué? (why) and porque (because).

The book is composed of an introduction, six essays, an appendix, a bibliography, and an index. The first essay, "Lingua scritta e ricerca comparativa" by Pontecorvo and Ferreiro, contains the fundamental problems outlined above. It is followed by "I confini tra le parole" by Ferreiro and Pontecorvo, which studies the historical meaning of the word "word" in its significance of segmentation of a written text and further investigates the statistical distributions of hyper and hyposegmentation. Clotilde Pontecorvo’s essay, "L’apostrofo unisce o separa," is of interest only to Italian scholars, since Spanish and Portuguese do not use this sign of punctuation. The fourth essay, Moreira and Pontecorvo’s "Chapeuzinho/Cappuccetto: norme e variazioni grafiche," is a comparative and statistical study of variants occurring mostly in Brazilian Portuguese and of the variants occurring in the spelling of the Italian "Cappuccetto." The following essay, Emilia Ferreiro’s "I confini del discorso: la punteggiatura," is of great interest to all scholars of historical linguistics, as it draws a detailed history of punctuation, beginning as early as the sixth century and ending with a comparative study of how Italian and Spanish children solve the problems of punctuation. The final essay by Ferreiro and Moreira, "Le ripetizioni e le loro funzioni testuali," studies the phenomenon of repetition in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. It has already been mentioned that in the appendix, Isabel García Hidalgo explains the characteristics and functions of the system, TEXTUS, that was purposely developed for this project. The files contained in the diskette attached to the book are in ASCII so that they can be read by any word processor.

A few years ago, this reviewer wrote an essay on the impact of American English on the Italian language ("L’italiano che commercia con l’anglo-statunitense," Italiano e oltre 5.3 (1990): 131-135). The remarks made eight years ago are not only confirmed by the language employed by the four writers, but the borrowings from American-English have become matter-of-fact, when it comes to the technical jargon of computerism. Expressions like "nella directory," "della subdirectory," "nel file (pronounced [fail]" are common throughout the "Guida rapida per l’uso del sistema TEXTUS." It is also interesting to find the English "clause" translated with the Italian "clausola," a meaning it has only very recently acquired.

Of course, this book is intended for the specialist of psycholinguistics and requires, in addition to a modest grounding in this discipline, a moderate knowledge of Spanish, and Portuguese. But it should be read also by linguists in related fields, since it contains a wealth of information that is generally assembled not in one, but in many volumes. Additionally, the bibliography is ample and up-to-date. The book should also be read very attentively by reading specialists, since it may open new vistas in pedagogical problems related to reading. Finally, this treasure warrants the extension of the international cooperation mentioned in my initial paragraph: an English translation should be a matter of course.

Robert C. Melzi, Emeritus, Widener University        

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Monica Farnetti, ed. Geografia, storia e poetiche del fantastico. Firenze: Leo S. Olschki Eitore, 1995. Pp. 244.

Il libro raccoglie le comunicazioni avvenute alla biblioteca comunale di Ferrara nel gennaio 1994, presentate, come scrive nella sua introduzione Monica Farnetti, curatrice dell’opera, "secondo esigenze di ordine rispettivamente geografico, storico e poetico" (5). La raccolta si apre con cinque saggi attestanti il contributo della critica italiana nell’area della geografia del fantastico per una presa di coscienza della tradizione teorica italiana, già postulata da precedenti lavori di gruppo di scuola pisana (La narrazione fantastica, 1983) e romana (I piaceri dell’immaginazione, 1987, e Fantastico e Immaginario, 1988).

Il saggio di Barnaba Maj sulla letteratura tedesca sostiene che "l’inquietante è la cifra determinante e caratteristica del fantastico" (12). Attraverso una parziale analisi dell’opera di Kafka il Maj giunge alla conclusione che "l’Unheimliche coincide con la lingua stessa, in uno sforzo neo-gnostico di ricuperare linguisticamente il senso della deiezione, in quanto radicalità dello spaesamento" (24).

Il saggio che segue, di Silvia Albertazzi, considera il fantastico nella letteratura inglese attraverso l’ottica di Christopher Candwell, per il quale "soggettività fantastica e oggettività realistica" non sono "nella letteratura britannica, forme separate, ma espressioni di un’unica contrapposizione fra l’io e il mondo" (27). Il fantastico sarebbe quindi presente tanto nei grandi romanzi realistici inglesi quanto nelle narrazioni gotiche, perchè in entrambi i casi si tratta di un mondo fittizio di cui "il fantastico ne è l’esasperazione al fine della sorpresa" (28). La storia fantastica permette al lettore di ritrovarsi tra le paure quotidiane. L’inquietudine socio-politica della nostra epoca favorisce e incrementa il desiderio del fantastico nel quale "si raccontino bugie per dire la verità" (32). Sostiene Salman Rushdie , esponente della letteratura postcoloniale, che "l’irrealtà è l’unica arma con cui la realtà può essere distrutta, in modo che la si possa in seguito ricostruire" (33). Il fantastico di questa letteratura si differenzia dal fantastico occidentale nella sua rappresentazione dei fatti che sono già assurti a mito. Si tratta quindi di personaggi che provocano nel lettore disorientamento più che empatia. Nel confronto che l’autrice fa tra l’opera dei "due maggiori autori anglofoni di letteratura non mimetica, Stephen King e Salman Rushdie" (35) emerge una sostanziale differenza. Per King "lo scrittore di horror non è altro che un agente dello Status quo" (36), per Rushdie è invece l’evocatore "delle paure ancestrali dei coloni nei confronti degli indigeni e della diffidenza di questi ultimi nei confronti dei coloni" (37).

Nel terzo saggio Anna Botta presenta la tecnica narrativa di Georges Perec, ispirata alla mise en abyme, al trompe-l’oeil e al puzzle soffermandosi in particolare sulla novella "Storia di un quadro" e sul romanzo "La vita, istruzioni per l’uso." Qui le strategie narrative fanno "dubitare dei propri sensi, dello statuto della realtà quotidiana, dello spazio in cui ci si muove" (48) mettendo in dubbio la nozione stessa dello spazio, creando una nuova inquietante visione del fantastico. Interessante è il saggio di Emilia Perassi che ci propone il caso di Silvina Ocampo, il cui fantastico vede nell’erudizione una "dorata catena" (59) da cui liberarsi orientandosi "piuttosto in direzione del semiotico originario, luogo dal quale deconstruire, anziché innalzare un modo della lingua, quindi del pensiero" (58). La prima parte della raccolta si conclude con Beatrice Bonadiman che attribuisce la presenza del magico nella letteratura russa, anche nell’Ottocento, per la particolare posizione della Chiesa locale che nei confronti di streghe e stregoni si vede costretta a "difenderli dalle azioni violente e vendicative della popolazione" (68).

La seconda parte della raccolta presenta una progressione storica del fantastico partendo dal Cligès di Chrétien de Troyes che per Francesco Zambon si iscrive "nella storia di un antichissimo motivo tradizionale che trova origine nell’idea sciamanica dello sposo o della sposa soprannaturali" (76). Alessandro Scarsella analizza le funzioni dell’immaginazione attraverso indagini sulla poetica antica e medioevale e conclude affermando che in Vico l’identificazione di fantasia ed ingegno suggerisce il ricongiungimento del fantastico della vera poesia alla sua originaria natura religiosa. Monica Farnetti sottolinea la necessità di una diversa interpretazione del termine "visione" secondo le varie epoche letterarie e attraverso l’analisi dell’opera del Varano conclude che "nel secolo dei Lumi, e nel corpo della poesia visionaria, la religione immaginativa" (119) soccombe mentre si impone la retorica razionalistica della visione. Per il Lattaruolo il fantastico "è presente piuttosto come componente, per lo più marginale, del romanzo storico, della novella sentimentale in versi, del libretto d’opera, della ballata romantica" (126-2). Le prime esperienze comunque più significative si ritrovano nell’ "elaborazione del lutto, di un legame con il passato che diviene prigionia o malattia . . . primi segni di un fantastico veramente moderno" (132-3). Questa seconda sezione si conclude con le riflessioni di Valentina Contini sulla scrittura di Giorgio Manganelli. Conclusione appropriata visto che per lo scrittore il testo è "uno spazio mentale disegnato da una struttura verbale" e il linguaggio è "incantamento, evocazione allucinatoria" (136). Per lui il linguaggio è organizzazione, anzi autoorganizzazione, perchè può solo comunicare se stesso non avendo nessuna funzione referenziale. Questo significa il rifiuto del verosimile perchè il linguaggio "è il perpetuarsi di una ‘bella fola’, ‘una grande e infinita menzogna’" (140).

La terza parte della raccolta si apre con una erudita presentazione sul "Fantastico e Teoria Letteraria" di Filippo Secchieri per il quale "il fantastico è sempre, e non soltanto accessoriamente, la qualificazione di un’esperienza di lettura, di un uso particolare del testo, che prende corpo durante le interazioni che consentono la produzione di significanza" (147). Per questa dimensione relazionale è difficile stabilire l’essenza ultima del fantastico perchè in ogni opera letteraria "il linguaggio normalmente prende congedo dalla realtà . . . lungo una traiettoria che secondo un’indicazione del Manganelli, congiunge l’esperienza letteraria alla condizione originaria del parlante" (149-50). L’alterità e la polisemia sono quindi condizioni inseparabili della finzione letteraria della categoria fantastica, categoria estetica più che genere letterario, in quanto il fantastico è prerogativa della fabula più che dell’intreccio.

Nel saggio seguente di Giorgio Rimondi si analizza la formazione dell’immagine speculare che è all’origine del carattere "immaginario" dell’io costituentesi nell’Altro e quindi nell’inconscio, partendo dal presupposto che la dimensione visiva è il punto centrale del pensiero di Lacan. Il Rimondi nota che reale e realtà ricorrono come sinonimi nella valutazione del fantastico e suggerisce una revisione della terminologia critica, alla luce dello sforzo teorico di Lacan.

Il fantastico come "uno dei punti di incontro tra l’attività scientifica e quella poetico-letteraria" (177) è quanto sostiene Antonella Fabbrini, essendo l’immaginazione una facoltà essenziale per lo scienziato. Una serrata e interessante presentazione del fantastico nei romanzi di D’Annunzio è il contributo di Francesca Mellone che lo individua "in un codice visivo, sulla traccia di somiglianze che chiedono all’immagine di coniugare il segno iconico con quello verbale" (194). Fabrizio Bagatti nell’esaminare il mondo reale e immaginario della letteratura per l’infanzia vede la seduzione della fiaba "nella presunzione estrema che la parola coincida con il fatto, che il ‘reale’ e l’ ‘immaginario’ siano le due facciate di un medesimo foglio, indivisibili e parimenti necessarie l’una all’ontologia dell’altra" (214). Il libro si conclude con una presentazione molto dettagliata della sfortuna di tale produzione a partire dagli anni quaranta. Ma nel 1970 "si verificò una vera rivoluzione editoriale" (224) con la collana "Cosmo" che ebbe immnediato successo. È l’inizio dell’assunzione di piena "dignità culturale da parte della letteratura dell’immaginario e dei suoi autori" (225) che negli anni 90 assume notevole importanza sia sotto forma di libri che di riviste.

Il libro è indubbiamente interessante, e spaziando in tempi, luoghi e letterature diverse, offre una molteplicità d’ipotesi di studio che possono soddisfare interessi di vario tipo o suggerire nuovi itinerari di cultura.

Rosalia Colombo Ascari, Sweet Briar College 

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Donato Pirovano. Modi narrativi e stile del Novellino di Masuccio Salernitano. Pubblicazioni della facoltà di lettere e filosofia dell’università degli studi di Milano, 168. Sezione di filologia moderna 23. Firenza: La Nuova Italia Editrice, 1996. Pp.281.

Donato Pirovano has undertaken to follow up the particular stylistic observations of Petrocchi, Gentile, et al. with a systematic stylistic analysis of Masuccio’s Novellino. His aim is in part to win new appreciation for what Pirovano claims, with some justice, to be one of the most original and striking of Boccaccio’s many imitators. This study, which makes a number of interesting and valuable contributions, is divided into three major sections: one on narrative modes or techniques, a second on rhetorical aspects or figures of speech, and a third on syntax and vocabulary.

Beginning with a look at the macro-structure, i.e. Masuccio’s manner of composing the once separate tales into a connected whole, Pirovano indicates how Masuccio has created, through his framing materials and through stylistic features of the narratives, an ongoing conversation between himself and his selected audience. He then lays out a series of narrative "modi" or "tecniche" – almost subgenres – which are typical of Masuccio’s stories. Later these are gathered under three broader rubrics: 1) narrative modes, the more diffuse "racconto-romanzo" and the more focused "novella-episodio" in which events are primarily told by the narrator with very little dialogue; 2) the more theatrical "novella-contrasto" (an encounter between two characters), "mimo" and "commedia" (these seem analogous in their more concentrated or diffuse focus to the episodio and romanzo, although Pirovano neither says so nor arranges them in an order to make the parallel evident) with an emphasis on dialogue, gesture, props, and an audience (the urban crowd, the rest of the convent); and 3) the "novella-polemica" in which a shameful scene is shown and occasions an impassioned tirade, either by a character or by the author himself. Although Pirovano acknowledges that tales cannot always be clearly placed in one or another of these categories, the laying out of these "tecniche" allows for some observations about the differences between Masuccio’s preferences and those of his obvious but reworked model Boccaccio. For example, Pirovano points out Masuccio’s strong interest in the use of dramatic scenes of encounter to juxtapose opposite extremes, and his lack of interest in the verbal play or witty repartee which structure so many of the tales of the Decameron. He also observes stylistic differences among Masuccio’s own modes: for example, between the simple "disse" of the dramatic modes and the more elaborate phrases (e.g., "con rencriscimento grandissimo") of the narrated modes.

The chapter on rhetorical figures immediately indicates Masuccio’s aims: especially emotional expressivity and the creation of a self-conscious literariness or elevated discourse. There is a long list of metaphors, illustrating the variety of areas from which Masuccio drew his vehicles (although the tenor seems to be almost always erotic), and comments distinguishing the characteristic aspects of his style (his preference for metaphor over simile, the frequency of hyperbole) as well as on types of figures which Masuccio used little and only in the most conventional manner (e.g. metonymy, personification). I am glad to see that Pirovano pays attention also to the phonic qualities of style, pointing out that Masuccio clearly expected his stories to be read aloud. He remarks, for example, Masuccio’s preference for harsh, hard, or sibilant sounds, his use of cursus, and his tendency to end a tale with rhymed clauses. Fascinating comparisons of an earlier manuscript version of some tales with the later printed version allow Pirovano to note how Masuccio reworked his material to add in some of these effects. Thus we get a glimpse of the polishing process in the development of Masuccio’s prose. Pirovano also analyzes particular passages for their combination of figures to create an effect. "Masuccio non parla, grida," he comments (168), pointing to a piling up of phrases with apostrophe, anaphora, hyperbole, imagery, and evocations of Dante’s hell, all working together towards the aim of intensification.

The analysis of syntax shows how Masuccio, while trying to imitate Boccaccio’s long and complex sentences, tends toward simpler syntactical constructions, producing an effect of complexity by the accumulation of parallel phrases or by the interruption and suspension of phrases. Again comparisons with the manuscript versions reveal Masuccio’s efforts to move away from a simple, paratactic syntax to something with a more dignified tone. Pirovano examines the differences between framing material and narrative, and between one mode of narrative and another, to see how syntax might contribute to their distinctiveness. He notes features which seem characteristic of Masuccio but are more generally attributable to a fifteenth-century or a Neapolitan, a novellistic or a humanistic style. Masuccio’s fondness for symmetrical series of phrases, and for Latinisms even in comic episodes, are clearly illustrated. The study offers many good observations: Masuccio’s drawing from Boccaccio’s Corbaccio as well as from the Decameron , his use of proverbs especially in the framing materials, the particular frequency and fruitful use of religious vocabulary, the lack of interest (contrasting with Boccaccio’s) in varying regional dialects to suit the geography of the tale. Pirovano concludes that Masuccio uses a more limited range of focus, mood, style, and tone than Boccaccio, but that this very limitation produces a unified atmosphere which is his most original characteristic in the novella tradition. It is an atmosphere reinforced by Masuccio’s own continually reinserted presence, within the narrative as well as in its framing.

This study has its weaker moments when it lapses into lists of examples without much analytic commentary. The chapter on different narrative modes, for example, has no conclusion after its descriptive list and we are left wanting to know a bit more: whether these modes contain all of Masuccio’s tales, for example, or only the most typical ones; how this set fits into the larger set of modes available to the novella tradition, or to the novella writing of his century or of Naples , or at least to the Decameron. These are much broader questions, of course, but they would put the list of modes to further use. At the very least some indication of how these different modes will become part of the analysis of syntactical and rhetorical figures would be helpful at the chapter’s end. The section on Masuccio’s use of verbs is a list of particularly expressive verbs with barely any commentary at all; and the list of metaphors and similes, while illustrating variety, gets a bit tedious. Pirovano is at his best when he analyzes the creation of effects, the varied or specific use of particular figures, the technical differences between one mode and another, the ways in which Masuccio differs from Boccaccio, and the changes in Masuccio’s own writing over time. His conclusion does a good job of summing up what is particular to Masuccio’s style and how it compares to Boccaccio’s. A long, thorough, and up-to-date bibliography ends the volume. Anyone interested in Masuccio’s writing will find this study clearly written and very useful.

Janet Levarie Smarr, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

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Maurizio Palma di Cesnola. Semiotica dantesca: profetismo e diacronia. Memoria del tempo, 4. Ravenna: Longo, 1995. Pp. 187.

Beginning from the Singletonian premise that the Comedy emulates the "signifying" of Scripture, a kind of writing through which facts retrospectively gloss texts, and textual signs (retrospectively) gloss each other, the author, a professor of Italian literature at the University of Geneva, has himself produced a text to emulate: a magisterial model of how to decode Dante, who wrote the Comedy "non . . . per essere capito, ma per essere interpretato" (167). The author seeks to become Dante’s "lettore modello," sensitive to the most subtle contextual, thematic, structural, semantic, lexical and numerological correspondences or analogies through which one textual locus echoes another (within the text or in a preceding authoritative text), setting up "parallel passages" in which one passage serves to gloss, or more strongly to "risemantizzare," a previous passage, sometimes drawing on a third (external) text to do so.

The author’s textual decoding thus has an explicit method, whose principles are outlined in the first chapter, using as an example Dante’s own application of the technique in Monarchia III, ix. It also has a precise focus: the prophecies of the Comedy, more exactly its predictions of future events, whether fictive (post eventum at the time of writing but not at the time of the imagined journey, and thus generally more detailed) or real (ante eventum, and thus more ambiguous). The general structure and classification of the various prophecies of the Comedy occupies the second chapter, which discusses also the distinction among Dante-character (who makes no prophecies), Dante-narrator, and the often-forgotten "terzo incomodo" (27), Dante-author (this discussion is not particularly penetrating, and the author could cite, among others, Teodolinda Barolini’s The Undivine Comedy: Detheologizing Dante [Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992], which is built on the insight that what Dante-narrator says he is doing is not the same as what the poet does); the distinction between narrating time (fifteen years) and narrated time (one week); the distinction between the Trecento reader who can decode references to current events (this is the reader the author seeks to become) and the "lettore eterno" (33) who can decode only the timeless meanings of the text; and the question whether Dante was or thought he was or only pretended to be a prophet. The author’s brief treatment of this last issue, which does not particularly concern him (he declares himself "agnostic" [168]), is the weakest point of the book, because the "limiti sfuggenti" between visio and fictio (in the author’s own evocative expression [168]) are not simply a matter of mimetic or narrative technique, but the result of a profound insight into the hypnotic power of finite being (the source of cupidigia), an insight which is very much connected with the ultimate prophetic stance of the text (the truth it seeks to reveal, or rather the conversion it aims to trigger). To be fair, however, these matters are the province of the "eternal" reader, not the decoder of contemporary concrete (political) references the author aspires to become.

The third chapter is the substance of the book, and it is, in a word, mesmerizing. The author analyzes the messianic predictions of the Comedy as one "profezia in progress" (162), resolving "dis-homogeneous" (168) textual details into one evolving system: hence the "diacronia" of the title. As contemporary political circumstances change, the prophecy evolves in response, and the text gives new content to earlier prophecies by providing "parallel passages" which re-direct their interpretation. The prophecies are the canonical three, modeled on the three Augustan prophecies of the Aeneid: veltro (Inf. 1), 515 (Purg. 33), and Cacciaguida’s prediction of the "incredible" future feats of a nine-year-old (Par. 17). To these the author adds a fourth, culminating, prophecy, modeled on the Christological-imperial prophecy of Virgil’s fourth Eclogue ("Iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna"). In an analysis that is breathtaking in its ingenuity and precision, though in some (especially numerological) details perhaps overly subtle, he interprets the "DILigite iustitiam qui iudicatis terraM" of Par. 18 as Dante’s own announcement of the return of Virgo-iustitia (= monarchy, the plenitudo aetatis), to be triggered, in part, by his own Monarchia.

The prophecy of the veltro (1307, in the author’s chronology) remains an intentionally generic imperial prophecy, invoking a triumphant return of justice, but written so that Federico da Montefeltro (perhaps Dante’s host) could recognize himself as a candidate. By the time of the Purgatorio (1310-1313), Henry VII has emerged as the real veltro, Dante’s Augustus, and Dante systematically prepares his anointment as the 515 by designating, in earlier Purgatorial passages, Clement V (fuia) and Philip the Fair (gigante) as the lupa he is to destroy by the year 1315 (515 years from the coronation of Charlemagne). The death of all three by late 1314 coincides with a pause in writing the Comedy after Par. 5 (the Justinian cantos), during which Dante writes the Monarchia to replace the savior Henry VII, giving future veltri the philosophical arms needed to vanquish the lupa. He then, through a passage in Par. 16, re-dates the 515 prophecy to designate 1314, the year in which the fuia-gigante died and the Monarchia appeared, and critiques his own performance as "apprendista profeta" (113) in the rebuke of Aquinas (Par. 13). Through carefully crafted parallel passages, he then begins to prepare the ideological arms Henry VII lacked.

Many of the single interpretations advanced have been proposed at one time or another (and sometimes forgotten) over the last seven hundred years, but perhaps never have they been integrated into such a coherent, persuasive and carefully argued system. Dozens of proposals are new, illuminating many details of the text. Those who have a vested interest in one interpretation or another will no doubt find much to dispute in the author’s hypotheses, which he himself always advances with exemplary prudence; for one who does not, this book provides a remarkably persuasive picture. It also provides a cogent argument for its chronology of Dante’s works, which is essentially the standard one proposed by Parodi. (It is startling, however, that the author never raises the possibility that the Letter to Cangrande, at points quite important to his arguments, might not be authentic.) The book is beautifully written, lucid, elegantly structured, suffused with gentle ironic humor; despite its daunting title, it is at times as gripping as a detective story. Above all, the reader feels that he has entered Dante’s workshop, and knows the poet, his procedures, and his poem better than before.

Christian Moevs, University of Notre Dame  

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Stefano Prandi. Il "diletto legno". Aridità e fioritura mistica nella Commedia. Saggi di "Lettere italiane", 46. Firenze: Olschki, 1994. Pp. 145.

Stefano Prandi’s impressive book is a fine example of a genre by now well established in Dante studies on both sides of the Atlantic: the thematic monograph, tightly but revealingly focused on a particular aspect of the Commedia’s text, and given scope and resonance by its author’s immersion in both the accumulated history of Dante scholarship and the primary cultural materials generated across the centuries between the classical era and Dante’s own times. One suspects (though Prandi does not admit it!) that it began life as a tesi di laurea; if so, any laurels it gained, even merely metaphorical ones, were well deserved. It is a solid piece of scholarship, which merits the attention of any reader seriously interested in the mystical aspect of Dante’s thought and poetry.

As his title suggests, Prandi is interested above all in the complementary, symbolic dyad, aridity-flowering, and the ways in which the former element – consistently seen as negative and tending toward evil, and manifested in a variety of significant details, especially in the first cantica – yields in the course of the poem’s development to the full understanding of and participation in the latter underlying the protagonist’s conclusive experience in Paradiso. The book is divided into two separate but related sections. In the first, "L’albero del male: Inf. XXXIV, 1-84" (13-86), the author begins from the last canto of Inferno and its depiction of Lucifer. He analyzes its symbolic ramifications in considerable detail and traces the line of imagery connecting trees and the Cross. The latter is familiar, of course, in the positive context of Christ’s sacrifice for mankind, but is studied here per viam negativam, along a path that leads from the parodic dead trees of the suicides’ wood (by way of the evocation of Lucifer’s own position as a "grottesca scimmiottatura" [52] of Christ’s crucifixion) to the inverted image of the Tree of Life become crux diaboli and therefore irredeemably sterile.

Sterility is definitively counteracted in the second essay, "Il tema mistico della fioritura nella Commedia" (87-132). The first part studies "il simbolismo dell’albero fiorito nelle tradizioni leggendarie medievali," ranging widely across medieval culture and dealing especially effectively with works produced and circulating in less highly educated circles than those of the clerical/intellectual élite. From this more general background the essay’s second section zeroes in on the Commedia, especially Purgatorio and Paradiso, examining the distillation of this cultural material that takes place in Dante’s poem, to the point where the motif of flowering-into-ripeness becomes a key descriptive element in the Commedia’s depiction of its principal character’s spiritual experience.

Both essays are nourished by their author’s wide reading in primary and secondary materials (in particular, Prandi, not without beneficial consequences for his argument, shows a much greater awareness of English-language scholarship than is the norm in Italy), and both offer inspiration for further scholarly reflection on the nature and extent of Dante’s involvement in the (or at least a) mystical tradition of the Christian Middle Ages. To that extent, the book more than fulfills its author’s hope that it will be "un contributo stimolante e un ulteriore invito alla lettura dell’alta, inesauribile poesia della Commedia" (12).

Steven Botterill, University of California at Berkeley 

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Amilcare A. Iannucci, ed. Dante: Contemporary Perspectives. Toronto Italian Studies: Major Italian Authors. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1997. Pp. xxii + 299.

It is a habit of Anglo-American dantisti, especially those working in North America, to reflect upon what they are doing, usually with some degree of wonder: how is it that after almost seven hundred years, and in an intellectual, religious, and cultural climate so removed from Trecento Florence, they can produce so much work, such interesting work, on Dante? While there is of course a world-wide Dante industry (Iannucci notes that at least 1,500 publications on Dante appeared between 1984 and 1988 [x]), there is a peculiar vitality to English-language Dante scholarship, a sense of new questions, new approaches, new results, new discoveries. Every few years that vitality contemplates itself, perhaps seeking to explain itself, in a volume of commissioned or recent essays covering a broad range of issues. In the last ten years, such volumes include Amilcare Iannucci’s earlier collection Dante Today (special issue of Quaderni d’italianistica 10.1-2 [1989]), Gian Carlo Alessio’s and Robert Hollander’s Studi americani su Dante (Milano: Franco Angeli, 1989), Dino Cervigni’s Dante and Modern American Criticism (Annali d’Italianistica 8 [1990]), Rachel Jacoff’s Cambridge Companion to Dante (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993), and Theodore Cachey’s Dante Now: Current Trends in Dante Studies (Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 1995). While these volumes differ in their motivation, origin, and audience, they are all useful, with a number of important contributions. Amilcare Iannucci’s new volume is one of the very best, for the unfailingly high standard of its essays, its broad range, and its intelligent structure.

The fourteen essays, of which nine have been previously published in some form, mirror the dominant concerns of recent Anglo-American criticism, as reflected also in most of the collections mentioned above. The editor himself notes a special interest in Dante’s "minor works," a focus on formal, intertextual, and narrative structures in the Comedy along with the question of Dante’s poetics, and the history of the poem’s reception (x, xx). A number of the essays touch on each other’s concerns: the palinode as a fundamental interpretative model for Dante’s works, the (textual) grounding of Dante’s unique claims to authority, the adequacy of Auerbach’s and Singleton’s typological analysis of Dante’s poetics, Dante’s metaliterary and auto-exegetical reflection, the implications of gender and sexual differentiation in the Comedy and the relation between literary text and life (Dante’s and ours). Three essays are dedicated to "nodal" or "structurally determining" episodes: Paolo and Francesca, Ulysses, and Earthly Paradise. An invaluable feature of the volume (and presumably of the new series in which it appears) is that each essay provides a carefully selected but extensive bibliography; taken together, these bibliographies provide an up-to-date road map for many of the major issues in contemporary Dante studies. There is also a thorough index of names and textual passages.

The editor’s introduction skillfully weaves together the themes of the essays and proposes its own explanation for Dante’s contemporary success: the Comedy is a "producerly" text, both "open" and "closed," combining "the easy accessibility of the readerly with the complex discursive strategies of the writerly" (xiii-xiv). Iannucci is echoing his remarks in Dante Today (iv). The opening essay, Zygmunt Baranski’s "Dante and Medieval Poetics," stresses the auto-exegetical nature of Dante’s work, his "obsession with the ars poetica" (8), and his insistent metaliterary reflections, which become progressively more radical and unorthodox; in this context Baranski discusses both the poem’s title and the authenticity of the Letter to Cangrande. Albert Ascoli’s "Palinode and History in the Oeuvre of Dante" proposes the palinode as "paradigmatic" for "Dantean intertextuality" (25), and shows its essentially constructed or rhetorical character by examining a tension among the Monarchia, Convivio, and Commedia. Michelangelo Picone’s brilliant "Dante and the Classics" studies the various Dantean canons of auctores, the passage from an Ovidian to a Virigilian model, from the Remedia amoris to the Metamorphoses as the Comedy’s primary classical intertext, and from imitatio to an anti-classicist aemulatio, in which "the recovery of classical poetry is conditional on its complete translation and total re-writing in the language of Christianity" (60). In "Dante and the Bible: Biblical Citation in the Divine Comedy," through a number of illuminating analyses of specific passages, Christopher Kleinhenz shows "how Dante uses the biblical text as an integral part of his own text," and "how meaning in the Comedy may be either generated or enhanced by a consideration of the larger referential context provided by the biblical tradition" (77). Iannucci’s own essay, "Forbidden Love: Metaphor and History (Inferno 5)," elegantly expands the dominant critical tradition on Paolo and Francesca (the critique of courtly love) to read the episode as emblematic of the tragic social consequences of cupidity (for which adulterous passion becomes the central metaphor), a pattern embodied in "the tragic spectacle of history" (103). "Dante’s Ulysses: Narrative and Transgression" is a synthesis of some of the central insights of Teodolinda Barolini’s The Undivine Comedy: Detheologizing Dante (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992): "if the pilgrim learns to be not like Ulysses, the poet is conscious of having to be ever more like him. The Paradiso, if it is to exist at all, cannot fail to be transgressive; its poet cannot fail to be a Ulysses" (119). This Ulyssean component is mirrored in the textual fracturing, stuttering, and "jumping" of the Paradiso.

In "Narrative Design in Earthly Paradise," Richard Lansing studies "the conceptual structure" of Purgatorio 28-33, showing how it mirrors that of each terrace of Purgatory: "the eighth terrace, gathering and integrating all of what comes before, embraces the previous seven and simultaneously transcends them by going one beyond, to achieve the definitive view of the role of the individual within the context of human history" (142). Lino Pertile ("A Desire of Paradise and a Paradise of Desire: Dante and Mysticism") stresses that what Dante depicts in Paradise is not union with God, but "the way in which Dante the pilgrim draws closer and closer to that point" (161). What he is depicting is desire, "for where there is no desire left to fill, there is no language and no poetry" (163). In "Dante and the Authority of Poetic Language," Steven Botterill argues strongly that Dante did not share the skepticism about language and referentiality attributed to him by postmodern critics, "the fruit of a theologically deracinated criticism" (177). That language has limits does not mean that Dante’s quest for a word both ornata and santa (174), epitomized in the discourse of St. Bernard in the empyrean, ends in falsehood, fiction, and chaos. Joan Ferrante ("Dante and Politics") provides a survey of political issues in Dante’s works, with wide-ranging references, and introduces the theme of Dante’s "sexual politics," in which androgyny becomes a "positive force" (191). This suggestion is extensively developed by Carolynn Lund-Mead in "Dante and Androgyny": the fusion of masculine and feminine "express the crossing of psychic and ontological boundaries" (197), becoming an image of the Incarnation ("Beatrice is woman’s flesh. Without Christ as Word made flesh, Beatrice would not be the flesh which Dante makes word" (204). John Ahearn ("Singing the Book: Orality in the Reception of Dante’s Comedy") explores the relation between oral ("an acoustic or musical event" [226]) and literary ("silent textual decodification" [222]) reception of the Comedy in Dante’s time, showing how central public performance was to the Comedy’s penetration of "all levels of Trecento society" (226). Deborah Parker’s "Interpreting the Commentary Tradition to the Comedy" is a lucid survey of the commentaries to the poem, focussing especially on the Trecento and the Renaissance, and classifying their uses; the essay includes a particularly useful bibliography. The volume ends with William Franke’s "Reader’s Application and the Moment of Truth in Dante’s Divine Comedy," which initially appeared in Lectura Dantis 12 (1993), and was incorporated into Dante’s Interpretive Journey (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996). His Heideggerian reading supplies a telling critique of the notion, derived from Auerbach and Singleton, that "the poem’s claim to historical reality" is grounded "primarily in its mimetic realism"; through an elegant analysis of the Paolo and Francesca episode, Franke shifts that grounding to the interpretative act of reading itself, through which we (mis)define ourselves in history, like Francesca.

Striking, in the volume as we have briefly surveyed it, is the absence of sustained reflection on philosophical, theological, moral, scientific, historical, and philological issues. While Americans have typically left the latter to the Italians, and the Singletonian era has passed for the others, still the volume under-represents the recent work in such fields (by Boyde, Durling, Martinez, Scott, Mazzotta, Cornish, Kay, Morgan, Carugati, Armour, Ryan, Najemy, to name just a few among many practitioners), thus perhaps unconsciously helping to define such concerns as marginal in the current critical climate. With this reservation, there may be no more useful volume of essays to put in the hands of contemporary students of Dante’s poem.

Christian Moevs, University of Notre Dame 

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Stephen Murphy. The Gift of Immortality: Myths of Power and Human Poetics. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1997. Pp. 319.

This study examines a central topos in Western literature – the claim of poets to bestow immortality on heroes and patrons – and situates it within a broader intellectual context. In his introduction, Murphy summarizes four modern thinkers who guide his inquiry: Vico, Cassirer, Adorno, and Marcel Mauss; and he points to the writers whose use of the topos he will analyze: Cicero, Horace, Ovid, Petrarch, Politian, and Budé.

Chapter 1 reviews a series of related classical themes. Among the Greeks, Murphy examines the Homeric concept of kleos, fame, and the social context of gift-giving in the Iliad and of song in the Odyssey; and he discusses Pindar’s "traffic in praise" (a phrase borrowed from Leslie Kurke’s 1991 study). Among the Romans, he reviews Cicero’s ideal of literary glory, expecially in the Pro Archia, which is a source for the anecdote about Alexander’s wish for a Homer to celebrate him. For the attitudes of Roman poets towards their patron Augustus, Murphy analyzes Horace Odes 4.8-9, and Ovid, Ex Ponto 4.8.

Chapter 2 deals with Petrarch, beginning with his political views of Rienzi and the Visconti, and culminating in an analysis of the topos of fame in his Africa. In this unfinished Latin epic, Scipio’s deeds are framed by somnia of military and poetic glory. The second of these, the dream in which Homer reveals to Ennius the future triumph of Scipio, is glossed as a form of "poetic metempsychosis" (114).

In Chapter 3, "The Quattrocento and Poliziano," Murphy begins by recounting how Vergerio and Salutati protested the destruction of the Mantuan statue of Virgil in 1397. Next, he surveys what humanists like Filelfo, Panormita, and Guarino wrote about patronage, which introduces a discussion of Poliziano’s Ambra, a Latin poem celebrating Homer and Poliziano’s patron Lorenzo de’ Medici. Next, Murphy traces what he calls the tradition of "poetic paleology . . . the representation of the primordial role of poetic language in forming individual and social humanity" (159). Here Murphy echoes the language of Vico, whose "theological poets" he finds foreshadowed in Petrarch, Boccaccio, and several Quattrocento humanists. Central to Poliziano’s Nutricia is the myth of Orpheus, who is associated with poetic frenzy, furor, a notion which Murphy explicates by adopting Foucault’s analysis of madness. But more important, Orpheus is an archetype of the city founder; and Poliziano’s Nutricia insistently alludes to the relations between ancient poets and their powerful patrons.

Chapter 4 deals with the French humanist Guillaume Budé. Initially, Murphy’s discussion of Budé’s "mystical philology" (203) seems to shift his perspective from pagan to Christian culture, the theme of Budé’s last work, De transitu Hellenismi ad Christianismum (1535). Thus, if "the divine word bestows humanity’s goal, immortality" (211), the context is clearly not that of secular poetic fame. But Murphy then turns to earlier works by Budé which discuss the relations of scholars and royal patrons: the Latin dialogue De philologia (1530) and the French treatise L’institution du Prince (1519). In a brief epilogue, Murphy examines a passage in Ugo Foscolo’s Dei sepolcri.

There is much to admire and much to be learned in this voluble and often valuable study. Murphy has read widely in classical and humanistic scholarship, and judiciously deploys more recent critical notions in his interpretations. While his discussion of Greek and Roman texts holds many insights, the heart of the book is the heroic phase of Italian humanism from Petrarch to Poliziano. Compared to these scholar-poets, the learned but prosaic Budé seems the odd man out. For all his speculation, Murphy generally writes lucidly, avoiding the jargon and convolutions that make theory so difficult to read. True, there are occasional lapses, as when Murphy borrows from Foucault in discussing poetic inspiration (175): "The long tradition of poetic furor maintains the positive transcendent function of word magic inherited from archaic culture, before slipping into the status of mere illusion with the advent of modern madness" (175). But Murphy is no ideologue, and among his modern guides only Vico recurs persistently.

This brief synopsis scarcely does justice to the richness of this volume. Murphy’s book is a provocative study, which, by combining close reading with general theory, revitalizes a central theme in Western letters.

David Marsh, Rutgers University 

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Patricia E. Grieve. Floire and Blancheflor and the European Romance. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature, 32. Cambridge: UP, 1997. Pp. 240.

In this widely researched book, ten years in the making, Patricia Grieve presents a scarcely known, unedited version of Crónica de Flores y Blancaflor (BN Madrid MS 7583). Grieve is to be commended for tackling this forgotten text and its vast context. Given the legend’s wide transmission, its surviving witnesses demand a solid philological examination. Chapter One discusses proper names, toponyms, genealogical evidence, and narremes. Such correspondences are helpful in attempting to establish textual relations; however, here they are not rigorously investigated. Ecdotic work is only hinted at by relying on disparate secondary authorities. It is never clear how all the surviving witnesses and traditions fit together. Only after completing the painstaking philological groundwork can one begin to discuss the dependence of one strain or author on another. As it stands, the reader is left with an incoherent and unconvincing hodge-podge.

The study is plagued by too many goals, resulting in its conflicting methodologies and lack of focus. It sometimes historicizes a text, elsewhere gestures in the direction of gendering, and also takes some tantalizing yet unfulfilled steps toward reception theory. The book could best be defined as a comparative study, yet its comparisons tend to be tenuous and not exhaustive: between one text and another, or one national tradition and another, or sometimes among three or four texts. A less confusing approach would have been to simply compare the respective plots, characters, genealogies, motifs, etc., of all exemplars point by point. In Part Two, the argument turns thematic, centering on concepts of engin and conseil en route to discussing the importance of Divine Intervention and the particular (forced) conversion motif in the Crónica.

Grieve has unwittingly fallen into the chauvinism that ensnared so many nineteenth- and early twentieth-century editors and philologists, namely, the insistence upon the primacy of one text over another on nationalistic grounds. In fact, much of the evidence she arrays to prove the Crónica antedated Filocolo more plausibly suggests that the two were close textual relatives belonging to the same later generation or to the third (Spanish-Italian) strain that Gaston Paris hypothesized. Grieve also makes the unsupported claim that the Spanish prose romance may have "perhaps [reflected] what was in the lost part of the Italian Cantare" (74).

One of Grieve’s agendas was to prove that "much of what has been considered to be original material by Boccaccio [in Filocolo] occurs in the Chronicle" (33). This book will disappoint Italianists who hope for new insights into Boccaccio’s early works. Grieve is frankly perplexed at Boccaccio’s use of pagan gods, understanding very little about his classicism (apparently unaware of Teseida or of David Anderson’s Before the Knight’s Tale) and indicating, without completely grasping, the importance of Rome to Italian authors. She confesses her difficulty with Filocolo: "In the beginning of the story . . . the reader wants to transpose the pagan gods to a Christian significance . . . [but] simply gives up after a while" (177). In one instance, she attributes a motif of the hero drinking tiger’s milk to the presumed Spanish model instead of recognizing an echo of Camilla’s infancy in Aeneid, Book I (98). She more than once alludes to the autobiographical elements in Filocolo, conveniently waving aside Hollander’s comments on the ironic distance between Boccaccio and his narrators (133). She also challenges Smarr’s claim that Boccaccio fused the pilgrimage and conversion topoi to a preexisting romance (139).

Despite her determination to undermine Boccaccio’s originality and complexity by proposing his use of a Spanish model, she is more than once forced to concede that Filocolo is "a work of no little achievement" (132) with respect to the Floire and Blancheflor tradition and to acknowledge "Boccaccio’s considerable achievements . . . in his transformation of the legend" (133). The second half of Chapter 5 attempts more straightforward Boccaccio criticism (Filocolo on its own terms), but this attempt is weakened by a scant knowledge of other Boccaccio works and their critical reception. Surprisingly, Grieve does not list a single manuscript or early print edition of Boccaccio’s Filocolo nor of the anonymous Cantare di Fiorio e Biancifiore, relying instead on outdated critical editions (and translations) to discuss these works and ignoring more recent contributions by scholars such as Balduino or De Robertis.

The book’s one clear contribution to Floire and Blancheflor studies is to announce that there is an earlier Spanish version than the prose romance (c. 1530s). It does not, however, offer sufficient proof that the newly identified Spanish MS was the original, nor does it furnish convincing evidence regarding its date of composition, nor does it supply a compelling reason why Boccaccio would have relied on a Spanish version. (In fact, a study of late medieval and early Renaissance book inventories would have revealed the amazing number of copies of Boccaccio’s works in Spanish libraries.)

To her credit, Grieve does assemble a wealth of data and an extensive bibliography on the various European traditions of this medieval legend. The book will be useful for those interested in studying narrative motives such as the "vows of the peacock," the garden, or the shipwreck. Broadly viewed, the study illustrates the intricate web of political, cultural, and literary relations between and among countries in the Middle Ages. Grieve also rightly points out the fluidity of medieval genres and the way in which different redactors shaped a story according to local needs. The book furnishes some precious evidence about female readership in the late Middle Ages and signals what sounds like a very interesting manuscript anthology to be examined in future cyclification studies.

Gloria Allaire, Purdue University 

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David Wallace. Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy. Stanford: UP, 1997. Pp. xix + 555.

In this engaging and substantial study, Wallace sets out to explore various Italian and English cultural events and their impact upon contemporary literary figures, most significantly Chaucer and the great Italian Trecento authors. Bringing considerable erudition to his analyses of literary works, Wallace situates the literary texts in relation to the interlinked sites of "medieval" London and "Renaissance" Florence, testing the validity of such terminology and suggesting that literary critics should instead "suspend belief in cultural partitions" (7). Wallace’s core argument is that Chaucer understood the works of Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, and others within contexts of political conflict and ideological warfare, most significantly that of Florence, whose committee rule was an associational form, and Lombardy, whose Visconti leadership constituted an absolutist lineage. The literary argument that Wallace makes about Chaucer is thus twofold: Chaucer can be profitably read in relation to his Italian predecessors, and, in turn, the study of Chaucer can provide significant resources and points of departure for the exploration of his predecessors in light of the political contexts of England and Italy.

The first three chapters take up the concern of associational forms (that is, the collective bodies through which individuals experienced themselves as political subjects, for example, parties, guilds, fraternities, households), situated in relation to Chaucer’s Florentine and Lombard visits of 1373 and 1378, respectively. Rejecting the simplistic, and widespread, belief that Chaucer’s reaction to Italy was that of a bedazzled tourist, Wallace finds instead that Chaucer’s appreciation for Italian culture was that of a seasoned diplomat; his visits to Florence and Lombardy exposed him not only to the most crucial conflict of the Italian Trecento, between republican libertas and dynastic despotism, but also to the literary authors exemplifying the cities and their forms of polity. Visits to Florence, and then to Milan and Pavia, exposed Chaucer to the writings of Boccaccio and Petrarch in conjunction with other forms of cultural production both popular and devotional. Chaucer, Wallace argues, encountered the Italian texts within the context of this Florentine-Lombard struggle, and hence his own understanding and appreciation of the texts themselves were informed by the political situations that helped shape them.

After situating Chaucer within these Italian political contexts, Wallace considers the significance of Chaucer’s Italian encounters to his literary enterprise, with particular emphasis upon the compagnye of the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. Beginning with an exposition on the associational forms of compagnye (or felaweshipe), Wallace argues that the General Prologue provides the first instance of Chaucer’s authorial signature, the "sixth of six" topos – "Ther was also a REVE, and a MILLERE, / A SOMNOUR, and a PARDONER also, / A MAUNCIPLE, and myself – ther were namo" (1.542-44) – and that this signature is articulated with both artistic confidence and personal anxiety about the complex division of labor in English society. Guild culture and female slavery in Florence had already shown Chaucer how women, "commodified as voiceless figures within a new symbolic order" (19), posed the threat of coming to recognize their own symbolic significance, which in turn prompted misogynistic complaints from Boccaccio, Wallace finds. Chaucer was thus compelled to assess gender in relation to speech and power in his own work, drawing off Boccaccio’s literary expressions of gender politics. Wallace asserts that English guilds help account for some of the more salient differences between Chaucer’s compagnye and Boccaccio’s brigata, in particular their respective attitudes toward collective behavior. For while the two framed collections, Canterbury Tales and Decameron, share an apparent commitment to the exploration of associational forms, Chaucer favors the more inclusive social groupings illustrated in the General Prologue than the young aristocrats and social hierarchy of Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Several chapters continue with analyses of the Canterbury Tales and its compagnye. Since Chaucer includes various subgroups as well as unassimilable individuals, Wallace, making clear that it should not be construed as an idealized associational form, explores the extent to which associational polity is refigured and foregrounded in specific tales. In the Knight’s Tale, Chaucer stages an act of political rupture: the unraveling of associational forms under Thesian polity. Characterized by Theseus’s resistance to political felaweshipe coupled with the absence of wifely counsel, the Knight’s Tale demonstrates how the presence or absence of wifely counsel and women’s eloquence is connected to larger issues of power and rule. Chaucer’s cutting of Boccaccio’s Teseida, too, emphasizes the significance of Thesian polity, for while Chaucer retained most of the business and political issues, he rejected many of the Teseida’s concerns with social and sexual relationships. Wallace maintains that gender politics in the Canterbury Tales, a recurring concern for both him and Chaucer, can help us explore aspects of statecraft that are problematic or contradictory, especially if gender theory is employed as a means of approaching medieval people as political subjects.

Wallace then travels informally along a trajectory that moves from associational to absolutist forms. The economic and social powers of the countryside are acknowledged in the Miller’s Tale, as John leaves Oxford for Oseney and Nicholas is punished with an instrument of the countryside, the "kultour." The Reeve’s Tale exhibits a more violent opposition between city and countryside (resolving its conflicts in the workplace and bedroom), which Wallace compares to the Decameron’s "most graphic and egregious example of the city screwing the countryside" (134), that of Pietro and Ganni told at the end of the Ninth Day. From there Wallace considers the linguistic details of the Friar’s and Summoner’s Tales, especially in relation to Dante’s Guido of Inferno 27 and to what Wallace characterizes as the deficient language of the religious institutions that they expose. An extensive discussion of the London of Chaucer’s Cook frames an analysis of drynkyng and its attendant issues of social integration and individual rebellion, including the confrontation with the Manciple, whose Tale is critiqued in connection with Dante’s and Boccaccio’s source texts. From there Wallace offers a consideration of the interconnected activities of merchants and lawyers in relation to the Man of Law and his Tale. He notes that Chaucer’s second Canterbury Tales authorial signature is articulated, in the Man of Law’s Introduction, so as to associate vernacular authorship with the texts and procedures of law, an association Wallace develops in conjunction with the Melibee and the Griselda stories of Boccaccio and Chaucer. An exploration of the household rhetoric of violence in the Melibee story offers a brilliant and perspicacious look at the narrative location of a violent man’s physical presence (compared to the similar situation of the Manciple’s Tale). Wallace notes that the Melibee story’s original author, Albertano, was a Lombard and that for Chaucer Lombardy represents a "spatial metaphor for the tyrannical cast of mind" (213), as exemplified in the Clerk’s Tale, the Merchant’s Tale, and the Legend of Good Women.

The last two formal chapters take up the argument that Boccaccio and Petrarch, advancing two distinct political agendas, represent two types of humanism that correspond to, respectively, the Monk’s Tale (De casibus) and The Legend of Good Women. Here Wallace argues that the Monk’s Tale affirms the Boccaccian paradigm, and that the Monk therefore disappoints owing to the repetitive and unstimulating nature of his solitary sequence and the personal boredom it reflects, arguably like that of Boccaccio’s own state of literary acedia. The Legend follows instead the Italian humanists’ paradigm of classical lives. While inspired by Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris, Chaucer’s Legend significantly includes a woman, Alceste, in the business of public life and, as such, prompts comparisons with a Petrarchan model, De laudibus feminarum. This short treatise dedicated to the empress Anne of Bohemia, Wallace argues, precipitates the rewriting of the F Prologue into the G version, which follows the precedent of Petrarchan humanism and rejects the vernacular poetics of Dante and Boccaccio. The book’s formal chapters conclude with a reiteration of Wallace’s "sixth of six" thesis apropos of the Wife of Bath’s quest for husband number six, which, Wallace asserts, is to be satisfied by Chaucer himself – "Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal" (3.45) – and with the assertion that "Chaucer’s dedication to wifely eloquence is a singular historical phenomenon" (377) that Chaucer calls to our attention by way of the "sixth of six" topos.

A brief concluding chapter offers further possibilities about the intriguing relationship of Shakespeare’s works to Chaucer’s and his Italian influences, which underscore both the magnitude of Wallace’s accomplishment as well as the further work to be pursued along the lines that he has so effectively and innovatively opened up. His analyses of literary texts in conjunction with cultural and historical concerns are exemplary throughout, lucid and persuasive, and substantial notes and documentation – over one hundred pages of reference matter – attest to the scope and breadth of learning that informs the discussion. Wallace’s work informs, delights and provokes and should appeal to scholars, teachers, and students of medieval and early modern English and Italian literature and culture.

Catherine S. Cox, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown 

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Bartolomeo Cerretani. Ricordi. Ed. Giuliana Berti. Firenze: Olschki, 1993. Pp. xiv + 478.

Bartolomeo Cerretani. Il dialogo della mutatione di Firenze. Ed. Giuliana Berti. Firenze: Olschki, 1994. Pp. vi + 96.

In her critical editions, Giuliana Berti brings to print two historical works by the Florentine Bartolomeo Cerretani (1475-1524) of interest to historians and literary scholars alike. Cerretani’s writings in general focus on the manifold social and political changes in Florence following the French invasion of Italy in 1494 and up to the author’s death in 1524; at the same time, the works reflect the variety of forms that historical writing could take in this period, as well as some creative strategies for representing the drama and disagreement over contemporary affairs. (Cerretani also penned a third history in treatise form, the Storia fiorentina, which has also been edited by Berti but is not under review here.)

Berti’s editions bring to light materials that could previously be found only in manuscript. In the case of the Ricordi, Berti and her colleague Ezio Tongiorgi, following a trail of bibliographical clues and dead-ends, managed to locate a manuscript that had been lost since early this century. The Dialogo was copied from a well-known manuscript in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze. Prior to these editions, Cerretani’s histories only appeared in the selections edited by Joseph Schnitzer’s Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte Savonarolas, where the Storia fiorentina and Dialogo were published in 1904. Berti’s editions will therefore make Cerretani’s works available to a much wider audience. And the writings will become useful tools in research on the period increasingly known as the "crisis" of the early sixteenth century, the period from the death of Lorenzo il Magnifico in 1494 to the demoralization following Rome’s sack in 1527.

Cerretani did not live to see the Sack, but he was certainly a witness to the ample difficulties facing his hometown after 1494. Not much is known of the author, and the extent of his education remains particularly unclear. What little one can learn from his writings is best found in his Ricordi. Following the common Renaissance practice of keeping a private book (libro segreto), Cerretani recorded events of his own life as well as other items of interest in a book of memoirs. He began his memoirs in 1500, at the age of 26, and the content is quite revealing. The author chose to focus very little on himself, sticking instead to a detailed chronicle of contemporary events. His memoirs are deeply historical, and surprisingly impersonal, quite unlike other books of ricordi and ricordanze produced at the same time. The tone of the daily account varies. Cerretani sometimes takes the position of the man in the street, speaking broadly for public opinion. He notes the complaints about a lack of political response toward the growing British wool imports at Genoa in 1502 (33) or the citizenry’s increasing dissatisfaction in 1503 for Piero Soderini’s highly visible wife (84). Nor does the author shy away from gossip and innuendoes: he mentions the widespread disapproval of young women’s excessively long sleeves which led to sumptuary legislation in March 1502 (36), and he colorfully describes the rumors accompanying the election of Giovanni de’ Medici to the pontificate in 1513 (301-02).

At the same time, the Ricordi assumes the tone of an insider, a figure closely tied to current events and with access to the closed circles in politics and society. Given that Cerretani had served in both the republic and Medicean regimes in the first decades of the sixteenth century, we should not be surprised by this access. As an insider, he is able to offer numerous details of the location, method, and accomplices of Piero Soderini’s escape in 1512 (279-80). And a few pages later, he returns to the same events in far less detail, as if to suggest that news of Soderini’s flight was only then leaking out (289). Cerretani was also present in Pescia in 1504 to provide safe conduct for Roberto d’Alberto, a Pisan defector hoping to influence Florentine policy (102). In short, the author moves between the insider’s and outsider’s point of view, revealing himself as a humanist, optimate, and bureaucrat, but also as a face in the crowd, dismayed like many others by the Sack of Prato, the portents of monstrous births, or the arrogance of the Medici regime.

Just as the author is torn between his insider’s and outsider’s view, he is also ambivalent about the political and social changes going on around him. While he has praise for the broadly based government of the first republic (270), he is also sharply critical of its leading figures, Soderini in particular. In fact, Soderini becomes a sort of tragic character in Cerretani’s account, both a bumbler in the early years of his gonfalonierate, yet a reputable lover of liberty, whose last words when fleeing his office were a request to keep the government open to broad participation ("fa’ largho" 279). Cerretani’s views about Savonarola are also ambiguous. He considers himself a supporter of the frate, but his support is qualified at times, particularly with regard to the Savonarolan movement at large. For instance, his characterization of Giovanbattista Ridolfi, a Savonarolan elected Gonfaloniere after the Medicis’ return, emphasizes negatively his piagnone ties ("era reputato valente huomo ma era capo della setta del frate" 282). A possible clue about the author’s ambivalence can be found in the appendix to the memoirs, where Cerretani lists the supporters and enemies of Savonarola by neighborhoods in the city. Placing himself and his uncle in a list of supporters, the author includes his father as an opponent of the frate. Politics may well have been a sore topic among the Cerretani and could thus have contributed to the author’s ambivalence. Consequently the Ricordi certainly provides rich material for literary and psychoanalytic study.

For historians, the very depth of detail makes the Ricordi an extremely important source on events of this period. It sheds further light on the components of a newly fashioned Medici power, the players, disputes, and negotiations involved, as well as contemporary attitudes toward the regime. In this respect, they complement a host of already published chronicles, including those of Biagio Buonnacorsi, Piero Parenti, Bartolomeo Masi, Luca Landucci, and the well-known aphoristic ricordi of Francesco Guicciardini in providing a portrait of that age. In contrast with these other memoirs, however, Cerretani’s Ricordi and their overwhelming historical focus invite social analysis. The near disappearance of the author/narrator suggests the detachment of an observer but also, indirectly, the author’s personal identification with events of his day. Cerretani may have composed his memoirs in the manner that Marin Sanudo drafted his Diarii simply to serve as a notebook for a later work of history. Consequently, his infrequent personal references may have been an aid to later recollection. However, the appearance of a first-person narrator also suggests that Cerretani wanted to insert himself in a history of Florentine affairs. Readers of the Ricordi should therefore consider the author’s self-reference as an element in the making of social identity.

Cerretani’s Dialogo della mutatione di Firenze is certainly a better known historical document than his Ricordi, primarily because of Schnitzer’s efforts. The Dialogo is often cited as a source on political events in Florence and on perspectives regarding Savonarola from 1512 to 1520. Yet its content moves further afield, touching also on trendy intellectual issues of the day: Luther, Erasmus and Reuchlin, cabalism and astrology. Moreover, its presentation in the form of dialogue is both unique and significant. The author turned to dialogue, as he writes in his preface, to find "nuovo modo allo scriverle" (4), namely, the events that had occurred since the return of the Medici to Florence in 1512. Through dialogue, he was able to present a variety of perspectives on the recent past, perspectives that include both the Savonarolan and Medicean sides of the story. As a work of history, then, Cerretani’s Dialogo blurred the already murky distinctions between history and literature in the Renaissance. It is also a sign of one author’s sensitivity to the many ways in which the past might be interpreted.

The text itself is a conversation set within a series of narrative frames. At the outset, a character called Bartolomeo, presumably portraying the author, appeals to two fictional interlocutors to recount a past conversation. These characters, named Girolamo and Lorenzo, immediately bring to mind the famous figures of Savonarola and Il Magnifico. The association fits primarily for Girolamo, who identifies himself as a Savonarolan and even defends the Dominican’s views in later debates. Girolamo and Lorenzo agree to replay their discussion for Bartolomeo, and thus a second narrative frame begins. Here the fictional speakers happen upon Giovanni, named for Giovanni Rucellai, the Papal Nuncio to Francis I, on the road outside Modena. These three enjoy a prolonged discussion before the third narrative frame commences with Girolamo and Lorenzo participating in a spirited dinner conversation with Rucellai and Francesco Guicciardini, then papal governor at Modena.

All four men are Florentine. Although some aspects of their conversation touch on ultramontane affairs, the bulk of the history under discussion relates to their native city. During the roadside meeting, the emphasis is on current events of European scope. Girolamo and Lorenzo describe their travels north over the past eight years, following their departure from Florence in 1512. Girolamo explains the cabala which he has studied in Frankfurt with Reuchlin, and discusses the appearance, demeanor, and to a lesser extent the ideas of Erasmus and Luther. Only when the figures have settled at Guicciardini’s dinner table does their discussion turn specifically to historical events, and the tone is cooperative, tolerant, and consensual. Giovanni Rucellai, who had participated in the plot to restore the Medici to Florence in 1512, agrees to narrate events for his audience, but he requests the input of all speakers, notably Girolamo, whose Savonarolan tendencies are bound to run counter to his own. Girolamo and all the conversants agree to pool their differing views of the past. Guicciardini even reassures his guests that their views will remain off the record (25). In this manner, the speakers develop a collective account of events up to 1520.

Their dialogue is a unique approach to representing history. The emphasis is social and collaborative: the speakers seem to expect disagreement, even to welcome it. Since they differ fundamentally in their political and social outlooks, some disagreement does occur. Nonetheless, the tacit assumption of their talk is that truth can only follow the open airing of different perspectives. Consequently, Giovanni and Girolamo disagree sharply but cordially about the fulfillment of Savonarola’s prophecies (19-20) and the likelihood of reform within the church (15-17). They find also room for agreement. Girolamo, for instance, supports Rucellai’s description of the factional differences that contributed to the restoration of the Medici, describing the secret coalitions that undermined the efforts of the Savonarolan minority (27). Girolamo even praises Rucellai’s open-mindedness (20) and pokes innocent fun at his circumstances, since Rucellai and his cohort were closed out of the Medicean balía in 1512, that is, the government they had worked to restore (40). In general, the genial disagreement contributes to a picture of the Savonarolan movement and their relations with other optimates in the city. Many Savonarolans were themselves a part of the ruling class, and for this reason their commitment to the frate’s political and moral outlook varied according to their individual interests. Perhaps one thing they shared in common was their disappointment at the fall of the Republic in 1512. We witness this sentiment in Girolamo and Lorenzo, who on that year chose to leave Florence rather than submit to the Medici regime. Writing the Dialogo in 1521, Cerretani captures the pessimism of a Savonarolan movement with little hope of a return to their Grand Council and broad-based government.

Particularly in the Dialogo but also in the Ricordi, Cerretani remains an elusive figure. Berti does little to illuminate his past, or to shed light on the common threads of arguments between the two texts. Neither edition includes a biographical summary. Footnotes are sparse, limited generally to diacritical comments. The task remains for the reader to develop an impression of the author and his views, based on Cerretani’s words alone. No doubt, this was a deliberate strategy by Berti, who aimed to produce texts corresponding as much as possible to the original manuscript versions. For those wanting to know more about Cerretani, there remains the copiously annotated version of the Dialogo, edited by Raul Mordenti (1990). Using the same scribal copy of the late 1500s that Berti also uses, Mordenti offers an edition peppered with explanatory footnotes and accompanied by a thorough introduction and bibliography. Certainly for a first-time reader of Cerretani, Mordenti’s work provides a fuller background, and students and researchers will find his explanations, for instance of obscure cabalistic references, a gentler introduction. However, researchers should not neglect Berti’s version, certainly for the textual fidelity to the manuscripts. In her versions of the Dialogo, for instance, she maintains the same paragraph breaks used in the manuscript, whereas Mordenti has inserted chapter breaks and even chapter titles of his own invention. Sadly, Berti’s edition of the Dialogo contains some errors. In a quick comparison between the manuscript and the published edition, this reviewer has found at least two lines that the editor had skipped; no such comparison was made for the Ricordi. Nevertheless, Berti has produced useful editions of valuable historical sources, preserving both the form and spirit of the manuscripts in the process.

Ross Brooke Ettle, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 

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Laura Cereta. Collected Letters of a Renaissance Feminist. Ed. and trans. Diana Robin. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1997. Pp. 216.

This book is part of a valuable series, edited by Margaret L. King and Albert Rabil, Jr., which presents the work of Renaissance proto-feminists in English translation. The volume includes an admirable general introduction, which concisely summarizes the ancient and medieval philosophical, legal, theological, and literary influences that helped create a misogynist view of woman, as well as humanists’ attempts to dismantle it.

The editor and translator of the present volume has distilled a biography of Cereta from evidence found in these letters. The "Translator’s Introduction" also contains an overview of female education in late fifteenth-century Brescia, a survey of women humanists’ activities in Italy, and an enumeration of themes found in Cereta’s literary production. The lively prose translation will appeal to specialists and non-specialists alike.

Diana Robin has nicely identified classical and contemporary humanist sources, motifs, and even lexicon that Cereta used. Although Robin does a fine job identifying which themes were standard humanist tropes and which were Cereta’s own, one wishes that her commentary would have probed more deeply into Cereta’s thematics. While noting Cereta’s debts to Petrarch and to Boccaccio, Robin does not account for the echoes of vernacular works by Dante or, especially, by Leon Battista Alberti. Many of the parallels to The Family could be considered conventional humanist topoi, but their frequency, language, and co-presence with letters addressed to Alberti family members should not pass by unremarked.

Apart from sketchy comments in the footnotes, the "edition" lacks a critical apparatus. There are no descriptions of the two extant manuscripts, whose readings differ, and no discussion of how the manuscripts and the Tomasini edition (Padua, 1640) are related. Robin should have identified a base text and included a summary discussion of the textual relationships among the witnesses. Some sentences found only in Vat. lat. 3176, "the most complete text," were inexplicably omitted (3n, 84n). Could Marc. lat. 4186 be an earlier version or does it contain author’s variants? Is either manuscript an autograph or were these copied later by Cereta’s readers? Cereta herself refers to "the final draft . . . now being copied out" (34), so she obviously supervised the selection and ordering of her epistles. What do we know about the manuscripts’ ownership and provenance? This could furnish insights into the readership and transmission of Cereta’s letters.

The diligent reader is also perplexed by the inconsistent choices of titles for the letters. Footnotes explain that Robin has retitled certain letters and that the Vatican manuscript had an index with titles. Were these written by a contemporary book owner, by a modern librarian cataloguing the codex, or were they assigned by Cereta herself? Since titles are an important clue to any text’s interpretation, it is crucial to clarify this issue.

Robin’s reordering of Cereta’s production does not respect the manuscript evidence. Why do two dedicatory epistles and an epilogue appear in this edition as items 4, 6, and 5, respectively? Dates at the ends of letters reveal their chronology, and footnotes somewhat inconsistently give the order of the individual letters in each exemplar. However, the original arrangement of the contents is not easily discernible. In Cereta’s own words, the mock funeral oration on the death of a donkey was "the first thing I wrote" (39). This rhetorical exercise which seems banal and innocuous to the modern reader provoked a flurry of hostile response among Cereta’s literary contemporaries; when viewed in its chronological perspective, one can better understand Cereta’s ubiquitous comments about her male (and female) detractors. Yet the "Dialogue on the Death of an Ass" is now found at the end of the volume, almost as an afterthought. Robin should at least offer a statement justifying her rationale for her reordering and should clearly show in parentheses the original order. Since certain noteworthy themes and motifs run throughout Cereta’s work, it would be more valuable for the work of interpretation and analysis to preserve the ordering of the apparently authoritative Vatican manuscript.

I do not wish these criticisms to detract from the inherent worth of this translation. Cereta employed many predictable humanist tropes and relied on well-known classical sources as her male counterparts did, but in numerous passages a startlingly original female voice emerges. Space does not permit a complete discussion of the metaphors and passages particular to Cereta, but these include: a homology of embroidery and writing; vividly detailed descriptions of nature, birds, and animals; friendship as a plant which must be cultivated; passages of sincere piety; and eye-witness "war memoirs" which are more poignant than the drier pacificism of male humanists. There are remarkable glimpses into Renaissance domesticity, such as a birthing scene within the circle of women attending the mother. In several letters, the young widow laments the death of her husband and even hints at the resulting economic and erotic deprivations this loss represented to a woman of her era.

Classical antiquity and mythology are present, but Cereta suppresses elements of rape or incest to put a positive spin on her ancient female characters. In an innovative description of a Hades-like underworld, Cereta adopts the role of a female Orpheus seeking her dead spouse. Recurrent, classically inspired images of Furies, madwomen, and female monstrosities suggest the suppressed rage Cereta felt as a woman whose considerable intellectual powers were too tightly contained by her society. Elsewhere, she fends off polemical attacks on her work, comparing herself to a lion, a tigress, and a she-wolf.

Despite its philological infelicities, this fascinating book should be required reading for women’s studies courses or for anyone who feels the need for a broader, historical comprehension of the origins of modern European feminism.

Gloria Allaire, Purdue University 

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Charles Stanley Ross. The Custom of the Castle: From Malory to Macbeth. Berkeley: U of California P, 1997. Pp. xvii + 205.

This book traces the development of the episode in which a traveling knight, sometimes accompanied by his lady, arrives at a castle and is asked to abide by a strange, often unjust custom. Although this episode was widely imitated in European romance for over four centuries, Ross’s is the first critical study to go beyond its literary aspects to ask how it might tell the reader something about "the challenging legal and cultural conceptions of custom in France, Italy, and England," along with the broad array of moral issues that this entails (xiii). In particular, Ross sets out to demonstrate how these "nuanced narratives explore the social limits of order, violence, justice, civility, and political conformity" (xiii). He begins with "The French Model," analyzing Malory’s Weeping Castle episode with respect to its source in the thirteenth-century prose Tristan. He then follows the course of the romance to Italy ("The Italian Transition") where he explores the politics of power in Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato and its continuation by Ariosto, the Orlando Furioso. In "The English Conclusion," he focuses on Spenser’s Faerie Queene and Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth. In moving from medieval to Renaissance, and from French to Italian to English, Ross aims to show how the episodes reflect changes in the function of custom and the authority of the past, related in part to two factors: "first, the transmutation of oral law into written law, and second, the transition from a French culture of customs to one which followed Roman or civil law and then on to England, a common law country" (10). Combining a perceptive reading of romance with an extensive background in natural and customary law, Ross asks new questions about old texts, and he thereby enriches our own reading of romance. While the early chapters leave some questions unanswered, the analysis is original, thought-provoking, and stimulating throughout.

Ross’s first "test case" is Malory’s episode of the Weeping Castle, a creative imitation of the Castle of Tears (Chastel de Plors) episode from the anonymous prose Tristan (18). Ross selects Malory’s Morte Darthur as representative of the French model because it "follows the French tradition by looking to the past to explain social change" (16). Ross sees the Weeping Castle episode as "an allegory of social pressure" in which the victorious Tristan, rather than eliminating an evil custom of judicial murder, conforms to the custom by beheading the defeated lord and lady of the castle. A way out is found only when Galahaut returns (from self-imposed exile in protest of the custom) to challenge Tristan and avenge the murder of his parents. Ross notes that whereas in the anonymous text Tristan’s courtesy in battle prompts Galahaut to respond in kind, Malory alters Tristan’s motivation by having him yield to Galahaut due to the imminent arrival of his opponent’s reinforcements. While Ross remarks that "Malory seems to have missed the point" (30) of the earlier text, he leaves the reader curious to hear more about the point Malory may have been trying to make. Why does Malory then turn the Tristan’s reciprocal acts of courtesy into a "social bargain" (32)? And how can Tristan’s inability to abolish the evil custom be reconciled with Ross’s statement that for Malory "Tristan represents an ideal which those who pretend to be gentlemen should strive to imitate" (34)? At the same time, by focusing attention on the serious issues at stake in this fictional form, Ross entices the reader to go back and reread these medieval narratives in a more probing way.

The underlying premise of the next section is that "the Italians developed a notion of civility to counteract a rigid social system increasingly dominated by foreigners during the sixteenth century" (16). He examines a "custom of the castle" episode in Boiardo and Ariosto, the two masters of romance epic in the Italian Renaissance. Playing Cicero’s philosophy against Clifford Geertz’s anthropology, he considers how natural law and the moral imagination inform the Orlando Innamorato’s Castle Cruel episode, where the knight Ranaldo confronts a culture in which escalating acts of violence have led to the systematic murder of foreign visitors. Here, too, his analysis engenders additional questions. If Boiardo portrays Ranaldo negatively as getting caught up in the cycle of violence, does he also indicate how the knight should have reacted when attacked by the mob? More generally, what is Boiardo saying about appropriate responses to foul customs?

In refreshing contrast to those who have read the Orlando Furioso’s Tower of Tristan episode as a fable of gender, Ross sees the episode as a fable of power, or more specifically, of the limits of an individual’s power to modify the dictates of an absolutist society. In this light, Bradamante’s merely tactical victory is analogous to the situation of those subject to political and foreign institutions in sixteenth-century Italy. Although Bradamante is powerless to overturn a foul custom, she can be granted an exception through witty reasoning backed by martial prowess. It would have been useful to compare this to the episodes of Pinabello’s castle at Altaripa and the island of the homicidal women from the 1516 edition of the Furioso, especially since in these episodes, which replay elements from Boiardo’s Castle Cruel, a foul custom is not just temporarily sidestepped but completely eradicated.

The evolution of social ideology reflected in the episode’s variants comes into clearest focus in "The English Conclusion." Ross views the custom of the castle episode in The Faerie Queene as an opportunity for Spenser to oppose two different systems of values, substituting the conflict of right and wrong with a sense of the relativity of all customs. Following in the wake of Stephen Greenblatt, Ross links his textual analysis to the political circumstances of England and Ireland as well as to Spenser’s own involvement in the affairs of his day. What this means for the "custom of the castle" episode in Spenser is that the knight facing a "foul custom" is less a hero acting in the interest of justice than he is a colonist trying – albeit not always successfully – to impose his own social ideology on his "host," a manifestation of the alien Other. Whereas in the first two chapters Ross tended to isolate single episodes, here he sustains his argument by comparing variations on the "custom of the castle" theme that stretch across The Faerie Queene. Further, he identifies an evolution within the poem itself. Whereas in the first half (1590) Spenser "generally looks to the distant past for those values that would fashion a gentleman to the ideals of chivalry," in the second installment (1596) he "seems to have struggled more openly with the relationship between social practice and values" (83).

Ross not only applies his background in law theory to romance narratives, but he applies his knowledge of romance patterns to later enterprises, such as the Spaniards’ expeditions in the New World (139-40) and, more extensively, Shakespeare’s drama. Ross provides fresh and provocative readings of Hamlet and Macbeth, with additional insights into As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and the history plays, as well as an appendix on King Lear and Othello.

Ross cuts across temporal, spatial, and linguistic boundaries and brings philosophy, anthropology, socio-political history, and ethics to bear in his interpretation of chivalric fiction. Readers may find that the book leaves out their favorite "custom of the castle" episode which may or may not conform to the evolution that Ross traces. But this is really not the point. Ross’s book sensitizes the reader to the social aspects of the "custom of the castle" episode in such a way that it would be hard to read romance again without asking the same kinds of questions that Ross has raised in this ground-breaking study.

Jo Ann Cavallo, Columbia University 

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Dennis Looney. Compromising the Classics: Romance Epic Narrative in the Italian Renaissance. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1996, Pp. 244.

Did Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso consciously attempt to camouflage the classical sources of their epic poems? Is the Orlando furioso really a harmonious montage of classical and medieval sources as critics have traditionally contended or is its success a result of a disharmony of these elements? And has the classical foundation of Boiardo’s epic poem been largely ignored to date? These are only a few of the challenging questions Dennis Looney addresses in his provocative study, Compromising the Classics: Romance Epic Narrative in the Italian Renaissance. In discussing these poets, Looney considers how "narrative artists in the Renaissance renovated the popular genre of romance through their imitation of classic epic" (15). Carefully analyzing the epic poems of Boiardo, Tasso, and, above all, Ariosto, Looney notes a traditional bias on the part of readers with respect to these poets’ use of literary sources. He describes this bias as a "rigid dichotomizing of the poets’ sources into two groups": classical sources, associated with verbal and stylistic allusions, and medieval sources recalling themes and images. In response to these static categorizations, the study suggests how these three Ferrarese poets "compromised" classical models "by incorporating them into the narrative structures of their vernacular poems" (15). In doing so, the poets overcame, to some extent, the distinction between classical and medieval models in the construction of their narrative.

To the author, "compromising the classics" means many things: the mixing of classical sources with medieval ones, the highlighting of a particular source above all others, the incorporation of allusions into the text which encourage the reader to revisit and reread the poet’s classical or medieval authorities with a suspicious eye, and perhaps gain a new understanding of the original work. While some readers may find these diverse connotations confusing at times, Looney provides numerous examples to illustrate his meaning. In Ariosto’s case, for example, the critic notes how Medoro’s eclogue reflects several literary and linguistic traditions, mixing (or "compromising") Petrarchan and Vergilian pastoral references with allusions to Plautus’s and Terence’s comedies, momentarily highlighting now one and now the other of these seemingly incompatible sources. The result is what Looney terms "the ambiguous generic status of the Furioso" (25).

Looney opposes Giulio Bertoni’s well-known view that Ariosto’s epic is the "perfect fusion of romance and classical elements," suggesting instead that these elements are intended to conflict, to be "deliberately confusing." However, he argues that the final result of this contraposition of classical and medieval sources is "fruitful," for it invites the reader to consider not only the works themselves, but also "the generic boundaries between them and the generic possibilities they encompass" (30). Thus the critic prefers the term "romance-epic" over the more traditional "epic poem" to highlight the dual nature of these poetic works. "Romance" poetry implies those works that stray from the standards of narrative design established by the Aeneid; "epic" conversely represents conformation to these standards and a rejection of innovative narrative structures.

The first chapter provides a lively and engaging overview of the way in which Ariosto’s use of classical sources has traditionally been seen by critics. Looney carefully posits his critical discussion within the historical context of the works being analyzed: from the well-known debate on imitation between Angelo Poliziano and Paolo Cortese in 1480 to Girolamo Vida’s pro-epic/anti-romance stance on narrative design to Bernardo Tasso’s defense of Ariosto’s "rhapsodic" narrative technique. In the second chapter on Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato, Looney argues that readers have traditionally undervalued the poet’s familiarity with classical narrative and suggests that the poem indeed owes much to classical sources, particularly to the narrative techniques of Herodotus and Vergil. He also convincingly illustrates how Boiardo "romanticized" Herodotus’s historical narrative in order to appeal to his Ferrarese audience. In doing so, the poet utilized many of the same narrative devices that appear in the Innamorato.

The following chapter considers Ariosto’s "creative opportunism," that is, his compositional process of selectively borrowing from the Orlando tradition as needed to fulfill his narrative goals. Many of the sources which worked best for the Furioso are those that "straddle the realms of the classical epic and romance" (93). The use of Ovid in particular allowed Ariosto simultaneously to allude to other narrative paradigms in his romance-epic and intentionally defy the neat generic categories of epic and romance. The study next considers Ariosto’s "poetics of compromise" through the critical eyes of a famous sixteenth-century reader, Torquato Tasso. Tasso’s stance vis-à-vis his great predecessor in epic poetry is somewhat ambivalent: admiring and detesting at once the allusive unity of Ariosto’s multistoried narrative structure. Through a detailed analysis of Ariosto’s poetic imagery and sources, his "intratextual and intertextual network," the critic concludes that the similes Tasso cites in his Discorsi as contributing to the disunity of the Furioso are in fact the very same ones that recur in different manifestations, unifying the poem. A discussion of Tasso’s "allegory of imitative poetics" occupies the final chapter. Tasso is, in Looney’s view, the "ultimate compromiser," consistently "blending sources" in his epic poem, be they biblical, classical or vernacular. What results are tensions of subject matter and poetic form resolved only by the poet’s use of allegory. Such is the case in canto 13 of the Liberata, where Tasso’s "allegory of the source" moves from romance to classical to Christian models.

Looney’s study is indeed a significant contribution to understanding the poetics of Italian Renaissance epic narrative, for it explores the complex tapestry of classical and medieval sources upon which these texts are constructed. Compromising the Classics expands and problematizes the traditional interpretation of literary references in romance-epic poetry, particularly with respect to the Orlando Furioso. This work should be of great interest to anyone studying Renaissance poetics in general and/or the epic works of Boiardo, Ariosto and Tasso in particular.

Michael J. Hemment, Harvard University 

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Alberto Casadei. La fine degli incanti. Vicende del poema epico-cavalleresco nel Rinascimento. Milano: Francoangeli, 1997. Pp. 190.

L’opera del Casadei si presenta come una raccolta di saggi in parte già pubblicati in varie riviste accademiche e in parte inediti. Il libro comprende una prima sezione in cui si prendono in esame cronologicamente testi come l’Innamorato di Boiardo, il Rinaldo del Tasso, il Furioso dell’Ariosto, la Gerusalemme Liberata, e infine l’Adone del Marino. Nella seconda parte, tre saggi trattano di opere minori ariostesche: le ottave "Per la storia d’Italia", le Rime e i Cinque Canti. L’opera è completata da una introduzione e due appendici.

L’approccio critico del Casadei, che ha già scritto due libri sull’Ariosto, è quello di mantenere una costante attenzione ai problemi filologici e a quelli inerenti alla storia della cultura. Il volume dello studioso presenta il problema di tutti gli autori che riuniscono in un’opera singola saggi in parte pubblicati e in parte inediti: lo scopo di tale operazione non è mai esclusivamente per l’ambizione di mettere in luce ancora una volta articoli sfuggiti all’attenzione dei lettori. Piuttosto, il fine precipuo è quello di convogliare in un discorso lineare, tutte le riflessioni, le ricerche, le opinioni critiche dell’autore disseminate in scritti brevi nel corso degli anni. Casadei dice infatti nell’introduzione: "Il problema . . . è come ricomporre le parti sparse di queste numerosissime e spesso importanti analisi in una sintesi che non sia solo sommatoria. . . . l’unico modo è quello di cercare alcuni punti critici che consentono di cogliere i passaggi e gli snodi nell’evoluzione di un fenomeno letterario" (10). I punti critici, nei primi due studi del volume di Casadei ("Riusi del modello dell’Innamorato tra il 1520 e il 1530", "Il Rinaldo e il genere cavalleresco alla metà del Cinquecento") riguardano infatti il territorio storico e culturale in cui il poema cavalleresco e quello eroico nascono e proliferano in seno alla corte ed al mercato librario. Profonde diversità sono emerse tra la fine del Quattrocento (Pulci e soprattutto Boiardo) e la fine del Cinquecento, quando giunge a maturazione il poema eroico, cioè l’epica moderna della Liberata: un secolo esatto, che vede il definitivo passaggio dalle municipalità agli Stati assoluti, e dalla corte alla Corte.

Nel dibattito critico-teorico degli ultimi due decenni due categorie generali hanno permesso di accostarci ai poemi cavallereschi rinascimentali: la riscrittura e l’intertestualità, sostiene il Casadei, per cui il problema fondamentale nell’esame dei testi è quello di concretizzare la dialettica di epos e romanzo, che il Furioso propone autorevolmente a tutti i suoi successori, per la costituzione di un poema che si voglia collocare nel genere cavalleresco. Le scansioni cronologiche che appaiono fondamentali nell’economia di questo discorso sono quelle segnate dall’uscita del terzo Furioso (1532), dalla pubblicazione del Girone dell’Alamanni e dal completamento dell’Italia Liberata del Trissino (1548), dall’edizione del Rinaldo (1562). Sono queste le tappe che seguono la fortuna editoriale del poema ariostesco, indicando il momento dopo il quale (1548) molte continuazioni del Furioso andranno incontro ad un declino giustificabile tenendo conto dell’evoluzione della letteratura italiana nell’età del Concilio di Trento.

Gli ultimi due saggi della prima parte di questo volume ("I poeti, i cavalieri, le macchine, gli spazi: scienza e tecnica in Ariosto e Tasso", "Il telescopio, ‘ammirabile stromento’: variazioni su Adone") prendono in esame i testi dei poemi cavallereschi nel loro rapporto con la scienza e la tecnica rinascimentali. La rappresentazione del "nuovo" porterà alla non sopravvivenza dell’epica in ottave. L’ultima grande opera del filone, cioè l’Adone, renderà metaforica la scienza di Galileo (il Canocchiale aristotelico). L’epica in ottave si esaurisce, sia per l’interruzione del rapporto nutriente con la corte (dopo il Tasso), sia per la diversità del modo di rappresentare e interpretare la realtà che la scienza moderna imponeva rispetto ai parametri letterari canonici. Il vero corrispondente letterario della rivoluzione scientifica è ovviamente il Don Chisciotte, in cui non si trova più un’enciclopedia del meraviglioso generato dalla nuova scienza (Adone), ma un catalogo di oggetti, scientificamente definibili, contro le credenze pazzesche di un povero cavaliere-letterato.

Nel primo saggio della seconda parte, "Le ottave di Ariosto ‘Per la storia d’Italia’", viene presentato il problema dell’edizione delle 84 "Stanze per la Storia d’Italia" dell’Ariosto. Di esse, legate ai canti 32 e 33 dell’ultimo Furioso, il Casadei propone il testo critico e commento nella sua Appendice 2.

Nel secondo saggio, "Sulle prime edizioni a stampa delle Rime ariostesche", il Casadei giunge alla conclusione che la seconda edizione delle Rime, uscita a Venezia nel 1547 a istanza di Jacopo Coppa Modenese, è complessivamente simile al tipo I 85 dell’Orlando Innamorato pubblicato dallo Scotto nel 1545 (123).

Per il terzo saggio, "Il privilegio dei Cinque Canti", il Casadei discute il problema per cui al posto di Paolo Manuzio, che aveva ottenuto dal Consiglio dei Dieci di Venezia il privilegio di pubblicare l’opera ariostesca, subentrarono gli stampatori Jacopo Coppa e Gabriele Giolito.

Dell’Appendice 1, lo studio più interessante riguarda la complessa questione delle interpretazioni relative al motto finale del Furioso: "Il ‘Pro bono malum’ ariostesco e la Bibbia". Per Casadei la fonte del motto è la Bibbia (Vulgata, Genesi, 44.4, Geremia, 18.20 e tre luoghi dei Salmi), per cui il senso della frase ariostesca si lega strettamente al tema dell’ingratitudine umana, quella dell’uomo che scaccia le api per ottenere il miele della celebre xilografia. Ma il legame più cogente risulta quello della malvagità dei detrattori, dei cortigiani nemici che hanno reso "male per bene" al poeta-giusto.

Il volume di Alberto Casadei è scorrevole, sintetico e attuale: in esso vengono affrontati alcuni problemi nell’ambito delle ricerche sulla tradizione epico-cavalleresca, compresi quelli inerenti all’emendamento di testi di poemi rimaneggiati in tipografia.

Mauda Bregoli-Russo, University of Illinois at Chicago 

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Tullia d’Aragona. Dialogue on the Infinity of Love. Trans. and introd. Rinaldina Russell and Bruce Merry. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1991. Pp. 114.

Russell and Merry’s elegant translation in English of d’Aragona’s dialogue is the latest appearance of this work, which has known the uneven success generally ascribed to women’s writings in Italy. The publishing history of d’Aragona’s dialogue is a good example of such fluctuation: after two editions published within a few years in the sixteenth century, a third edition of the dialogue appeared in 1694 and a fourth in 1864, with a reprint in 1974. In 1912 Giuseppe Zonta published a critical edition of the text, which was reprinted and edited by Mario Pozzi in 1975 and 1980. The unprecedented production and popularity of women’s literature during the sixteenth century were undoubtedly due to the "larghissima apertura linguistica di quegli ann,i" according to Carlo Dionisotti (Geografia e storia della letteratura italiana, Torino: Einaudi, 1967, 192) as well as to favorable social and religious factors. These positive elements, however, changed dramatically after the Council of Trent, negatively affecting women’s role in society and their literary production for centuries.

Throughout this time, Tullia d’Aragona’s voice was barely audible, but now, thanks to Margaret King and Albert Rabil, Jr., editors of the Series The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe, and to Rinaldina Russell and Bruce Merry, d’Aragona’s mocking and witty voice can be heard by the English public. The introduction to each volume of the series provides a condensed but helpful summary of "history," recounting events which span from 500 BCE to the seventeenth century from a woman’s perspective.

Russell begins her introduction by remarking on the uniqueness and originality of this dialogue. The "right" to philosophize, or "the power of defining and naming," belonged unquestionably to men, Gerda Lerner affirms in The Creation of Feminist Consciousness (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993, 5). The "dialogic" genre, although lacking a theory of its own, was not associated with women writers, who were encouraged to prove their literary talent in devotional and love poetry. In fact I know of only one other woman who wrote a dialogue in Italy in the Early Modern Period. This is Moderata Fonte who discusses, among other subjects, the different kinds of human "love" in Il merito delle donne, written between 1592-5 and published in 1600. (The translation of Fonte’s dialogue, The Worth of Women, by Virginia Cox is available in this same series.) In Fonte’s "domestica conversatione," men are physically absent, although the seven Venetian noblewomen make them the main subject of their discussion. Russell points out that d’Aragona’s concept of love, while heavily influenced by Platonic ideology, differs from the prevalent contemporary opinion. In fact she grounds the male-female bond on natural drives and mutual pleasure of body and soul, and perceives no separation between sensual and spiritual love. By eliminating the hierarchical structure of the Platonic ethics of love, d’Aragona places women’s spiritual enhancement on the same level as men’s and makes women active agents of love.

Russell’s detailed biography of d’Aragona provides the necessary pre-text or "situational context" that allows a better understanding and appreciation of a woman writer’s literary production. (Ann Rosalind Jones, "Surprising Fame: Renaissance Ideologies and Women’s Lyric" in The Poetics of Gender, ed. Nancy K. Miller, New York: Columbia UP, 1986, 80). Knowledge of the pre-text seems particularly important for a writer like d’Aragona who, throughout her life, made concerted efforts to convince the public that she was first of all a literata and second a cortegiana who, though onesta, was still the target of denunciations and insults and was considered a pariah by the members of the beau monde.

From Russell’s account of her life, d’Aragona’s stay in Venice was particularly significant for the genesis of the Dialogue on the Infinity of Love, since her Venetian home became the setting for Sperone Speroni’s Dialogue on Love, and she herself became the inspiration for one of its fictional characters. During her stay in Ferrara in 1537 (and not in 1437 as mistakenly written in the text), d’Aragona met Girolamo Muzio, who, beside her lover, was to become a long-standing and faithful friend and future editor of her dialogue. An episode in their relationship related by Russell testifies to d’Aragona’s deliberate efforts to "construct" her own public image. With reference to the poems which Muzio, a renown writer himself, wrote in her praise, d’Aragona allegedly asked him to celebrate her under the name of the muse of idyllic verse rather than use a more prosaic name. The meeting with Varchi around 1546 is another event in d’Aragona’s life which had an impact on the construction of her public image as well as on her dialogue. There is proof of correspondence and a literary exchange between them as well as of Varchi’s help in defending her reputation.

The attainment of a dignified respectability became a question of survival for d’Aragona as the climate of tolerance for cortigiane, oneste or otherwise, dissolved rapidly after the Council of Trent. The Catholic Church, in fact, reacted with forceful moral and religious conservatism to the Protestant Reformation. Russell recalls that being recognized officially as "poet" by the Duke Cosimo de’ Medici granted d’Aragona the exemption from wearing in public the yellow veil as required of courtesans. Allegedly the Duke in person wrote such exoneration after d’Aragona sent a petition to the Duchess Eleonora.

In the section entitled "Antecedents" to d’Aragona’s dialogue, Russell briefly describes the ideology of love found in Plato, Aristotle, and in the main Italian writers of dialogues and treatises of the first half of the century. It is noteworthy that, although women did not write dialogues, within male-authored dialogues, "female interlocutors guaranteed by their sex the right to be decorously ignorant . . . (acting) as stand-ins for an unschooled audience" (Virginia Cox, The Renaissance Dialogue, Cambridge: UP, 1992, 45). In d’Aragona’s case, besides authoring the dialogue herself, Tullia makes the main female character direct and conclude the argument of the dialogue. Furthermore, as Russell explains in her "Analysis of the Dialogue," d’Aragona questions both the rigid Aristotelian ideology and the contradictory Platonic system and brings into the discussion important gender issues. She uncovers society’s prevalent prejudices against women through the rebuke of the character Varchi’s views and strongly defends women’s reputation. She upholds the equality of the sexes in both intellectual and amorous pursuits, and echoing Christine de Pizan’s famous statement, declares that public opinion would be different if books were written by women.

Russell clearly defines the nature of d’Aragona’s dialogue, which appears to present different points of view but in reality is closer to the dogmatic, univocal dialogue that Burke defines as "catechism" in his article, "The Renaissance Dialogue" (Renaissance Studies 3.1 [1989]: 1-12). By the end of the discussion, in fact, readers have no choice but to accept the one conception of love shaped by the character Tullia throughout the dialogue. As Russell points out, the tension present in the dialogue does not reside in the dichotomy of opinions but in the difference of "temperament, mental idiosyncrasies and style of speech" (40) of the two main characters. Russell further explains the nature of these differences while reaffirming that d’Aragona was "aware of her work as a literary construct" (41). Russell’s critical commentary ends with a complete list for further reading suggestions on the subject.

In conclusion, Russell and Merry’s translation and introductory comments have made this work accessible to a wide public of scholars and general readers, who could use it in a course on Italian Renaissance literature and culture, as well as in any course dealing with women’s or gender issues.

Paola Malpezzi Price, Colorado State University 

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Tomaso Garzoni. La piazza universale di tutte le professioni del mondo. A c. di Paolo Cherchi & Beatrice Collina. "I millenni". 2 voll. Torino: Einaudi. Pp. CXXXIII + 1715.

La piazza universale di tutte le professioni del mondo di Tomaso Garzoni fu pubblicata per la prima volta nel 1585 e fu ristampata una trentina di volte prima del 1670; fu tradotta in tedesco, in latino e adattata in spagnolo. L’opera, pur spogliata costantemente da lessicografi e utilizzata da etnologi e studiosi del costume e delle professioni, non aveva mai avuto un’edizione moderna fino al 1996 (non conta l’anastatica del 1989 dell’ed. 1589). Considerandone il valore non solo linguistico ma anche letterario (a pagine nomenclatorie si alternano pagine briosissime alcune dedicate a soggetti di cui oggi poco sappiamo, dai bravi ai mugnai, dai pedanti ai fornai e agli albergatori), ci si chiede perché questo lungo silenzio; ma basta sfogliarla per capire facilmente quali enormi difficoltà editoriali bisognava sfidare per pubblicare un’opera così vasta, così erudita e così complessa sotto tanti punti di vista. Per fortuna ha trovato curatori capaci di vivere all’altezza di tale sfida, dando alla luce un’edizione monumentale.

La Piazza offre una descrizione storico-tecnica di oltre 500 professioni, quindi è gremita di dati storici riguardanti l’invenzione di ciascuna di esse, i suoi rappresentanti più illustri, descrivendone i vizi e virtù – il che dà luogo a un’aneddotica foltissima – e con un ricchissimo corredo di auctoritates per lo più classiche, ma è anche abbondantissima di dati tecnici con filatesse, a volte interminabili, di termini riguardanti strumenti e operazioni proprie di ogni professione e di ogni professionista. Il fatto più sorprendente è che la Piazza sia un grande mosaico di testi plagiati, e di testi per lo più eruditi per cui il registro "erudito" domina tutta l’opera. Ugualmente sorprendente è la ricostruzione che Paolo Cherchi, ritenuto un vero maestro in questo genere di lavoro, fa del plagio garzoniano, scoprendo fonti spesso arcane – ad esempio, quanti sarebbero in grado di identificare la fonte di un passo nel proemio al commento di Cecco d’Ascoli alla Sphaera di Sacrobosco? — e secondo un calcolo del curatore, il 95% dell’opera sarebbe stato ricondotto alle sue fonti. La ricostruzione delle fonti costituisce anche il nucleo più importante del commento, che sotto questo aspetto si può definire senza esitazione "magistrale". La ricerca delle fonti offre un campione impareggiabile di quel fenomeno della riscrittura del secondo Cinquecento (fenomeno recentemente sistemato da Cherchi nel suo Polimatia di riuso Roma, Bulzoni 1998); spiega in modo definitivo la supposta "erudizione" di Garzoni, e in moltissimi casi consente di sanare il testo o di spiegarlo in modo che sarebbe altrimenti impossibile. Il lessico tecnico non è glossato sistematicamente: per farlo ci sarebbe voluto un commento speciale — come sarebbe stato possibile glossare sei pagine fitte di termini dedicati alle vele e ad altre parti delle navi? — e mi sembra auspicabile che qualche specialista un giorno ci dia un glossario della Piazza.

La parte introduttiva contiene due saggi. Il primo è di Cherchi, "Invito alla lettura della Piazza", in cui si affronta il problema della leggibilità di un’opera del genere. Il problema viene risolto positivamente, ricostruendo il modo sapientissimo con cui Garzoni riuscì a dosare materia antica e moderna, registro dotto e popolare, aneddotica e linguaggio tecnico, erudizione e curiosità, creando un impasto che raramente lascia dormire; non solo: la combinazione del genere "selva" con il genere "enciclopedia" crea un movimento all’interno dell’opera che la porta a variare continuamente, riuscendo leggibile ad apertura di pagina e prevedibile nel modo in cui l’argomento viene strutturato. Questo bel saggio dovrebbe determinare l’inclusione di Garzoni nelle antologie letterarie

Il secondo saggio si deve a Collina, "Un cervello universale". La biografia di Garzoni è ricostruita con accuratezza e dovizia di dati, ricavati in gran parte dal lavoro di Cherchi, Enciclopedismo e politica della riscrittura del 1989 (e quasi mai viene riconosciuta questa fonte, dalla quale derivano moltissimi dati ma anche qualche errore, come ad esempio il fatto che l’ultimo a menzionare la Piazza sia stato Gracián, mentre ricorderei l’apprezzamento positivo nel Cane di Diogene di Fulvio Frugoni). Questo saggio, ma un po’ digressivo (per esempio: perché tanta attenzione alla figura di Colorni?), dedica molto spazio a risolvere quello che dovrebbe essere un problema biografico e intellettuale, cioè la mancata pubblicazione del Serraglio degli stupori del mondo, che Garzoni annunciava sempre come pronto per le stampe ma che non vide mai la luce se non dopo la sua morte. Collina ritiene che l’opera abbia urtato la censura e questo non solo impedì la pubblicazione dell’opera ma creò anche una congiura di silenzio sull’autore, molti dati biografici del quale rimarrebbero misteriosi. Le prove di questa congiura di silenzio (già avanzate da Ivan Simonini nel profilo biografico pubblicato in Uno zingaro in convento) sono poco convincenti, e si ha l’impressione che Collina si sia inventato un problema. Collina (p. XCI sgg.) sostiene che Possevino condanni la Piazza, e ciò sarebbe una prova dell’ostilità che la Chiesa nutrì verso il Canonico Lateranense; ma quella censura si trova in un libro in cui si passano in rassegna le letture consigliabili per gli studenti, e la Piazza non è fra quelli; tuttavia non si tratta di una censura "ecclesiastica", ma solo di una riserva pedagogica. Nel complesso il Garzoni della Collina sarebbe un ribelle in pectore; ma è una tesi difficile da accettare, come inaccettabile è la visione della cultura controriformistica che emerge da queste pagine.

La nota al testo è curata da Cherchi: è funzionale ed essenziale; forse sarebbe stato opportuno dilungarsi sulla lingua di Garzoni, sulla patina "settentrionale" del suo linguaggio. La bibliografia è curata da Collina: alquanto lunga e pletorica (include anche articoletti di enciclopedie) e non manca qualche imprecisione, come la collocazione di Letterio di Francia sotto "Letterio", evidentemente ritenuto cognome.

Per quanto riguarda il testo non posso dare un giudizio preciso, non disponendo della princeps su cui il testo è basato, e avendo solo a mano l’anastatica dell’edizione 1589 che secondo i curatori sarebbe la definitiva per certi aspetti ma anche molto scorretta rispetto alla prima. In genere mi sembra che la cura sia quasi sempre ineccepibile, nell’interpunzione, nelle numerose integrazioni basate quasi sempre sulle fonti, nelle lezioni. Ogni tanto sorge qualche dubbio. Ad esempio lo "spartanamente" che si legge a p. 4 sarà forse da leggere "spartatamente" (cioè "distintamente" e in parallelo con l’"unitamente" che segue) come dà l’edizione 1589. Mi chiedo se l’attributo di "falso" unito a "motto" o a "parlare" (pp. 1237 e 247) non si debba leggere "salso", a meno che la fonte indicata, e a me inaccessibile, non confermi tale lezione. Le citazioni in latino sono accurate e spesso son state corrette rispetto a quelle che trovo nell’edizione 1589. Avrei corretto a p. 68 "diis immortalis" in "diis immortalibus"; a p. 1288 direi "tutum carpe viator iter" anziche "titum", ecc.; a p. 1284 nei versi di Virgilio correggerei "Caucasiasque" per "Caucasasque", e nei versi di Properzio "manserunt" per "mansuerunt", e così in vari altri luoghi che son più frequenti nella parte curata da Collina, la quale, per altro traduce correttamente, creando il sospetto che qualcuno abbia fatto la traduzione indipendentemente dal testo. A p. 1338 trovo la lezione "materíe" che va contro le osservazioni fatte a p. 59, nota 205 secondo cui si dovrebbe leggere "materie": qui pare che la collaborazione fra i due curatori sia venuta meno. E in realtà, stando a voci che circolano in ambienti bolognesi e altrove, la collaborazione fra i due curatori non deve essere stata felice, perché il commento e il testo sarebbero stati curati integralmente da Cherchi, che lavorava a Chicago, mentre Collina avrebbe collaborato identificando alcune citazioni in libri accessibili in biblioteche italiane. Sennonché, in un secondo momento, per una discordia non ben chiarita, sarebbe intervenuta a modificare alcune note, a correggere alcune traduzioni di passi latini nei discorsi che le sono attribuiti; dal canto suo Cherchi si sarebbe rifiutato di rivedere le bozze dei capitoli attribuiti alla Collina per contratto; anzi la Collina in questa seconda fase avrebbe cambiato delle lezioni riprendole, anche quando erano erronee, dall’edizione 1589, e che Cherchi a sua volta abbia operato un salvataggio in extremis. Quanto ci si di vero in queste voci non so dire, ma certo è che spiegherebbero alcune delle incongruenze rilevate. In ogni modo, stando a quel che si dichiara a p. CXV, i discorsi curati da Collina (LXXVI-CLV) corrispondono in volume ad un terzo dell’opera, e, considerando che almeno una quindicina di discorsi erano già stati curati da Cherchi nella sua edizione delle Opere di Tomaso Garzoni (Ravenna, Longo 1994) e che Cherchi ha curato anche l’immenso indice dei nomi (pp. 1595-1708) che funge da commento parziale, la collaborazione di Collina si riduce ulteriormente. Ma non voglio insistere su questo aspetto sfortunato del lavoro, anche se una collaborazione più felice avrebbe forse evitato errori.

In un lavoro come La Piazza, dalla mole veramente insolita e dalle difficoltà infinite, sono inevitabili i refusi, anche presso un editore del prestigio di Einaudi; e sono inevitabili anche gli errori di distrazione. Ne voglio ricordare uno di Cherchi, il quale a p. LVIII ricorda "il dialogo di Paolo Rossello sulla servitù tradotto dal De patientia di Celio Calcagnini", ma Cherchi stesso aveva annunciato nel 1995 questa sua bella scoperta nell’articolo "Leonardo Fioravanti e Antonio de Guevara" sulla rivista Esperienze letterarie (pp. 13-36), dove il dialogo di cui si parla non tratta di servi ma di cortigiani. Sono della "macule veniali", e con Orazio mi piace ripetere: "Ubi plura nitent non ego paucis offendar maculis, quas aut incuria fudit aut humana parum cavit natura" (Ars poetica, 352 sgg.): un’edizione corredata d’un commento veramente straordinario per la ricchezza di dati va salutata per quello che è: un’opera monumentale e magistrale.

Sarebbe doveroso ricordare qui un evento singolare, ossia la pubblicazione, nello stesso mese e nella stessa settimana, della Piazza per i tipi della casa fiorentina Olschki a cura di Giovan Battista Bronzini, con la collaborazione di Pina De Meo e Luciano Carcereri, in due grossi volumi: l’evento prova almeno che il lavoro garzoniano sia degno d’attenzione . Non è possibile in questa sede andare oltre questa doverosa menzione; devo solo dire che l’edizione bronziniana è priva di commento ma ha un apparato di "lezioni" in un’appendice in cui si comparano le varie edizioni dell’opera dalla princeps all’ultima uscita nel 1665. Da quel che ho potuto vedere si tratta di un’edizione illeggibile, quasi un’anastatica, con minimi interventi editoriali.

Gino Casagrande, University of Wisconsin in Florence[Postilla redazionale. Per un dibattito a proposito delle due edizioni della Piazza si veda la recensione, apertamente faziosa, di uno dei collaboratori all’edizione olschkiana, Luciano Carcereri (Proteo. Quaderni del Centro Interuniversitario di Teoria e Storia dei Generi Letterari, 2/96, pp. 75-87), e l’efficace risposta di Paolo Cherchi ("In spirito di contraddizione" in Rassegna Europea della Letteratura Italiana, 1998, pp. 123-50).]

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Gregory, Heather, trans. Selected Letters of Alessandra Strozzi. Bilingual edition. Berkeley, CA: U. of California P, 1997. Pp. 252.

This latest publication of the Biblioteca Italiana is a translation of 35 among the surviving letters by a Florentine widow of the fifteenth century. The book consists of an introduction, facing Italian and English translation, notes to the English translation by letter number, a bibliography, and an index.

The introduction is primarily historical. It contains a useful discussion of historiography and changes in approach to history in recent years, leading to an interest in its personal side. There are two little problems which stumped me between the introduction and letters. First, it is not always clear who is writing the letters. Gregory notes, "[Alessandra] would have preferred to dictate her letters to a secretary, professional or amateur" (7); and in a letter, Alessandra mentions that she misses Matteo’s writing for her (56-57), yet much is made of the fact that she writes and is numerate. Are there differences in letters when she personally is writing as opposed to having letters written? It would be interesting to know. Furthermore, the actual number of letters was unclear until consulting the original edition. The back cover notes 72 total letters; Gregory mentions 73 (1); again, she also mentions 73 (7), yet on the same page speaks of the "thirty-seven letters which are not included" when she translates 35, which would make 72. I presume the confusion is due to the extra letter printed as an appendix to the 1972 reprint. The introduction therefore is historical and addresses a primarily non-Italian-speaking audience.

The Italian text is based on Guasti’s 1877 edition. I was unable to consult either the originals in the Archivio Fiorentino di Stato or reprint of the Guasti edition (1972) (which contains an extra letter) to compare the text. I did however examine the original Guasti edition (1877) and the Bianchini edition (Garzanti, 1987), and from a few test examples Gregory’s text agrees with Guasti’s, both using only acute accents (Bianchini, however, writes sicché, , etc., for Guasti’s and Gregory’s sicchè, nè, etc.). Bianchini comments that Guasti’s is "un’edizione esemplare" (12-13), for which reason later editions follow his. Neither Bianchini nor Gregory comments at any length upon the language; Gregory comments briefly upon the style and punctuation (8). This edition is clearly not intended for use by those specifically studying the language, which makes sense since it is a translation. The facing English translation includes a summary of the content before each letter; where paragraphs are omitted, the translator specifies how many and summarizes the sections omitted. The explanatory notes are exclusively in the English portion, not the Italian. These are letters between a Florentine mother and her sons in exile, with an emphasis on money and accounts, her family (daughters’ marriages), the need to marry the sons and the process for so doing. Political concerns appear as well, with encoded names in 2 letters to avoid being understood by those reading (letters 21, 133, 171). The letters are of interest because of the political situation: fifteenth-century Florence, living conditions, and also how close ties are in family business - they are almost a clan, with a strong sense of honor and dishonor. Throughout the spellings are British - e.g., "honour," for reasons which are not stated in an American publication. Gregory differs from the original in dating the letters according to modern convention, that is, beginning the new year at January 1 where Alessandra began with April 1. This might cause some confusion when consulting the Italian editions. Gregory’s edition numbers the letters she has chosen in sequential order, not following Guasti’s; anyone wishing to check the earlier edition, therefore, must check by date and not by letter number.

The notes contain explanations of political situations, social conventions, and complete names of those mentioned. Locations are also given for smaller villages and family villas. All distances are in kilometers, which mean little to many American readers. The references are to the English translation alone, but this is closely spaced to follow the Italian so that a reader wishing to follow the Italian can easily place the notes. A few appendices would have been helpful: a map for small towns near Florence (e.g., Quaracchi (47); Lari (217)) and family possessions would have been useful. Though Prato and Pistoia will be familiar to most readers, the smaller sites are not. Family trees would also have been handy; it is easy to lose track of all the Strozzis. A family tree concentrating on Alessandra’s family but including those relatives who employed the sons, as well as a de’ Medici tree for the period covered, would make following events more simple.

The bibliography is selected, containing both textual and historical items. I was surprised not to see Revelations of the Medieval World, part of the History of Private Life (Cambridge, MA/London, Belknap Press, Harvard UP, 1988), especially since a whole chapter is dedicated to "Tuscan Notables on the Eve of the Renaissance" (157-309) which discusses private correspondence, memoirs, and diaries at length – including Alessandra Strozzi (251-259) – and helps to give a broader concept of what is available. Otherwise the bibliography is a good starting point for research specifically on Alessandra Strozzi.

The index is quite good and useful with items of cultural interest, such as breast-feeding, as well as taxes, and naming of children. It clearly reflects the interests of the translator in including such personal data and not excluding them to the benefit of names alone, an all-too-frequent practice in such works (cf. Bianchini).

This translation is a departure of the Biblioteca Italiana series from the earlier ones. Previously, it had published a well-received Boiardo translation with side-by-side Italian; Ariosto’s Cinque Canti; and similar items. Strozzi’s letters mark another work in English to add to the series of other Tuscan writers of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, such as Giovanni Dati of Prato, and provide a female point of view. Such translations are useful since many people work on the era without a knowledge of Italian, and ideas have been formed by literature rather than daily life, which is indeed a far cry from Bembo’s Cortigiano ideal or Ariosto’s ladies. This work is a welcome addition to Medieval and Renaissance literature and culture courses.

Leslie Zarker Morgan, Loyola College in Maryland 

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Il soggetto e la storia: biografia e autobiografia in L. A. Muratori. Atti della II giornata di studi muratoriani (Vignola, 23 ottobre 1993). Biblioteca dell’Edizione Nazionale di Carteggio di L. A. Muratori, IX. Firenze: Leo S. Olschki, 1994. Pp. v + 223.

Lodovico Antonio Muratori (1672-1750), one of the European founders of medieval history, enjoyed a well-deserved, international celebrity in the eighteenth century. Edward Gibbon, who possessed Muratori’s Annali d’Italia (1753-1756) and Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevi (1738-1742), did not fail to acknowledge his debt to the Modenese scholar: "Through the darkness of the middle ages I explored my way in the Annals and Antiquities of Italy of the learned Muratori" (Memoirs of My Life, ed. G. A. Bonnard, New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1969, 147). In addition to his monumental contributions to medieval studies, Muratori, who was a Catholic parson, deserves to be remembered as a source of inspiration to the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Suffice it to say that he did not hesitate to assert that only ignorant people believed in witches: "Del resto più facilmente nelle Ville, e fra il grossolano Popolo, che nelle Città, alligna l’opinion delle Maliarde e delle Stregherie. Poco ci vuole, perché una povera vecchia, benché buona e innocente cristiana, resti denigrata coll’infame titolo di Strega" (Della forza della fantasia umana, Venezia: Presso Giambatista Pasquali, 1745, 138). Girolamo Tartarotti (1706-1761), who waged a memorable battle against magic, "was very pleased to discover that Muratori . . . had also denied the reality of witchcraft" (F. Venturi, "Enlightenment versus the Powers of Darkness," Italy and the Enlightenment: Studies in a Cosmopolitan Century, ed. S. Woolf, tr. S. Corsi, New York: UP, 1972, 109). As to Muratori’s contribution to literary criticism, it was well illustrated by J. G. Robertson, husband of the Australian writer "Henry Handel Richardson" (Mrs. Ethel F. Robertson, 1870-1946, on whom see I. Donaldson, "Ettie Inviolate," TLS, 3 Oct. 1997: 24), in his concise and penetrating essay, "Lodovico Antonio Muratori" (Studies in the Genesis of Romantic Theory in the Eighteenth Century, New York: Russell and Russell, 1962, 60-95).

It is no wonder that such a multi-faceted author as Muratori continues to attract the attention of historians and critics, as attested by the book under review, a collection of six state-of-the-art papers read at a conference dedicated to his influence on the development of biography and autobiography: Andrea Battistini’s "Il ‘gran profitto’ delle ‘verità dissotterrate’: Le ragioni di Muratori autobiografo" (1-23); Anna Burlini Calapaj’s "Dalla biografia del Segneri alla biografia del Giacobini: un percorso spirituale" (25-113); Martino Capucci’s "Biografie lombarde" (115-30); Fabio Marri’s "Autografi muratoriani poco noti della Vita e delle opere poetiche di Carlo Maria Maggi" (131-63); Pietro Puliatti’s "La biografia come itinerario intellettuale: Muratori e Tassoni" (165-94); and Albano Biondi’s "Gli eretici modenesi nell’opera di L. A. Muratori" (195-211). These contributions are introduced by a short "Premessa" signed by Capucci. The volume has a very useful index of names (213-21) which also includes titles of works. It reflects a high level of scholarship, and does not make any concession to those trendy theories of literature that are presently the target of more or less devastating attacks, not only in the English-speaking world, but also in France (Figaro Littéraire, 16 Oct. 1997: 1-3).

Battistini, the leading Italian scholar of autobiographical and biographical studies, is the ideal guide to introduce the reader to the cultural background. In his Nichomachean Ethics (4, 1125a), Aristotle dissuaded people from writing about themselves. He was followed by Cicero, Dante, and Petrarch. Under the influence of Bacon’s De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum, Benedetto Bacchini (1651-1721) lamented in 1692 the scarcity of biographical information concerning intellectuals, and in 1698 wrote the Memorie della mia Celleria, a journal similar to the "libri di bottega." A few years later in 1705, Bacchini, prodded by the desire to inform fellow scholars about his own achievements, wrote his own autobiography in the third person and in Latin, which appeared in Giornale de’ Letterati d’Italia, 34 (1723), 295-319. The autobiographical genre, which reached its full development only toward the end of the eighteenth century, was still a typical hybrid of biography and autobiography, yet its development had begun. Its importance increased in the following years, thanks also to Muratori who maintained, in his Della perfetta poesia italiana of 1706, that poets should explain in autobiographical writings "il modo, con cui eglino han trovati i concetti, dissotterrate le Verità ascose dentro a quella Materia; e . . . come la Fantasia loro siasi agitata" (ed. A. Ruschioni, Milano: Marzorati, 1971-2, vol. 1, 504). Battistini convincingly demonstrates that Giovanni Artico di Porcía’s Progetto ai letterati d’Italia per scrivere le loro vite of 1728 – a work which is credited with originating not only Vico’s but also Muratori’s autobiography – was inspired by the Perfetta poesia as well as by Antonio Conti and Leibnitz.

The important role of Muratori in the development of the biographical genre is amply substantiated by his lives of people as diverse as ecclesiastics such as Paolo Segneri the younger or Benedetto Lodovico Giacobini (which Bulini Calapaj illustrates in the light of Muratori’s correspondence with Giovan Battista Bartoli); authors such as Carlo Maria Maggi and Francesco de Lemene, who were considered the seventeenth-century forerunners of Arcadian taste and who represented in their dialectal compositions what Capucci calls the Lombard patriotism; a poet and philosopher such as Tassoni, who attracted Muratori’s attention for more than fifty years, as Puliatti proves in his excellent contribution; a declared heretic such as Lodovico Castelvetro, whose life appeared in Milan in 1727 with the false imprint of Lyons ("Stamperia di Pietro Foppens") because the Inquisition was alive and kicking in Muratori’s time, as Biondi appropriately notes. Among the copious manuscript material studied in this volume, I must single out Muratori’s autographs related to the Vita di Carlo Maria Maggi, which are the subject matter of Marri’s substantial paper.

Gustavo Costa, University of California, Berkeley 

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Neera. Lydia. Lecco: Periplo, 1997. Pp. 202.

Famosa, letta da un gruppo di fedelissime ed entusiaste ammiratrici, recensita dai critici più in voga tra la fine dell’Ottocento e l’inizio del Novecento, Anna Radius Zuccari – in arte Neera – venne poi, destino condiviso da altre autrici contemporanee, quasi completamente dimenticata. Eppure, in tempi non certo benevoli verso le donne e le scrittrici in particolare, questa moglie e madre di famiglia appassionata di letteratura, intrattenne rapporti epistolari con intellettuali di rango. Basti, tra tutti, un nome: quello di Benedetto Croce. Nata nel 1846 a Milano, precocemente orfana e cresciuta dalle zie, Neera esordì nel 1876 con Un romanzo, e terminò le proprie fatiche con Crepuscoli di libertà, nel 1917. Morì l’anno seguente, lasciando una quarantina di romanzi. Fu inoltre un’ assidua collaboratrice dei giornali e delle riviste più significative del periodo: dal Corriere della Sera alla Nuova Antologia, dal Marzocco al Corriere di Napoli. A questa attività affiancò quella di instancabile epistolografa: di notevole interesse è il cospicuo epistolario, che annovera tra i corrispondenti i caposcuola del verismo italiano: Capuana, Verga e De Roberto.

I romanzi di Neera erano, a tutt’oggi, praticamente introvabili, reperibili semmai in qualche biblioteca, in edizioni di inizio secolo, sfascicolate e fatiscenti. È merito dell’editore Periplo, e dell’attenzione della Professoressa Antonia Arslan che ne cura la collana Voci Negate, se alcuni dei suoi testi sono stati ora ripubblicati. La riedizione ha generato un revival di attenzione, nonché di studi, per la scrittrice.

Lydia, uscito nel 1887, è il secondo volume di una trilogia che l’autrice stessa, seguendo un modello zoliano o forse più genuinamente verghiano, intitolò "ciclo della donna giovane" (gli altri testi sono Teresa, 1886, e L’indomani, 1889). La narrazione è centrata attorno alla figura della protagonista, Lydia, rampolla della ricca borghesia milanese, viziata dalla madre vedova e da un austero zio paterno, Leopoldo. Ben decisa a divertirsi, la ragazza dedica cure raffinatissime alla propria toilette e diviene esperta di civetteria, senza però rinunciare ad esprimere uno spirito ribelle e leggermente trasgressivo. Poco adatta alle sublimità dello spirito, come alcune sue nobili amiche di non più fiorenti condizioni economiche, gioca al gioco della seduzione con studiato artificio, senza mai correre autentici rischi. E, in questa ambiguità di fondo, sta l’irrisolto paradosso del romanzo: Lydia, la giovane edonista e superficiale, il cui motto ostentato è "divertirsi" rimane infatti vergine; una verginità che non ha alcuna motivazione apparente, se non una negazione del corpo, che sarebbe indubbiamente proficuo analizzare in sede critica. La negazione del corpo è sintomo di un’incapacità di viversi se non come "maschera" in ipocriti rapporti sociali: è una forma di resistenza ad oltranza, con cui Lydia non cede e non si cede a nessuno, ma è anche il modo di rinnegare una corporeità, alias forma esteriore, vista attraverso un disappropriante sguardo maschile; che viene, malauguratamente, fatto proprio. Trentenne Lydia conosce, tramite la baronessa Thea von Stern, un giovane tenente degli usseri, il Conte Riccardo Keptsky. Questa volta la razionalità non fa da argine al prorompere appassionato dei sentimenti. Lydia si innamora perdutamente quasi a prima vista, con la cecità e l’ ardore proprio di chi vive una passione adolescenziale con quindici anni di ritardo. Nonostante le malevole indicazioni dell’avvocato Calmi, un amico che pare - lui sì - impersonare un carattere positivista di ascendenza capuaniana, Lydia decide di proseguire il progetto matrimoniale. Ma, quando scoprirà, sempre dietro istigazione di Calmi, che Keptsky è l’amante della sua amica Thea, non le resterà che il suicidio. Peraltro eseguito – la classe non è acqua – con una graziosa pistola da signora dal manico di madreperla. Lydia si aggiunge così a una schiera di eroine tardo-ottocentesche, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina e la nostrana Giacinta, il cui utopico e totalizzante sogno amoroso culmina nella morte.

Quali sono gli ingredienti di questo romanzo diviso in due o meglio tre parti? C’è ovviamente l’influsso del naturalismo francese, con il formalismo rigidamente codificato delle relazioni tra i sessi, le toilettes studiatissime, il vuoto esistenziale che s’ accompagna a dei rapporti sociali tanto ostentati quanto insipidi. C’è, anche, la tradizione del verismo italiano che Neera conosce bene, e di cui discetta a lungo, via epistola, con l’amico Capuana. E, di proprio, la scrittrice aggiunge quella vena intimo-psicologista che la porta ad essere, come ben ha sottolineato Paola Azzolini nell’introduzione, un’autrice non d’intreccio, ma di atmosfere, interessata più allo studio dei personaggi e alle loro recondite motivazioni, che alla trama e all’azione.

Ma parlavamo di romanzo bi- o tripartito. La prima parte è dedicata alla descrizione dei salotti e delle feste dell’alta borghesia milanese. Qui l’autrice denota una straordinaria conoscenza di mussole, trine, pizzi, cartamodelli, cappellini, borse e chi ne ha più ne metta. La giovane e viziata Lydia si affaccia sul palcoscenico del bel mondo, fermamente decisa a ritagliarsi una fetta di ammiratori. La seconda parte è forse, come abbiamo già indicato, la più enigmatica in termini di economia narrativa, in quanto vede una giovinezza spesa in un’orgogliosa negazione di sè, che si accompagna però, paradossalmente, a una studiata auto-rappresentazione vogliosa sì di sedurre, ma paga di non consumare il frutto della seduzione. L’ultima sezione racconta, con dovizie di rossori, palpitazioni, rami fioriti e cavalcate all’alba, l’innamoramento per Keptsky e la tragica scelta finale.

Lydia è, chiaramente, una donna spezzata, incapace di sintetizzare la dimensione esteriore così ostentatamente vacua con una dimensione interiore, che riuscirà a contattare solo grazie all’amore, catalizzatore di conoscenza e autoconoscenza. In questa ipertrofia della superficie esterna e ipotrofia dello spazio interiore, in questa dis-misura che procura qualche forzatura nella costruzione del personaggio, sta il quesito forse più interessante posto dalla protagonista: come appropriarsi di un’interiorità che appare solo al termine del testo, e, per di più, scatenata da un movente esterno?

Va segnalata anche l’appendice curata da Gian Luca Baio, che include un profilo biografico di Neera, la sua bibliografia e due lettere inedite inviatele da De Roberto. Interessante anche l’introduzione che, sul versante del reader-response criticism, situa il romanzo nel contesto della recezione di fine secolo.

Anna Maria Torriglia, University of California at Padua 

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Franco Zangrilli. Pirandello e i classici: Da Euripede a Verga. Firenze: Cadmo, 1995. Pp. 179.

Franco Zangrilli. Le sorprese dell’intertestualità: Cervantes e Pirandello. Torino: SEI, 1996. Pp. 118.

Franco Zangrilli ha messo a frutto la sua vasta conoscenza delle opere pirandelliane per darci, dopo il felice lavoro di Linea pirandelliana nella narrativa contemporanea (Ravenna, Longo, 1990), due altri studi comparati, altrettanto interessanti, che gettano ulteriore luce sulla vena ispiratrice dello scrittore siciliano attraverso un viaggio intertestuale che pone a confronto l’opera narrativa e teatrale di Pirandello con i classici del passato. Questi lavori di Zangrilli fanno perno sul saggio L’umorismo come opera seminale di Pirandello, a cui può essere ricondotta tutta la produzione artistica pirandelliana in quanto documento di "poetica" a cui è rimasto fedele e in cui lo scrittore rivela, tra l’altro, le numerose opere da lui lette e meditate. Se "ogni scrittore crea i suoi precursori", come dice Zangrilli parafrasando Borjes (Pirandello 9), anche Pirandello si è creato i propri. Sappiamo che l’artista siciliano è stato un avido e attento lettore che ha saputo scegliere quelli che per sensibilità artistica potevano ricollegarsi alla sua visione poetica basata su un’inquietante visione della vita e su una sofferta partecipazione al dolore umano, per cui ogni incontro si è trasformato in un fecondo rapporto spirituale creando percezioni, pulsazioni, tensioni, visioni dell’uomo e della realtà che a loro volta hanno influito sul suo processo creativo. Zangrilli ha compiuto un viaggio nel tempo onde recuperare questi legami concreti e tuttavia ideali soprattutto centrandosi nello sforzo di cogliere uno dei più fecondi filoni "poetici" che percorre l’intera tradizione letteraria occidentale, quello dell’umorismo. I suoi lavori vanno perciò al di là della semplice documentazione delle connivenze e mirano ad offrire al lettore il complesso di "affinità, di risonanze, di variazioni" (11) per cui tra Pirandello e i suoi classici si forma un "sistema di interdipendenze, di correlazioni, di rapporti, di echi e anche di inconsce influenze" (10). L’immagine di Pirandello che ne risulta è quella di un attento lettore che ha saputo cogliere la vera sostanza "umoristica" degli autori del passato e trasformarla in "continuità rispetto alla tradizione letteraria" (10). Questa impostazione permette a Zangrilli di trattare un’infinità di aspetti, soprattutto di natura filologica, non percepiti dalla critica pirandelliana, alla quale del resto l’autore nel capitoletto introduttivo rimprovera di aver finora "ignorato il rapporto di Pirandello e con la letteratura latina" (12) e con quella "medioevale, da Dante a Boccaccio" (16).

Nel secondo capitolo Zangrilli affronta i rapporti tra Pirandello e la letteratura greca, tutta intrisa di tensione umoristica anche nella descrizione dei paesaggi. L’autore maggiormente letto da Pirandello è Euripide che per la sostanza morale e per il senso del dolore che ne permea l’ispirazione è più "vicino al nostro modo di vedere e di sentire" (23). Nel Ciclope di Euripide, da Pirandello tradotto nel dialetto siciliano, Zangrilli riscontra un paesaggio intriso di sostanza umoristica allo stesso modo del paesaggio di Liolà e caratteri e comportamenti dei suoi personaggi siciliani. E lo stesso vale per i personaggi plautini, non importa quanto questi autori classici siano coscienti o meno della natura umoristica della loro ispirazione.

I capitoli seguenti sono dedicati rispettivamente a Machiavelli, a Shakespeare, a Manzoni, a Verga e nell’ultimo si fanno estesi riferimenti a Cervantes. La personalità artistica di Machiavelli è stata molto studiata da Pirandello che ad essa dedica alcune pagine penetranti e ha fatto di "Belfagor" oggetto di un rifacimento. Pirandelliane sono tante situazioni e psicologie che si riscontrano nella Mandragola e nella Clizia machiavelliane, come "lo smascheramento e la seduzione" (68) nella prima dove "il comico porta pirandellianamente all’avvertimento del contrario" (68), o le annotazioni sulla metascrittura riscontrabili nella seconda. Anche il personaggio del Principe ha una dimensione pirandelliana se egli costantemente vive con una maschera addosso, sempre teso tra l’essere e l’apparire, recitando sempre la parte che si assegna.

Il rapporto Pirandello-Shakespeare è di lunga durata poiché risale agli anni giovanili dell’artista siciliano, che conosce non solo il teatro ma anche la critica shakesperiana. Pirandello era attratto dal teatro shakesperiano per la sua novità rispetto al teatro tradizionale e per il suo spirito "comico". E trovava nel personaggio di Amleto una ricchezza di quelle affinità umane e psicologiche su cui voleva dotare certi suoi personaggi, come l’Enrico IV.

Parlando di Manzoni, Zangrilli si è concentrato inevitabilmente sulla figura di Don Abbondio verso il quale Manzoni dispiega un atteggiamento critico di comprensione tipico di un autore "umoristico". Altri elementi che legano i due autori sono il sentimento della paura, il tema del viaggio come esperienza espositiva, la maschera dell’ipocrisia religiosa (116).

Particolarmente sviluppato è il rapporto Verga-Pirandello, sia per motivi geografici che culturali. L’attenzione dello Zangrilli cade non tanto sui punti di contatto, inevitabili e sui quali si è concentrata quasi tutta la critica, quanto sulle differenze, come il diverso modo di sentire la loro sicilianità. Confrontando "Cavalleria rusticana" con Liolà il critico cerca di evidenziare le novità del personaggio pirandelliano, "ragionatore alla maniera di Baldovino, di Gala, di Laudisi e di Enrico IV" (144) e non una semplice variazione verghiana come vorrebbe l’interpretazione corrente. Per Zangrilli Verga rimane lo scrittore "naturalista" che vede la realtà "nella sua oggettività, come in uno specchio" (150), mentre Pirandello "la fa passare attraverso le lente deformante del soggettivismo, del relativismo, dello sdoppiamento, dell’illusione" (150).

L’ultimo capitolo, intitolato conclusione, invece di darci una valutazione complessiva e riassuntiva del contenuto del libro come normalmente si aspetterebbe da una "conclusione", sviluppa una scorsa veloce di alcuni autori, come Cantoni e Cervantes, molto vicini a Pirandello sia per la visione della vita che per il loro temperamento artistico ai quali però non gli è stato possibile dedicare un capitolo a parte. Di Cantoni si stabilisce, soprattutto, la pirandellianità del personaggio che "incarna tutte le nostre contraddizioni; si vede grande e piccolo, potente e debole . . . e la [sua] coscienza è profondamente tormentata . . . travagliata da una miriade di sensazioni, di sentimenti, di umori" (154). Quanto a Cervantes vi si anticipano alcuni dei tanti spunti che verranno approfonditi e ampliati ne Le sorprese dell’intertestualià: Cervantes e Pirandello.

Le sorprese dell’intertestualià: Cervantes e Pirandello è un libro diviso in dodici capitoli, ciascuno dei quali studia dettagliatamente un aspetto del ricco rapporto che unisce Cervantes a Pirandello, che la critica ha finora trattato in maniera del tutto "impressionistica". Il secondo capitolo indaga il comune sostrato di cultura mediterranea di cui si sono alimentati i due autori anche attaverso la loro frequentazione di scrittori come Boccaccio e Ariosto, e mette in rilievo il filo connettivo che unisce Cervantes e Pirandello, che consiste soprattutto nel forte senso dell’umorismo presente nella loro ispirazione.

Nei capitoli seguenti – "La forma", La follia", "La dialettica", "La giustizia", "Il doppio" – Zangrilli illustra le varie manifestazioni dell’umorismo nell’opera dei due autori. Da esse emerge la presenza del personaggio alienato e diverso, che può da questa posizione di vantaggio penetrare nella realtà della società circostante e smascherarla, magari avvantaggiato in questo dalla sua "follia", dovuta alla sua indisponibilità verso i comportamenti di quella società. Spesso si tratta di personaggi maturi, avvezzi alla lettura, alla riflessione filosofica, alla discussione, magari arzigogolata. E sono coscienti della loro condizione di emarginati, ma anche della loro funzione di rottura, di sovversività nei riguardi della realtà borghese, e difendono con accanimento la propria realtà "relativa", che è l’emblema della dialettica umoristica. E quando la lotta con la società circostante diventa impossibile, rimane loro come ultimo rimedio il rifugio nell’illusione o l’assunzione di una nuova identità per cui egli può essere "ora uno ed ora anche nessuno, ora buon[o] e ora cattiv[o], ora razional[e] ora irrazional[e]".

Di particolare importanza sono i due capitoli dedicati al metadiscorso (VIII) e al metateatro (IX), anch’essi visti in funzione dell’umorismo. L’attenzione che tanto Cervantes quanto Pirandello pongono al problema della creazione artistica è rilevante per comprendere la complessità degli influssi cervantini su Pirandello. Secondo il critico "l’influsso del discorso meta-artistico del capolavoro di Cervantes si fa vedere innanzitutto nella novella . . . come sperimentalizzazione nei riguardi della struttura" (47) e poi nella funzione che assume il personaggio nei confronti della materia artistica. Ed è in questa seconda dimensione che egli rivela la sua natura umoristica, una natura che egli condivide con il personaggio cervantino: "Cervantes e Pirandello hanno dimostrato che l’eroe onesto, e quindi impotente, vinto, meschino, non è affatto fastidioso, se è conscio della sua natura umoristica e si sforza di affermarla in un mondo che la ignora o la vuole sopprimere" (49). Conseguentemente "si delinea la poetica del personaggio pirandelliano, che è un antieroe, un don Chisciotte moderno" (49).

Dopo i due brevissimi capitoli "Il femminile" e "Il matrimonio", si arriva al capitolo finale, "Viaggio". Secondo Zangrilli i due autori ricorrono spesso al motivo archetipale del viaggio come evasione e come ricerca, anche se gli esiti variano, dato che in Pirandello c’è sempre una spinta verso il tragico a condizionare il risultato finale. In ambedue gli scrittori inoltre il viaggio assume andamenti picareschi che nel personaggio cervantino assecondano spesso una tendenza verso l’illegalità, oltre che il bisogno di trovare un modo per campare, mentre in quello pirandelliano essi servono a soddisfare "profonde necessità, esistenziali e spirituali" (73). Interessante il paragrafo finale del capitolo che vuole essere più che una conclusione, una proiezione verso il futuro, quello dell’influenza di Pirandello sulla letteratura spagnola e latino-americana in generale, probabilmente l’argomento di una prossima opera di Franco Zangrilli.

Anthony Costantini, California State University, Northridge 

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Paola Casella. Strumenti di filologia pirandelliana. Ravenna: Longo Editore, 1997. Pp. 254.

Il libro di Paola Casella si divide in tre parti. Nella prima l’autrice esamina i testi, finora inedite, di ventisei novelle pirandelliane, e li mette a confronto con quelli già inseriti nell’edizione critica delle Novelle per un anno diretta da Giovanni Macchia, di cui il libro in oggetto vuole costituire un "complemento." Aver reso disponibili, grazie soprattutto ad indicazioni tratte dall’epistolario pirandelliano, un così gran numero di edizioni inedite, è un fatto di per sé stesso della massima importanza. Se poi a questo si aggiunge l’acume critico con cui Paola Casella conduce la sua lettura "verticale" dei testi pirandelliani, per usare un termine usato da Borsellino nel suo ormai classico saggio sulla "stratigrafia" dell’Esclusa, appare chiaro fin dal principio che questo studio è destinato ad assumere un’importanza notevole per gli studiosi dell’opera pirandelliana.

La seconda parte del libro raccoglie alcuni saggi inediti di Pirandello, apparsi su varie riviste in un arco di tempo che va dal 1894 al 1926. In attesa della nuova edizione mondadoriana dei saggi, curata da Alfredo Barbina, anche questo contributo, per quanto modesto, ha la sua importanza. La terza parte, infine, contiene un saggio sulla ricezione critica dell’opera pirandelliana, così come fu vista dai suoi contemporanei, ed una lista, suddivisa per anno, delle recensioni apparse tra il 1893 e il 1936. Per quanto certamente non esaustiva, la "giunta" proposta da Paola Casella colma una notevole lacuna nella bibliografia critica curata da Alfredo Barbina, ritenuta strumento indispensabile per chi si occupa di studi pirandelliani.

Tra i ritrovamenti di novelle compiuti da Paola Casella, da segnalare è quello della prima edizione della novella "Matrimonio ideale," pubblicata la prima volta nel 1905 con il titolo "Una novella che non farò," di cui l’autrice dà una lettura molto interessante, mettendola in relazione con il saggio pirandelliano sull’umorismo. Altra trouvaille importante è la prima edizione del "Marito di mia moglie," riprodotta per intero negli apparati complementari, in quanto si discosta notevolmente dalle edizioni successive. Le varianti sono segnalate con notevole rigore filologico e messe sempre in relazione con l’edizione critica dei Meridiani Mondadori. Percorrendo il volume, non si può fare a meno di notare la sicurezza con cui Casella si muove nel "labirinto variantistico" delle novelle pirandelliane, sottolineando tendenze di fondo che fanno luce sull’evoluzione della scrittura e della poetica dello scrittore siciliano.

La seconda parte del volume è a sua volta divisa in due sezioni. La prima contiene tre recensioni giovanili di Pirandello, scritte tra il 1894 e 1898, periodo importante per l’autore siciliano, allora agli inzi della sua carriera di scrittore. Gli scritti, come spesso accade in Pirandello, contengono numerose digressioni di carattere teorico, in cui l’autore mette a fuoco la sua poetica: la sua predilezione per il genere comico-umoristico e il rifiuto delle mode letterarie contemporaneee, quali il simbolismo, che portano gli scrittori ad usare uno stile falso ed artificiale. Da segnalare, nella recensione a una raccolta di novelle di Guido Fortebracci, stroncata proprio per l’eccessiva preziosità dello stile, un riferimento positivo ad una novella la cui trama ricorda per alcuni aspetti quella dell’Enrico IV. Pirandello si sofferma su questo testo, dandone un sommario piuttosto dettagliato. Tutte e tre le recensioni, comunque, dimostrano come l’attività critica fornisse al giovane scrittore un’opportunità per raffinare le proprie idee sull’arte, che egli andava sviluppando in quegli anni nell’ambito del cenacolo letterario romano in cui la figura piú importante era Francesco Capuana.

La seconda sezione contiene invece scritti teorici pubblicati sul Popolo d’Italia, il giornale di Mussolini, tra il 1925 e il 1926. I saggi coincidono quindi con un momento cruciale della vita di Pirandello. Sono questi gli anni infatti in cui Pirandello aderisce al Fascismo, e in cui appaiono i saggi di Tilgher sulla filosofia pirandelliana, che tanta influenza avranno sia sulla critica che sull’autore stesso. Ed infatti i saggi fanno luce su entrambi gli aspetti del pensiero pirandelliano. "Il guardaroba dell’eloquenza," in particolare, sviluppa un parallelo interessante tra i "retori’ in campo letterario e quelli politici. Questi ultimi tendono ad analizzare i fatti quotidiani alla luce di concetti "astratti" quali, ad esempio, la lotta di classe. Il "vero" uomo politico, invece, analizza i fatti sempre in modo pragmatico, immergendosi per così dire in essi. Da una parte avremmo un’opera politica (e letteraria) viva, in cui Vita e Forma (il binomio caro a Tilgher) si compenetrano felicemente, dando luogo a soluzioni politiche e letterarie vincenti. Nell’opera dei "retori" invece, sia politici che letterari, la vita, cioè il fatto reale, contingente, si verrebbe a cristallizzare nell’astrattezza di una forma, senza trovare una vera soluzione né artistica né politica. Il saggio pirandelliano ricicla nella prima parte nozioni già sviluppate nel saggio sull’umorismo, ma contiene anche nuove ed importanti considerazioni di ordine politico, che rispecchiano l’ideologia fascista che l’autore aveva abbracciato coscientemente in quegli anni. Il guardaroba dell’eloquenza infatti diventa, nella seconda parte del saggio, una metafora per l’ideologia socialista, colpevole di applicare, come il retore fa nel campo letterario, le dottrine del marxismo--ritenute dal Siciliano forme ormai morte--alla realtà politica contemporanea, che invece avrebbe bisogno di quel vitalismo pragmatista che secondo l’autore era caratteristico di Mussolini.

Il saggio piú bello della serie, forse perché di tono scherzoso pur nel suo intento polemico, mi è parso "La fiera della sapienza," in cui Pirandello difende la sua spontaneità poetica, per questo aspetto simile ai bambini, contro quei critici che tendevano a leggere le sue opere in chiave quasi esclusivamente filosofica. Tutti e tre i saggi riproposti nel volume riconfermano la tecnica tipica di Pirandello, che tendeva sempre a riciclare idee e talvolta interi paragrafi di saggi precedenti. Lo stesso succede anche in questi articoli degli anni venti, come mostra Paola Casella nelle sue note, che rimandano con precisione a saggi scritti da Pirandello quindici o venti anni prima.

La terza parte del libro Paola Casella raccoglie un gran numero di recensioni critiche dell’opera di Pirandello. Un lavoro di notevole importanza, in quanto le bibliografie critiche pirandelliane riportano pochissime recensioni pubblicate prima della metà degli anni dieci, quando Pirandello comincia ad assumere una fama notevole, grazie soprattutto alle sue opere teatrali. Il paziente lavoro di ricerca dell’autrice, condotto sui periodici dell’epoca, rivela invece che già a partire dagli inizi della sua carriera letteraria Pirandello era recensito frequentemente da giornali e riviste talvolta assai autorevoli, quali La Nuova Antologia e Il Marzocco. Dopo la pubblicazione del Fu Mattia Pascal, Pirandello viene indicato come uno dei principali novellieri italiani, e gli studi critici si intensificano sempre piú. L’attenzione dei critici verte in modo dominante sull’aspetto "umoristico" della sua opera narrativa, anche se la definizione di umorismo appare spesso confusa, almeno finché Pirandello stesso non la chiarirà nel suo famoso saggio del 1908. Sarà proprio la pubblicazione dell’Umorismo ad attirare contro Pirandello le critiche piú dure, a partire da quella di Croce. Sempre piú spesso, dopo questa data, l’opera di Pirandello verrà accusata di eccessiva schematicità nell’applicazione delle teorie umoristiche, che determinerebbero un ripetersi continuo delle stesse soluzioni narrative. Ma la ragione piú profonda per cui critici maggiori, quali Borgese, si levano contro Pirandello è la mancanza di "idealità" che staturisce dal corrosivo umorismo dello scrittore siciliano. Il romanzo, assai atteso dalla critica, I vecchi e i giovani, pubblicato alla vigilia della seconda guerra mondiale, è condannato dalla maggior parte dei critici contemporanei per l’eccessivo pessimismo o scetticismo, due aggettivi che contrastano fortemente con il clima di revival nazionalistico di quegli anni. Una simile accoglienza sarà riservata ai Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio, del 1916. Per quanto la "Giunta alla bibliografia critica pirandelliana" proposta dall’autrice arrivi fino al 1936, l’analisi della ricezione critica compiuta da Paola Caselli si ferma al 1916, anno in cui Pirandello comincia a dedicarsi piú intensamente all’attività teatrale, che lo forzerà a limitare notevolmente la sua attività novellistica, che come sappiamo era da lui prediletta.

Vorrei concludere questa breve nota sottolineando da una parte il grande valore filologico del volume qui recensito, dall’altra incoraggiando anche coloro che per la filologia non hanno molta simpatia a leggere il volume di Paola Casella, ed in particolare i saggi che accompagnano gli apparati complementari: vi troveranno osservazioni e spunti critici estremamente interessanti, a dimostrazione che la buona critica letteraria non può mai prescindere da una solida base semantica e filologica.

Tullio Pagano, Dickinson College 

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Daniela Bini. Pirandello and His Muse. The Plays for Marta Abba. Gainesville: UP, 1998. Pp. xvi + 230.

As Daniela Bini points out in her Preface and Acknowledgments, this book is the culmination of several years of research and reflection on Pirandello’s artistic treatment of women. It concentrates mostly on Pirandello’s relationship with the actress Marta Abba and the later plays he dedicated to her. Though she cites other critics, Bini bases her views largely on the published correspondence between the Maestro and his young muse.

In the Introduction, "The Burden of Tradition," Bini explains what she considers certain inherited beliefs that influenced Pirandello’s work. She points out that since all the raisonneurs in Pirandello’s plays are males, he obviously considered reason to be an exclusive attribute of the male, whereas nature and instinct are in the female sphere. In developing her argument, Bini repeats the radical feminist contention that procreation is exclusive to women. That is true, of course, only in the narrowest sense. Other inaccuracies: Bini states that Catholic tradition condemns the flesh, but strictly speaking it only censures the sins of the flesh. She also asserts that in Catholic tradition the central figure becomes the Virgin Mary, an assumption that is simply not true, since the preeminence of Christ has never been in doubt.

In the biographical section Bini discusses the contents of letters Pirandello sent to his wife Antonietta, his daughter Lietta, and his protégée Marta Abba. Here and elsewhere in the work, Bini speaks of the "psychological blackmail" that Pirandello employed against these women for personal gain.

In the following section, "The Liberation of Art," the critic initially focuses on Pirandello’s male characters, who use and abuse reason and constantly question the power of words. The Sicilian dramatist, however, expresses faith in language that is honest and authentic. Bini then analyzes Pirandello’s female characters, who are not bound by the strictures of logic yet understand and communicate in original ways. In Bini’s opinion, "Pirandello intimately identified with women, and therefore succeeded in creating psychologically profound and complex female characters" (15).

In Chapter 1, "Woman, the Platonic Ideal: Tuda and ‘Marta,’" Bini describes the first play Pirandello wrote for Marta, Diana e la Tuda. In this 1926 work Tuda represents Marta and both male characters, young Sirio and old Giuncano, represent Pirandello. As Bini sees it, Pirandello and Marta, his muse, created together new characters, new works, and in a word gave birth to new life.

L’amica delle mogli, 1927, was the second play Pirandello wrote for Marta. The protagonist herself is named Marta. It seems that in having conceived a strong character such as Marta, Pirandello believed in the power of woman as a superior being. Incidentally, in a short digression, Bini, with an excessively vivid imagination and alluding to the erotic protagonist in a famous short story by Giovanni Verga, points out that the photograph of Marta Abba for years on Pirandello’s desk resembled that of a she-wolf. That portrait, published in Album di famiglia di Luigi Pirandello, a work edited by the Sicilian author’s granddaughter (not "great-granddaughter" [6], as Bini once calls her) is really not much different from the ones that appear on pp. 24 and 173 of the monograph under review.

In Chapter 2, "Woman, the Earth Mother: La Spera and Sara," Bini discusses myths as escapism. Here she also states that the first two myths Pirandello wrote for Marta are "a celebration of the feminine" (62). The first one, La nuova colonia, 1928, is a metaphor of his identification with the mother figure, La Spera, who is a sort of Earth Mother. The second one, Lazzaro, 1929, has as its protagonist Sara, who also can be seen as an Earth Mother. In both dramas Marta Abba starred in the leading role.

In Chapter 3, "Woman’s Refusal of Roles, L’Ignota," Bini characterizes Pirandello’s relationship with Marta. In Bini’s opinion, Marta was his spiritual wife. In fact, the original title of the critic’s monograph was: "My Muse, My Bride" (xiii). Bini also reveals how Pirandello used psychological blackmail to have Marta write to him in Berlin, where he was composing Come tu mi vuoi. The critic then repeats Pirandello’s childbirth metaphor to explain how "the artist conceives and gives birth, but the fertilization process is accomplished by the muse" (101). By making Marta part and parcel of the creative process, Pirandello supposedly overcame the division between mind and body, and between the sexes.

Chapter 4, "Woman as Creator," contains a discussion of Pirandello’s letters from Berlin and Paris to Marta. She, a young woman associated with Pirandello, was an easy target for critics, and therefore Pirandello encouraged her and strengthened her resolve to perfect her art. According to Bini, by 1930 she had become a collaborator of the author or, better yet, her task was that of continuing the creative process. That her collaboration with Pirandello was substantive is, in my opinion, grossly exaggerated, despite what the Sicilian author himself, who was hopelessly in love, tried to make Marta believe.

The critic then touches upon I giganti della montagna, Pirandello’s unfinished play. The plot centers on the clash between a spiritual world (that of the theater) and the materialistic world of today. Bini here opines that Pirandello never completed the work, in order perhaps to put off his own end. Pirandello says in his letters that Marta is creating and Bini echoes that the woman, the dramatist’s inspiration, was the real creator of several of the Sicilian author’s works. As Bini writes, "I giganti can be read as the sublimation of Pirandello’s eroticism and the metaphor of procreation as artistic creation" (132). Marta herself seems to have believed (or perhaps wanted others to believe) that she co-authored the play. In fact, she later told the world that "the work was the fruit of collaboration, that of two spirits united by the same love – the love for each other through their higher love for art" (134).

In Chapter 5, "Woman as Actress; Freedom in Acting: Sgombero and Trovarsi," Bini focuses on the last plays written for Marta and considers them a literary sublimation of Pirandello’s eroticism. According to her, Pirandello was now creating with Marta the central character of Trovarsi (1932). The leading character is Donata Genzi, who represents Marta. Both character and actress live for art, with art triumphing over life.

The final chapter, "The Disruption of Form: ‘Non conclude…,’" discusses Non si sa come, 1934, Pirandello’s last play, based on three short stories, each of which dealing with the woman’s issue and two of which written as early as 1913 and 1914, respectively. Bini therefore admits that "Marta Abba certainly helped him to concentrate his reflections and analysis of woman’s nature and role, but all through his life the female psyche and social condition had been central to his writing . . ."(171).

In the concluding pages, "An Afterthought," Bini points out that the scope of this study was to separate Pirandello the man from Pirandello the artist and to show how the latter redeems the former. As Bini understands the situation, Pirandello appropriated metaphorically the power of woman and gave birth to immortal works. Bini maintains that the published missives are important "because they show the metamorphosis of Pirandello the man into Pirandello the artist – an androgynous artist who could understand, share, and suffer not only with Marta the actress but also with women per se" (190).

Although the book is largely a translation, a reworking and development of Bini’s former writings on Pirandello, originally in Italian, it displays on the whole rather good English. Nevertheless, possible hints of the critic’s Italian origin are such minor errors as "Maria Magdalen" (69) and "re-evoked" (211), the ipercorrezioni "Hyppolitus" (200n) and "Dyonisian" (206), as well as the strange rendering of "Sta di là […]" as "Get off […]" (70). I also find "The Wheel-barrow" (206n2) erroneously hyphenated. Among other misspellings, probably attributable to the typist or typesetter, are several German words, e.g., "Schuspielhaus" (112) instead of Schauspielhaus and "Koenisberg" (115) instead of Koenigsberg.

In conclusion, despite the book’s various shortcomings referred to above, I recommend the work as a notable example of the innovative studies of Pirandello’s later works that began after 1986, when Marta Abba donated to Princeton the several hundred letters she had received from her beloved mentor. In its attempt to reconstruct an important period of Pirandellian history, this publication provides much food for thought, if one can ignore the extreme feminist rhetoric that occasionally mars the author’s otherwise persuasive reasoning.

Giovanni R. Bussino, Burbank, California

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Robert S. C. Gordon. Pasolini: Forms of Subjectivity. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. Pp. xii + 324.

Despite the vast criticism on Pasolini, and despite the profoundly interdisciplinary nature of his work, few critics have sought to analyze the interconnections linking his experimental forays in so many diverse media. The challenge in reading Pasolini, therefore, has become to understand him whole, to try to grapple with the textual traces of his forays into so many diverse areas. Beginning in the 1980s, Italian scholars such as Franco Brevini, Rinaldo Rinaldi, and Guido Santato produced large-scale monographic studies which attempted to interpret Pasolini’s oeuvre in its entirety for an Italian audience. Now, Robert S. C. Gordon’s admirable Pasolini: Forms of Subjectivity synthesizes, builds upon, and extends the earlier Italian scholarship, as well as the vast critical commentary that has emerged in recent years in Anglo-American circles, to provide English-language readers, scholars, and critics a fresh, penetrating view of Pasolini. Surpassing his "preliminary aim to qualify the dominant approaches to his work," Gordon proves himself to be the kind of eclectic reader and theoretically astute critic that Pasolini’s multifaceted oeuvre demands. His strategy of pursuing the "work of subjectivity" in three different areas – journalism, poetry, and cinema – provides rich insights as Gordon traces and retraces the by-now familiar contours of Pasolini’s career into intriguing new patterns.

The book focuses on "the processes of self-construction" and subjectivity that are at work in various aspects of Pasolini’s vast output and is divided into four parts, which in turn are further subdivided into chapters. Each part is introduced by a brief overview and declaration of intentions. This structure functions very well in organizing the diverse materials involved. It also may prove to be useful to those (less than ideal) readers who may not be interested in following the argument of the entire book, while seeking to ascertain Gordon’s perspective on a particular aspect of Pasolini’s production.

Part one deals with Pasolini’s strategies of self-representation and the logic of his development as a public intellectual. His participation in various intellectual/literary circles, his involvement with literary/cultural journals, and his contributions to various newspapers over the course of his career trace the trajectory of Pasolini’s "evolution from provincial, romanticizing young poet to Roman intellectual, film-director, and notorious polemicist" (11). Gordon’s emphasis on the central role of subjectivity during every phase of this itinerary proves to be very useful and provides new insights into Pasolini’s work. According to Gordon, Pasolini’s "laying bare of the self in a public arena became the dominant paradigm of his activity, and its rhetoric is of central importance in understanding his role as a cultural operator" (11). The three chapters of this section succeed admirably in analyzing the interplay between subjectivity and history in Pasolini’s public pronouncements and his position-taking on a variety of matters.

Part two focuses on Pasolini’s poetry, which Gordon perceptively characterizes as being primarily dedicated to "the exploration of problems and anxieties of subjectivity . . . driven by the construction of multiple and simultaneous masquerades of self-inscription" (89). Gordon identifies four different patterns or tropes through which the work of subjectivity in Pasolini’s poetry is elaborated: the autobiographical subject; history, or an idea of history; figures of identification; and what Gordon calls "the dual figuration of the father and of the body" (88). In this section, and indeed, throughout the book, the late Franco Fortini serves as Gordon’s chief interlocutor. Building on a number of Fortini’s seminal observations, Gordon’s readings of Pasolini’s poetry provide some of the book’s most important insights. He takes us further than any other critic has to date in understanding its development in relation to Pasolini’s other activities. Gordon’s extensive knowledge of the poetic texts allows him to reveal "the eccentric patterns of autobiography at work" (90) therein. Furthermore, his clear exposition of the critical tradition surrounding the poetry establishes points of reference from which scholars might wish to depart in future studies.

Arriving at Pasolini’s film work after an insightful retracing of his development as a literary intellectual and cultural operator, and an extensive analysis of the poetry, Gordon approaches the cinema on its own terms. Yet the third section of the book, devoted to cinema, gains from the cumulative effect of the preceding chapters. Pasolini’s vision of cinema contains "versions of the tropes of his poetry – autobiography, history, projective self-figuration, the body – and the equally familiar struggle to take on his medium, ‘never to be afraid of where he is speaking’" (189). In this way, the critic brings the insights garnered in the other two realms to bear on the film work and the results are significant. Six interlocking aspects of film discourse are analyzed as channels which carry the work of subjectivity: authority and inscription; style and technique; genesis and intertextuality; metaphor; being and film-time; and spectatorship. By "tracking the subject" through these discourses, Gordon is able to establish fruitful analogies and parallel movements between cinema, poetry, and Pasolini’s later journalism. More important, he is able to bring a new perspective to bear on the film work itself.

Gordon finds two impulses at work in Pasolini’s turn to the cinema in the early 1960s: one is in part a self-proclaimed "cynical move," an attempt to overcome an impasse in his literary work and to expand his range as a public intellectual; the other impulse is, in Gordon’s terms, "utopian," as it involves "reaching out for an absolute of expression and representation" (190). It is here that Gordon breaks new ground in interpreting Pasolini’s cinema because he is able to demonstrate that "these two impulses, whose interaction conditions the nature of all his work, in film and elsewhere, after 1960, are fraught with difficulty, indeed are radically irreconcilable. . . . To track the subject of film in Pasolini is to track contours of anxiety" (190).

The fourth and final part, "Unfinished Endings," develops a close reading of Pasolini’s unfinished fragmentary novel Petrolio in light of the work of subjectivity. Because Pasolini framed his own return to prose as "an enquiry into subjectivity," Gordon argues that Petrolio "provides a vertiginous array of textual and discursive features to confirm, qualify, and re-articulate what has already been discerned in his journalism, poetry, and cinema" (268). From Gordon’s perspective, the unfinished fragmentary nature of the text is not a hindrance, but indeed offers an opportunity to study the work of subjectivity under construction. As he argues, "if the sheer weight of unwritten material means that Petrolio cannot be the ‘summa’ Pasolini dreamed of, it can be read as notes towards a synthesis and summary of the work of subjectivity in his oeuvre" (268). Gordon’s reading is indeed persuasive and it serves a dual purpose as final chapter and conclusion. Thus, his analysis of Petrolio re-enforces and re-articulates the book’s earlier findings by locating their continuing dynamic presence in the unfinished novel.

Avoiding the tendency toward reduction found in much Anglo-American work on Pasolini, Gordon’s reading of Petrolio demonstrates its relationship to what has come before, but also emphasizes its ruptures. "While restating and re-imagining the material and insights of Salò and La nuova gioventù (and much of Scritti corsari and Lettere luterane), Petrolio draws away from the annihilation and aphasia that the latter enact and opens up prospects of new forms, new registers, and new histories" (292). In a similar fashion, Gordon’s treatment of subjectivity in Pasolini makes it possible to return to his works with deeper insight. Given its synthesis of the scholarship involved, and the persuasiveness of its interpretive moves, this book will no doubt stand as a defining perspective on Pasolini for many years to come.

John P. Welle, University of Notre Dame 

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Cristina Della Colletta. Plotting the Past. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 1996. Pp. vii + 268.

Alba Amoia. 20th-Century Italian Women Writers. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1996. Pp. vii + 189.

Per coloro che si interessano della riscrittura della Storia e delle differenze e/o somiglianze tra Storia e narrativa il libro di Cristina Della Colletta costituirà una lettura estremamente proficua. Plotting the Past è un saggio elegante e forbito, scritto in una prosa lucida e precisa dalla solida base critica. Il substrato teorico di questo volume, infatti, si alimenta di tutti i più significativi pensatori del nostro secolo: da Foucault a Barthes, da Adorno a Ricoeur, da Bakhtin a Kermode, da White a Girard ecc. Siamo di fronte a un lavoro di scavo testuale, ma soprattutto di indagine dialogica col testo, giacché l’autrice via via si pone quesiti che rivelano un’accurata capacità di introspezione critica, e allo stesso tempo conducono il lettore attraverso il mondo labirintico del discorso testuale a mo’ di filo di Arianna. L’opera in questione si presenta quindi come un lavoro seminale sul romanzo storico, nel senso che apre tutta una serie di orizzonti critici e di nuove possibilità di ricerca sulle quali questo genere letterario potrebbe prosperare, e mi riferisco a scrittori come Sciascia, Vassalli, Tabucchi, Pazzi, ecc.

Nell’introduzione, la Della Colletta, parlando dell’enorme fortuna del romanzo storico sulla scia della popolarità de I promessi sposi, considera il capolavoro manzoniano come il modello classico di quel genere letterario che ha dato vita ad una serie numerosissima di imitazioni, che di rimando hanno contribuito alla canonizzazione del genere stesso. Tuttavia, la scelta del critico si orienta su tre romanzi – Il gattopardo di Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, La Storia di Elsa Morante e Il nome della rosa di Umberto Eco – considerati esemplari, in quanto portatori di un discorso critico che iniziato con Manzoni nel suo Del romanzo storico si interroga su problemi di estetica e di filosofia e sul significato dello scrivere all’interno del genere. Tre opere le suddette che, partecipando all’evoluzione del canone, allo stesso tempo ne creano una mappa del suo sviluppo storico. Eco, Lampedusa e la Morante, allargando i confini del genere e sottolineando la specificità storica e culturale della voce narrante nei rispettivi romanzi, dimostrano che l’unico approccio valido alla teoria dei generi è quello di colui che si pone consciamente all’interno delle dinamiche storiche del sistema letterario e lo considera come un qualcosa in continuo sviluppo e cambiamento.

Procedendo diacronicamente, il primo capitolo offre un’accurata analisi del dibattito tra Classicisti e Romantici e tratteggia le posizioni critiche di Zaiotti, Mazzini, Tommaseo e di Manzoni. Esaminando Del romanzo storico, la Della Colletta fa notare che Manzoni nega la possibilità della coesistenza di Storia e narrativa all’interno di uno stesso genere. Secondo Manzoni il discorso storico e quello narrativo sono distinti, l’uno ha radici nel mondo empirico e fattuale, l’altro nell’universale e nel trascendente. Tuttavia, I promessi sposi rimangono un modello di romanzo storico tuttora valido, anche nel caso in cui il lettore contemporaneo non ne condivida la prospettiva provvidenziale. Non bisogna dimenticare, infatti, che, secondo la Della Colletta, il capolavoro manzoniano narra di personaggi socialmente marginali, di coloro che da sempre sono stati esclusi dalla grande Storia, e quindi denuncia implicitamente l’autorità della Storia ufficiale scritta dalle classi dominanti per le classi dominanti.

Nel capitolo secondo, l’autrice fornisce un resoconto del violento dibattito culturale scatenatosi dopo la pubblicazione de Il gattopardo tra gli intellettuali dell’epoca, inserendolo nel clima critico-politico dell’Italia degli anni cinquanta. La Della Colletta afferma che il romanzo di Lampedusa porta avanti il discorso manzoniano approfondendo gli schemi ideologici e psicologici che si intrecciano nella configurazione del passato storico. Abbinando la costruzione del passato fatta dal narratore onnisciente con quella del protagonista del romanzo (Don Fabrizio, Principe di Salina) Il gattopardo dimostra come la riconfigurazione del passato non sia mai neutrale o oggettiva, ma piuttosto vittima della soggettività e della posizione storica dei suoi interpreti. Una quantità di strati temporali si superimpone nel romanzo: il tempo lineare dell’evento storico, il tempo personale delle memoria del protagonista, il non-tempo geografico dell’immutabilità dei luoghi, di una Sicilia mitica, e il tempo a posteriori della ricostruzione del narratore onnisciente. Il protagonista Don Fabrizio è immerso in un mondo in rapido cambiamento, quello dell’Unificazione d’Italia, e a differenza del narratore è incapace di afferrare e capire gli eventi a pieno, quindi la sua visione della Storia è diversa da quella del narratore; la sua visione è quella di una "Storia in fieri", parziale e frammentaria, che resiste ad ogni tentativo di organizzazione, mentre quella del narratore è un "fare la Storia", ovvero una riorganizzazione a posteriori degli eventi accaduti. Questa doppia ricostruzione crea un doppio effetto, da parte del Principe abbiamo un’esperienza storica che percepisce ricorsi e ripetizioni nella catena degli eventi contemporanei; dall’altra uno schema logico di progressione causale, e di conseguenza un narratore che manifesta il punto di vista privilegiato di colui che ricostruisce gli eventi, mentre il protagonista manifesta la crisi sia individuale che della classe sociale a cui appartiene in un momento storico di transizione.

Nonostante la struttura formale de Il gattopardo segua la progressione temporale di un cinquantennio, la maggior parte dei capitoli narra di eventi che accadono in due anni, e tra alcuni capitoli esistono "buchi" temporali di molti anni. Il romanzo perciò esibisce una struttura episodica, giacché i capitoli non seguono una progressione cronologica precisa. Inoltre, la voce narrante, attraverso commenti personali, ironie, informazioni prolettiche e extradiegetiche, stabilisce uno stretto legame tra gli eventi passati e la loro organizzazione e interpretazione presente. Grazie a questo arrangiamento strutturale, Lampedusa mette in evidenza la natura soggettiva implicita in ogni ricostruzione storica: il narratore onnisciente come "storico ideale" finisce con l’essere incapace di dare una rappresentazione completa degli eventi storici, e fornisce solo un’immagine storica parziale, frammentaria, provvisoria, un "punto di vista" insomma. Il gattopardo mette quindi in discussione la possibilità di accedere al referente storico, il passato come "veramente" era rimane assente. Ma questo vuoto può essere riempito da ciò che alcuni interpreti evocano dal loro coinvolgimento emotivo e soggettivo con gli eventi trascorsi, cosicché l’eredità culturale di intere comunità sul punto di essere travolte dalla Storia può essere salvata.

Il capitolo terzo ritorna al problema della conoscenza del passato, alla possibilità di rendere gli eventi come "veramente" sono accaduti, anche se ne La Storia la Morante critica il concetto di verità storica, denunciando le omissioni e i silenzi della Storia ufficiale. La narrativa diventa per la Morante l’unica legittima alternativa alla storiografia: raccontando le storie di coloro che non entrano a far parte della documentazione storica, la scrittrice implicitamente denuncia la Storia ufficiale come un mezzo per mantenere i sistemi di potere esistenti e per emarginare coloro che non ne fanno parte, come i bambini e le donne. Nel romanzo morantiano le sezioni storiche danno un resoconto degli eventi politici, mentre le parti narrative danno spazio ad una voce femminile che attua una revisione del discorso storiografico patriarcale. Come i personaggi di Manzoni, anche i personaggi della Morante sono antieroi, sono umili e passive vittime della Storia. Nel caso della Morante però la dicotomia tra Storia ufficiale (la Seconda Guerra Mondiale e l’immediato dopoguerra) e la storia della povera maestra, vedova con figli, che vive in un misero quartiere romano, testimonia la volontà dell’autrice di reinscrivere le donne nella Storia. L’opposizione manzoniana tra Storia e narrativa diventa per lei l’opposizione tra due diverse identità sessuali: da una parte la Storia colonizzata nel nome del padre, dall’altra il continente femminile da sempre assente. Ma l’assenza delle donne dalla Storia riguarda solo la Storia erudita, empirica, esclusivamente interessata alle azioni, alle conquiste e alle disfatte dei capi di stato, dei militari, dei ministri ecc. La Storia così concepita si occupa solo dei rapidi e visibili cambiamenti, non di quello che appare stabile, ciclico, soggetto a cambiamento graduale, quello cioè che appare come una serie graduale e quasi impercettibile di cambiamenti rimane nello sfondo.

La Della Colletta sottolinea che la Morante già con la scelta del titolo del suo libro, La Storia: romanzo, apre diverse possibilità di lettura, in quanto tale scelta non solo dichiara che la Storia ufficiale è una narrativa, ma anche che la sua narrativa è Storia. Poiché La Storia separa polemicamente la parte cronachistica dalla parte narrativa, la Della Colletta conclude che a causa della sua brutalità la Storia diventa il terreno dell’"irrealtà", mentre la verità si trova dalla parte dell’invenzione narrativa. La realtà "fittizia," infatti, contiene verità poetiche e storiche, che si rivelano nel raccontare di come bambini, povere donne e altri emarginati sopportano, sopravvivono e a loro modo sfidano l’ordine dominante. Il romanzo storico per la Morante acquista un fondamentale valore politico: è il mezzo per raccontare le storie vere che la storiografia ufficiale ha dimenticato o si rifiuta di raccontare, ed è il punto di partenza della liberazione della donna nel mondo storico.

La Storia, inoltre, rivaluta l’esperienza privata a scapito di quella pubblica. La voce narrante non è solo dichiaratamente femminile, ma, nonostante sia una voce esterna, partecipa emotivamente agli avvenimenti dei personaggi e commenta con empatia su di loro, dimostrando di avere una conoscenza assoluta delle loro emozioni. Tale voce però limita i propri commenti nelle parti storiche, riportando gli eventi storici in modo rigidamente cronachistico e cronologico. Per la Della Colletta siamo di fronte ad un caso di narratore onnisciente particolare, un narratore che sa tutto riguardo l’esistenza interiore dei personaggi, ma che ignora la realtà degli eventi storici. Il tipo di storia psicologico-narrativa che la Morante crea in questo modo è rivoluzionario nel senso che mostra l’impatto della Storia sulla vita psico-emotiva dei personaggi, smantella l’opposizione tra storia pubblica e storia privata e dimostra che anche personaggi comuni possono diventare soggetti storici.

Ne La Storia una monumentale, ciclica e intersoggetiva nozione del tempo altera la nozione lineare, ovvero la nozione di un continuum storico che appare come una successione causale di eventi politici. Il tono utopico e profetico della fine del romanzo invoca un mondo migliore per tutte le donne e la voce narrante infine, ingaggiata in un rapporto soggettivo, creativo, emotivo, non-onnisciente con il passato, sfida apertamente l’impersonalità e l’oggettività del discorso storico tradizionale.

Nell’ultimo capitolo del libro, la Della Colletta si occupa de Il nome della rosa di Umberto Eco. Il romanzo storico con Eco diventa metaromanzo, un genere problematico che critica i propri fondamenti epistemologici, che analizza i valori e i limiti della narrativa come modo di articolare la nostra conoscenza del mondo e che esplora le possibilità di definire il vero all’interno dei sistemi usati per la ricostruzione del passato. Partendo da una ricostruzione del passato critico di Eco, dalla sua adesione al Gruppo 63, alle sue diverse teorizzazioni sull’arte in Opera aperta, Apocalittici e integrati e Almanacco Bompiani, la Della Colletta argomenta che il romanzo di Eco è tanto un romanzo storico quanto una discussione sui metodi della narrativa storiografica. Eco ha scelto come matrice narrativa del suo racconto la Bibbia e in particolare l’Apocalisse, in quanto entrambe sono sia presenze tematiche che principi strutturali del suo romanzo. Il nome della rosa, infatti, esibisce un prologo e un epilogo che contengono un testo organizzato secondo una progressione cronologica di sette giorni e di sette successive rivelazioni. Per di più, dal punto di vista tematico, il romanzo tratta di un periodo storico di transizione, l’apice della lotta tra Papato e Impero, e del momento della frammentazione di tali sistemi: la chiesa lotta contro i poteri temporali, all’interno dell’ordine francescano lottano i Conventuali e gli Sprituali ecc. Adso, il benedettino che narra la storia, percepisce il mondo come qualcosa che è sull’orlo dell’abisso. Ma il modello apocalittico basato come nella Bibbia sulla perfetta adesione tra eventi e tempo che Eco usa, viene smantellato dalla presenza di Adso come narratore. Costui promette una pura cronaca dei fatti, secondo la successione cronologica dei giorni, suddivisa secondo le ore canoniche dell’abbazia, ma in realtà Adso fa uso di una memoria selettiva e soggettiva nella ricostruzione degli eventi, spesso contaminata da forti implicazioni culturali e ideologiche.

La Della Colleta sottolinea che, oltre al modello apocalittico-biblico apertamente sovvertito da Eco, lo scrittore organizza il suo racconto sfruttando anche lo schema lineare della detective story. All’interno del mondo chiuso dell’Abbazia, all’interno di un ordine stabilito da leggi fisse, un evento, appunto il delitto, scatena il disordine. Ma l’indagine del detective William of Baskerville, non è solo una ricerca del colpevole, bensì un’indagine sui metodi razionali della conoscenza. Seguace di Occam, dell’empirismo di Bacone, William confronta il mondo con diverse possibilità interpretative, rifiutando ogni idea a priori, e in questo avvicinandosi alla problematica filosofica dell’uomo contemporaneo, combattuto tra il declino dei valori assoluti, la fine delle ideologie forti, la molteplicità delle verità. Secondo la Della Colleta, Eco, come già Foucault, Adorno e Horkheimer prima di lui, vuole con la sua scrittura rammentare al lettore che la forza coercitiva della razionalità può diventare una tendenza pericolosa in quanto spesso implica l’esclusione, il rifiuto o il silenzio su tutte quelle forme dell’esperienza che non possono essere organizzate in costruzioni sistematiche. Rivisitare il passato diventa per Eco un modo per capire meglio il presente. Il romanzo storico, in quest’ottica, apre un dialogo con il passato che promuove una ricerca epistemologica nel presente. I concetti di identità, causalità e ordine narrativo sui quali si fonda il discorso storiografico vengono messi a confronto da Eco con la struttura dialogica, polifonica e "citazionistica" del discorso carnevalesco e quindi entrambi entrano in un corto circuito di reciproca decostruzione.

Per quanto riguarda la struttura formale di Plotting the Past vogliamo sottolineare che il volume è corredato di ottime note e di un’altrettanto buona bibliografia, e non presenta alcun refuso. In conclusione, vorrei aggiungere che nel caso di Plotting the Past, ci si augura che presto l’autrice si occupi ancora del romanzo storico.

L’altro volume che vorrei presentare brevemente è quello della Amoia, intitolato 20th-Century Italian Women Writers in cui si tratta di undici scrittrici italiane: Grazia Deledda, Sibilla Aleramo, Lalla Romano, Elsa Morante, Natalia Ginzburg, Rosetta Loy, Dacia Maraini, Matilde Serao, Oriana Fallaci e Camilla Cederna. Il volume è diviso in nove capitoletti e, nella sua brevità, in tutto poco più di un centinaio di pagine, offre un sommario alquanto generale delle autrici in questione e delle relative opere. Data la brevità dei capitoli e la vastità del materiale trattato, il libro della Amoia finisce per essere uno studio introduttivo che fornisce utili informazioni sulle scrittrici e giornaliste, ma che non riesce ad analizzare in profondità l’opus di nessuna delle figure prese in esame. Il volume potrebbe essere un testo ideale per un corso introduttivo undergraduate sulle undici scrittrici e anche lo stile, scorrevole e informativo, si presta ad una facile lettura.

Flavia Brizio-Skov, University of Tennessee 

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Giorgio Cavallini. Montale lettore di Dante e altri studi montaliani. Roma: Bulzoni, 1996.

Libro, oserei però quasi dire libretto, non nel senso operistico del termine ma in quanto libro abbozzato con scarsi contenuti critici: ovvero breve raccolta di studi su Montale, tre per precisare, a cui è accodata una serie di note e di noticine sparse e di poco spessore. Cavallini ci avverte che questi scritti sono il frutto della sua lunga e fedele esperienza di lettore e del volumetto è senz’altro da apprezzare il preambolo dell’autore. Ma entriamo ora direttamente nella materia in questione.

Il primo studio (di circa 25 pagine e il più lungo) si rifà a un discorso celebrativo su Dante tenuto dallo stesso Montale il 24 aprile 1965. Questo discorso è commentato in vari punti da Cavallini ed è corredato da ampie note a pie’ di pagina che ci informano del dibattito critico che segue l’intervento montaliano. Il poeta si chiede coraggiosamente che cosa significhi l’opera di Dante per un poeta contemporaneo: una domanda in cui egli imposta e accetta un confronto rischioso ma probabilmente necessario con la civiltà del suo tempo. In tale modo Montale si pone al di là del contingente soggettivismo e del particolarismo lirico, ripercorrendo un solco intellettuale-metafisico (e i suoi procedimenti espressivi) che persegue nell’ambito novecentesco ed europeo un ideale poetico universale ed oggettivo. Ne emerge una concezione figurale della poesia che parzialmente avvicina Montale al grande maestro medioevale, e allo stesso tempo mantiene però la consapevolezza di uno storico e progressivo allontanamento dall’oggettivismo e razionalismo poetico di Dante.

Nel secondo studio (di circa dodici pagine) il critico prende in esame "La donna barbuta" (1948), una prosa che fa parte della prima parte di Farfalla di Dinard ed è dedicata alla vecchia domestica Maria. In questo contesto Cavallini esplora memoria e oblio offrendo una visione prospettica dei diversi contributi che interpretano e discutono il richiamo memoriale e il suo significato in Montale. Il ricordo che risulta dal sondaggio critico non è un proustiano ripegamento nostalgico bensì una manifestazione epifanica, un’intuizione prodigiosa che riscatta un frammento dell’essere dal nulla dell’assenza: l’inevitabile baratro del transitorio.

Il motivo ontologico riaffiora nel terzo studio dove Cavallini indaga "Il trionfo della spazzatura", una composizione apparsa nel Diario del 71. Qui la spazzatura è assunta a simbolo grottesco e universale di una degradazione ambientale ed esistenziale che costituisce un bilancio consuntivo del male di vivere. L’ultimo tentativo di salvezza auspicato dal poeta rifiuta qualsiasi consolazione trascendente e invita ad abitare il mondo senza esserne assimilato, accettando semplicemente di essere vivi e niente di più. Seguono al vaglio alcune riflessioni montaliane sul più stretto contatto fra prosa e lirica nell’ambito novecentesco.

In appendice troviamo una serie di schede che vengono distribuite dall’autore in tre gruppi. Nel primo sono contenute notizie di tipo biografico e informativo dell’opera di Montale. Nel secondo sono inclusi dodici commenti di altrettante liriche di Montale rappresentative delle raccolte principali. Nell’ultimo gruppo, infine, si trovano brevi noticine su Montale a Firenze, l’uso montaliano dell’imperativo, il percorso montaliano di uno studioso nordamericano e infine la recensione di uno studio sulla lingua di Montale.

Massimo Maggiari, College of Charleston 

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Andrea Zanzotto. Peasants Wake for Fellini’s Casanova and Other Poems. Ed. and trans. John P. Welle and Ruth Feldman. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1997.

It would be difficult to imagine a more welcome volume for admirers of Zanzotto’s poetry (and of dialect poetry as well), born of the fruitful collaboration of two long-standing zanzottiani, John Welle and Ruth Feldman. Welle is the author of The Poetry of Andrea Zanzotto, and Feldman has co-edited and co-translated Selected Poetry of Andrea Zanzotto, two works which already stand as important contributions to the understanding and appreciation of Zanzotto’s poetry. It was only natural, and to be hoped for, that they should join forces to produce this beautiful new volume, which explores a less-known, but not less important, side of the poet’s work.

Peasants Wake for Fellini’s Casanova and Other Poems (the title is also an homage to Joyce’s Finnegans Wake) is a compendium of Zanzotto’s dialect poetry from Filò, 1976, and Idioma, 1986 (the third book of Zanzotto’s trilogy, which includes Galateo in bosco, 1978, and Fosfeni, 1983), with the addition of a small selection of his Italian poetry from the late seventies to the present which the editors consider thematically cohesive. The volume is prefaced by a solid introduction by John Welle, and contains Fellini’s letter to Zanzotto on the film Casanova, the poet’s "Observations on the Meaning and the Situation of the Dialects in Italy in the Late Twentieth Century," and helpful notes and commentaries on the poems themselves.

In 1976, responding to a request by Fellini, Zanzotto wrote his first book of dialect poems, Filò per il Casanova di Fellini. "Dear Andrea", Fellini wrote, " . . . and now I have to dub it, this film which I have shot recklessly in English, and among the many problems there is also that of the Veneto dialect . . . I would like to break the opacity, the convention of the Veneto dialect which, like all dialects, is frozen in an emotionless and tireless cipher, and try to restore freshness to it, render it more alive, penetrating, mercurial, keen, giving preferences perhaps to a Ruzantian Veneto dialect or attempting a capricious promiscuity between that of Ruzante and the Veneto dialect of Goldoni. Better yet, rediscovering archaic forms or indeed inventing phonetic and linguistic combinations . . . " (5). The first part of the book consists of a lively dialogue among workers that takes place during the ritual raising of the head of the ancient Venetic goddess Rèita from the sea, written in a partly invented Venetian dialect of the eighteenth century. The second part contains the narrative poem Filò (filò refers to the ancient peasant custom in some areas of the Veneto of gathering on winter evening for storytelling and conversation), written in Zanzotto’s native solighese dialect. Interestingly, Zanzotto’s initial interest in dialect poetry coincides with the revival of dialect poetry which began in the early seventies and which has had an unprecedented blossoming in the last twenty years, both in quantity and quality, becoming one of the most significant movement in Italian literature in recent times, generally known as neodialect poetry. His involvement with dialects continued in the eighties with the publication of Idioma, the last book of his trilogy, a tribute to the ancient civilization of his region (but of all Italian regions as well) which has now vanished, but also a long meditation on the nature and meaning of language itself. "In Peasants’ Wake and Other Poems," Welle notes in the introduction, "Zanzotto explores the link between language and identity, subverts stereotypical attitudes toward dialect, and poeticizes the mystery of human speech itself" (x). In fact, Zanzotto’s "Observations" rank with Meneghello’s and Pasolini’s as some of the most important and insightful reflections on the substance and essence of dialect speech, rescued from any implication of marginality or inferiority, no longer seen as a "low" idiom, but a "deep" language: " . . . dialect appears as the metaphor . . . of every excess, unimaginability, gushing effusion, or ambiguous stagnancy of the linguistic fact in its most profound nature. It remains laden with the vertigo of the past, of the megacenturies in which it extended, infiltrated, subdivided, recomposed itself . . . there we touch, with the tongue (in its two meanings of physical organ and word-system), our lack of knowledge from whence speech comes, and, in the moment in which it comes, rises like milk. . . . Dialect announces itself as the vague site in which langue and parole tend to identify themselves, and every territoriality vanishes into those that are contiguous" (89).

But how does one translate a pseudo-Venetian or solighese dialect? Are there insurmountable obstacles to be reckoned with? In the translators’ note we read that Zanzotto himself suggested a non-standard rendering of the dialect: "In the translation, therefore, if the passage from Italian to English (or into any other language) is already uncertain, the passage from dialect into a foreign language becomes almost impossible. The dialect cannot be rendered with Standard English. It would be necessary to find some patois or slang that nevertheless was rather known in the Anglophone area" (xvi). Heeding Zanzotto’s advice, however, would have been a terrible blunder, and the translators wisely decided not to do so, opting instead for a standard colloquial diction, thus proving once again that authors would be well-advised to leave the job of translation to experienced translators. When it comes to dialects, almost everyone instantly assumes that they are a deviation, a non-standard form of speech that requires a non-standard form of translation. But this is true only with respect to the national standard, with which the conflict is always latent. For the people who speak it (and all dialect speakers understand this), dialect is the only natural way of communicating, and to translate it into non-standard English or slang would be a gross violation, a misconstruction of the nature of dialect. The problem of deviation becomes very real and practically insoluble only in a multilingual context, i.e., when Italian and dialect appear together in the same text, and the latent opposition becomes manifest and active. Welle and Feldman have translated these dialect poems into standard colloquial English with both accuracy and fluidity, always mindful of the different linguistic registers and rhythmical variations, and deserve praise for a difficult job well done. In the Venetian Recitative that opens the book the dialect is more down-to-earth, more lively and brisk, more working-class, while in Peasants Wake it becomes more introspective and wistful, reflecting the poet’s own musings and reminiscences, and the translations reflect these differences. If I have one small reservation, it is the translators’ inconsistent use of rhyme, which in many of these poems is an important structural element, and cannot be easily dismissed. Take for example one of the poems of the Recitative, where rhyme is used throughout:

Oci de bissa, de basilissa,

testa de fogo che ‘l giasso impissa,

nu te preghemo: sbrega su fora,

nu te inploremo, tutto te inplora;

móstrite,vien su, vien su,

tiremo tuti insieme, ti e nu.

The translation is faithful to the original, but it ignores the rhyme scheme:
Eyes of a snake, eyes of a queen,

head of fire that inflames the ice,

we beg you: burst loose, break free,

we implore you, everything implores you;

show yourself above, rise up, rise up,

let’s all pull together, you and us.

Rhyme of course is a tyrant, and the translators no doubt felt they had to discard it in many instances for the sake of maneuverability. On the other hand, whenever rhyme is employed to mirror the original, one can’t help feeling that the chemistry between the two texts is finally complete:
eco ’l primo che passa,

l’inpaja la carega e inte la paja ’l ghe assa

una renga che ’l gat sgrifarà via,

cussì quel che vien dopo, bon colega,

catarà ’na carega

anca da impajar, e così sia.

Here’s the first one to arrive,

he stuffs the chair and in the straw

leaves a herring for the cat to claw

so the next mender, who’s his friend,

will also find chair to mend,

and so on, without end.

In any case, the translations are invariably good and adept at reproducing the flavor and rhythm of the original, an indispensable reading for anyone interested in Zanzotto’s poetry as well as the current flowering of (neo)dialect poetry. Luigi Bonaffini, Brooklyn College 

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I limoni. La poesia in Italia nel 1996. A cura di Francesco De Nicola e Giuliano Manacorda. Marina di Minturno: Caramanica, 1997.

Con gran piacere colgo l’occasione per segnalare una coraggiosa e interessante iniziativa di un editore dell’Italia centrale e un gruppo di noti studiosi italiani: I limoni. La poesia in Italia nel 1996. Questo volume a scadenza annuale è curato da Francesco De Nicola e Giuliano Manacorda e si avvale dell’aiuto generoso di una schiera di collaboratori sparsi per la penisola. Dal 1993 I limoni è oramai un appuntamento obbligatorio per chi si interessa di poesia e voglia mantenersi sufficientemente informato sui fenomeni più originali che attraversano il vasto e magmatico orizzonte lirico italiano.

Il volume include una breve presentazione di Francesco De Nicola, seguita da un saggio introduttivo di Giuliano Manacorda in cui si fa il punto sull’anno appena concluso, facendo riscontro a caldo della fenomenologia generazionale delle sue voci. Al saggio di Manacorda seguono quelli di Giovannetti sull’insegnamento della poesia nelle antologie per il triennio e del poeta statunitense Michael Palma sulla traduzione di poesia.

Nella seconda parte del volume, "Incontri", troviamo invece una serie di interviste che ci avvicinano direttamente ad alcuni protagonisti della scrittura e della lingua poetica. La prima intervista a Roberto Denti tratta della poesia per i ragazzi, mentre le altre due interviste a Fabio Doplicher e Annalisa Cima sintetizzano lo stato della poesia oggi in Italia e riflettono sui lasciti montaliani.

Nella parte centrale di "Inediti" lo stesso Manacorda presenta una lettera inedita di Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Seguono una serie folta e assortita di "Note", sei per la precisione, di diversi critici: Rodolfo Di Biasio, "Perchè essere moderni a tutti i costi", Matteo Lefèvre, "Poeti a Roma"; Giuliano Manacorda, "Un poeta da riscoprire"; Clemente Di Leo; Massimo Bacigalupo; Seamus Heaney, "Un anno di traduzioni"; Cinzia Monti, "Poesia di Anna Maria Ortese"; Marcello Vaglio, "Per leggere Sereni."

Alla fine del volume sono concentrate ben settantatré poesie tratte da nuove raccolte poetiche e sette schede di nuove traduzioni di autori stranieri, tra cui l’americano Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Proprio in coda chiude un breve notiziario di avvenimenti, fatti, premiazioni e necrologi a confermare altresì il carattere informativo e divulgativo dell’opera.

In conclusione, non posso che esprimere l’entusiasmo e l’ammirazione personale per questo strumento, I limoni, che non solo risulta informativo ma soprattutto formativo per chi crede e opera o semplicemente apprezza il verbo della poesia.

Massimo Maggiari, College of Charleston 

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Francesco Brusco. Stagioni. Chiavari: Edizioni Libreria, 1998.

Esile, interessante collezione, questa. La terza volta che la voce flebile, ma sensibile di Brusco si fa sentire. Erano già uscite sue raccolte nel 1987 e nel 1995, e questa terza viene introdotta da Massimo Maggiari, che lo definisce "poeta da leggere e da far conoscere". E a onor del vero certi momenti di Brusco sono davvero intensi, validi: quel suo lirico smemorarsi, quel suo tono di preghiera, come parlando da un ritiro francescano, quasi frutto di un lungo percorso religioso. Molte di queste poesie posseggono una religiosità latente, hanno talvolta la qualità estatica dell’haiku, dell’otium contemplativo monastico.

La precipua cifra stilistica del poeta sta nell’uso del presente, ma soprattutto nell’applicazione di un estensivo, reiterato, deliberatamente monotonale "imperfetto" (spiavo il fiume, alla morte pensavo, si diluiva il dolore, cantavano campane, entravo in un altro paesaggio, fiori e stelle mi benedicevano, fantasticavo, udivo un canto …); spesso preferendo la voce verbale dopo l’oggetto (astri nominavo, le pale udivo, vino versavo, la tramontana amavo, la giovinezza scorgevo …). Questo imperfetto è per Brusco compiutamente funzionale: modo vago, anzi il più vago, indeterminato, prolungato, sospeso; che di certe poesie trasognate costituisce la forza e insieme il limite, laddove rischia di rendere la poesia epifanica, di ridurla a bozzettismo lirico, eccedente in colori pastello piuttosto tenui e non di contenuto, ma di semplice evocazione.

Si nota che la maggior parte dei testi è stata scritta nei mesi estivi, caldi, solari, e solo un paio, più cupe, portano la data di novembre o dicembre. Conta molto anche un vago eco montaliano, a volte esplicito (crea nomi la carrucola del pozzo …) a volte appena percepibile. Come spesso l’illustre conterraneo, Brusco fa una poesia che non può che essere ligure: lo si coglie immediatamente nel vocabolario marino (litorale, vento, salsedine, scandagli, conchiglie, maree, alghe, muggini …), nell’alternanza di luce e di notte, di orizzonti vasti e dettagli di orti terrazzati tra mare cielo e terra. Un’alternanza tematica che si fa poetica, queste poesie sono "appunti di brezza": aeree e leggere, impalpabili, eteree. E questa loro levità estrema ne è il repentaglio. La soverchia labilità rischia di non riuscire a sedimentarsi nell’animo del lettore-ascoltatore; quella disposizione stilistica all’antinarrativa minaccia di risolversi troppo di frequente nell’elencanzione, nel nominale, nella presenza velatamente ossessiva di poche parole-chiave ripetute, almeno in certe liriche, come leit-motiv. La contemplazione rischia di trasformarsi in una sorta di pratica ascetica fine a se stessa, in una censura al fare, in una ideologia surrettiziamente frenante (follia andare verso lidi stanieri …).

Verso la fine della raccolta i testi si fanno progressivamente più evasivi, più pericolosamente scoordinati dal punto di vista linguistico; e l’indubbia bravura delle similitudini (moschea d’erbe, colli cotonati di mimosa) si va scomponendo qua e là in licenze semantiche forzose (filmavo gli asterischi del bosso, plessi d’erbe, brindisi del cellofan …), mentre il discorso analogico rasenta di tanto in tanto l’annullamento e l’assenza del significato (cancellavo i croccanti del linguaggio, acido della creta sotto il canto di mitologie verdi …).

E tuttavia, malgrado questi appunti da lettore esigente, la promessa del prefatore ("poeta da leggere") è mantenuta lungo l’intera silloge delle Stagioni: la scrittura di Brusco risulta effettivamente di buona fattura e letterariamente circonstanziata, possiede una base significante profonda ben più che gradevole. Ed è un termine non comune alla miriade di testi poetici pubblicati, ora che si scrive ormai più di quanto non si legga.

Flaminio Di Biagi, Loyola University Chicago Rome Center  

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Peter Bondanella. Umberto Eco and the Open Text: Semiotics, Fiction, Popular Culture. Cambridge: UP, l997. Pp. 218.

Because we are living in the intellectual age defined and shaped by Umberto Eco, and because this major cultural figure continues to produce important works at a prodigious rate, it is difficult yet crucial for us to stand back and take his measure. In Umberto Eco and the Open Text, Peter Bondanella admirably meets this challenge. Writing what could best be described as an intellectual biography, Bondanella traces Eco’s evolution from student of medieval aesthetics to contemporary cultural theorist and best-selling novelist as he confronts such movements as structuralism, semiotics, deconstruction, and narrative theory along the way. Insisting that Eco’s work is always two-sided, where intellectual discoveries issue forth in serious scholarly writing and in parodic spoofs or fictional versions of themselves, Bondanella systematically reveals the interrelationships among the three novels, The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum, and The Island of the Day Before, and the theoretical positions developed in tandem with them. His strategy is to juxtapose Eco’s fictional output with scholarly writings published around the same time to reveal the dialectical operations of the career he calls "a work-in-progress." Thus Bondanella pairs The Open Work with the humorous and parodic pieces of Misreadings, following Eco’s own lead in so doing. "If the work of the neo-avant-garde [heralded in The Open Work] consisted in turning inside out the languages of daily life and of literature," Eco wrote in the preface to Misreadings, "the comic and the grotesque should be part of that program" (33). Eco’s subsequent engagement with semiotics, popular literature, and the question of the implied reader find their fictional embodiment in William of Baskerville, failed detective and "inventor of semiotic abductions" in The Name of the Rose. The argument of The Limits of Interpretation is taken to paranoid extremes in Eco’s second novel, Foucault’s Pendulum, which serves as an object lesson on the dangers of a "conspiracy theory" approach to the uncovering of literary meaning. Eco’s most recent novel to date, The Island of the Day Before, exemplifies the aesthetic pleasure derived from the "metaphysical comfort" of immersion in fictional universes - an argument framed in expository terms in the pages of Six Walks in the Fictional Woods.

In tracing the itinerary of this extraordinarily prolific and versatile protagonist of contemporary European culture, Bondanella is alert to both the continuities and the dramatic shifts in Eco’s intellectual development. While never losing sight of the beginnings in Eco’s doctoral dissertation on the aesthetics of scholasticism, to which Bondanella appositely returns throughout his study, the American scholar is extraordinarily attentive to the transitional points in the itinerary, where Eco has exhausted the heuristic possibilities of one particular methodology and reaches for a new framework of inquiry. The shift from structuralism to semiotics is once such pivotal point. "After publishing anthologies of occasional essays on popular culture, Eco’s studies of mass media convinced him that he required a more general set of theoretical principles which would allow either a literary theorist or a social critic to examine both high and popular culture . . . Moreover, such a comprehensive perspective would have to emphasize the intricate relationships between such ‘texts’ (now defined as any product of human culture) and the ideology or the culture of the society that produced them" (66). Eventually, Eco would come to a realization of the limits of theory itself, of the confines of any totalizing system of explanation. Hence "his search for a universal theory of human culture through the methodology of semiotics, the major focus of his work during the l970s, has now become more narrowly focused upon the theory and practice of fiction . . . To paraphrase his own words, upon reaching maturity, Eco discovered that there were matters which must be narrated when they could not be resolved by theorizing" (195-96).

Bondanella’s expertise in Italian literature and mass media allows him to locate Eco in a broad intellectual context, placing the writer’s achievement at the heart of twentieth-century Italian cultural history. Accordingly, Eco emerges as a brilliant mediating figure, able to bridge the gap between high and mass culture, between theory and fiction, between Italian provincialism and the European avant-garde, and most important, between the Academy and the general public. In philosophical terms, Bondanella places Eco outside the reigning polarities of twentieth-century Italian thought, dominated by Crocean idealism on the one hand and Marxist materialism on the other. While insisting on a politically progressive interpretation of texts as vitally linked to their historical contexts, and arguing for the role of the intellectual as the creator of a critical consciousness in the mass public, Eco never embraced a social realist approach to literary production. But the Crocean dismissal of all ideological concerns in favor of an analysis focused on pure lyrical creativity (poesia to the exclusion of non-poesia) was anathema to him. Hence Eco insisted on reading such works as Dante’s Commedia or Joyce’s Ulysses as "epistemologiclal metaphors" of their age, where mimesis occurs at the level of aesthetic form, where the "modo di formare" of these works is the basis of their referential function. "Art knows the world," writes Eco in The Open Work, "through its formal structures (which, therefore, can no longer be considered from a purely formalist point of view but must be seen as its true content)" (31).

In its most powerful moments, this study becomes a plea for the kind of progressive, liberated critical stance that Bondanella sees embodied in Eco, who is neither the "apocalyptic" (high-brow), nor "integrated" (accepting of all cultural messages) intellectual of the Italian author’s own formulation, but one who transcends orthodoxy and uses his writings to free his readers from mass manipulation. Thus the critic must engage in acts of "semiologic guerrilla warfare," on the one hand subverting the dominant and regressive hold of the mass media over the popular mind, while on the other hand acknowledging the public’s need for the formulaic "iterative" discourse of mass culture to counteract the prodigious flow of messages in our age of information overkill.

One of the many virtues of this volume is that it does not shrink from the daunting philological problem of establishing the texts themselves, since often Eco modified his works in subsequent editions or translations. In his usual scrupulous way, Bondanella supplies a bibliography of Eco’s writings which differentiates between various versions of the primary works, while offering a useful, selected list of secondary sources in English and Italian.

Umberto Eco and The Open Text is that rarest of achievements: an introduction which uses language accessible to non-initiates without being simplistic or reductive, while at the same time making a sophisticated and supremely valuable contribution to scholarship in the field. If Eco’s quest throughout his "work-in-progress" has been to create his model lector in fabula, (the urbane, encyclopedically learned, witty, and tolerant counterpart of its "model author"), then he could find no better accomplice than the writer of this study.

Millicent Marcus, The University of Pennsylvania 

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Giuliana Morandini. The Café of Mirrors. Trans. and Introd. Luisa Quartermaine. Exeter: U of Exeter P / Northwestern U, 1997. Pp. xvi + 160.

Originally published in 1983, Caffé specchi (Milano: Bompiani) won the prestigious "PremioViareggio." This 1997 publication is the first English translation of this novel. The Café of Mirrors tells the story of Katharina Pollaczek who arrives in an unnamed city to meet with a lawyer about gaining custody of her son, Friedrich. Several concrete events, the murder of a Serbian woman, Katharina’s sexual relationship with a man she meets, and the illness of her former butler, intertwine with the inner workings of her own mind. Together with her translation of the novel, Luisa Quartermaine includes an "Introduction" on Morandini’s life and works, and an "Historical Note on the City of Trieste," which provides additional background on the history and culture of Trieste and its environs.

Faithful to the author’s explicit intention, Quartermaine leaves passages in languages other than Italian while providing translations in footnotes: "In order to maintain the character of the city described in this novel, and to respect the author’s stylistic choice, the dialogues in dialect and the phrases in a language other than Italian have been left untranslated in the text with a translation provided in footnotes. Where English was used in the original this has been identified by the use of italic" (Translator’s Note, p. xvi). In Morandini’s original text, Italianists may recall, the novel concludes with "Traduzione delle frasi in lingua straniera" ["Translations of foreign words and expressions"] (pp. 152-54).

In her Introduction, Quartermaine maps out the cultural context for much of Morandini’s work, situating The Café of Mirrors in an historical and literary continuum. Quartermaine focuses on two main aspects: first, Trieste as locus of history and, second, the thematics of alienation, which pervade Morandini’s corpus in general and this novel in particular. It is interesting to note that the main character of Morandini’s novel, Katharina Pollaczek, arrives in an unnamed city which the translator identifies as Trieste through "[r]eflections in the mirrors of its recognizable caffé" and "fleeting, yet precise references to its history" (viii). The translator speculates that one reason Morandini chose not to name Trieste directly in the novel is because "the Trieste of the novel reflects the fragmented personality of the protagonist, images her own crisis" (viii). While the translator does well to connect the complex relationship between character and setting, inner world and outer world, she could have provided additional commentary to aid the reader. If Trieste is so central to Morandini, why not name it? English language readers may be frustrated by the abundance of explanatory footnotes in the novel rather than additional analysis in the Introduction. In addition, Morandini’s choice of Rilke to introduce the novel proper with an epigraph is entirely lost on the reader since Quartermaine fails to provide a translation into English.

Morandini’s novel focuses on very few external events. Rather, we witness the existential anguish and painful alienation of a young woman who has apparently spent some time in a mental hospital. Here the dream world and quotidian reality conflate and merge, becoming indistinguishable. Physical descriptions serve only to reflect the disturbed mind of the main character: "Morandini’s narrative style images the mind’s language, exploiting its capacity for association and sequent observation as well as its ability to manipulate images while constantly admitting new material" (xi). Given these narrative and stylistic constraints, a translator’s work is difficult indeed and becomes crucial to readers’ understanding. Quartermaine takes great pains to emphasize Morandini’s expressive language and associative style, at times difficult, manipulative, obtuse. A language "never too realistic, its style develops through assonance, association, sounds, and colours. Morandini renders visible what cannot be reasoned logically; concrete objects lose the materiality of still life" (xi).

Overall, Quartermaine does a good job of translating Morandini’s dense and problematic prose. For example, in one of the numerous descriptions of the landscape, Quartermaine translates: "In the swollen sky, taut to the limit, dark furrows like veins of tin and lead laced the purple vault, sketched the outline of the storm in every direction. The clouds divided across a map ruled by magnetic fields" (8). ["Nel cielo gonfio e teso al limite, solchi scuri, vene di stagno e piombo, percorrevano la volta violacea, disegnavano in tutte le direzioni i diagrammi della bufera. Le nubi si dividevano in una mappa governata da campi magnetici" (12).] In another passage, Quartermaine succeeds in portraying a character’s state of mind through physical description pregnant with metaphoric possibilities: "The blood slowed down leaving his hands white and still as china ornaments. Then his back bent over the balcony rail into the darkness to look at the damp asphalt. It was a very tiring position. His arms moved jerkily, intermittently, they were conducting a different melody now, they hung away from the body like withered birch branches" (83). ["Il sangue rallentava e le mani rimanevano bianche e ferme come soprammobili. Allora la sua schiena si piegava oltre la ringhiera del balcone, giù nella notte per guardare l’asfalto umido. Era una posizione di estrema fatica. Le braccia si muovevano a scatti, senza continuità, dirigevano una musica diversa, si allontanavano dal corpo come rami di betulle appassite" (80).]

In the important opening pages of the novel, however, Quartermaine fails to adequately describe the psychological make-up of the protagonist in her choice of words: "We touch things," she told herself, "to discover closed scenes, the hidden depths beneath the surface. By feeling our way over a huge belly again we rediscover its unfulfilled yearnings" (10). ["Tocchiamo le cose," pensò, "per scoprire le scene chiuse, le sacche oltre la superficie. Si riattraversa un grande ventre e se ne ritroviamo i desideri sospesi" (13).] Perhaps, in this case, to underline Morandini’s interest in the relationship between literature and psychology, it would have been better to translate "ventre" as "womb" and "desideri" as "desires."

At times, though, Quartermaine falls far short of making Morandini readable and understandable to an English-speaking audience with translations that are very literal. In another passage, for example, Quartermaine maintains an almost one-to-one correspondence between Italian and English which renders the passage and its context almost indecipherable: "For goodness’ sake, you are all the same, but think you are different. You think you can keep everything as if in a safe, but the cells will crumble for you, too. We mustn’t talk . . . for you it is all useless, silence. You scorn any sign and we go on decoding a mere nothing. Will you not grant us a moment? Maybe that wall will fall down, what do you think?" (30). ["Possibile, siete tutti così eguali e credete di essere diversi. Pensate di trattenere tutto come in uno scrigno, ma le cellule si sfalderanno anche per voi. Non dobbiamo parlare . . . per voi è tutto intutile, silenzio. Sdegnate ogni segno e noi continuiamo a decifrare il nulla. Non ci concedete un attimo? Forse quel muro crollerebbe, che ne dici?" (31)]

Nevertheless, Quartermaine’s translation The Café of Mirrors remains an important contribution to interdisciplinary literary studies by making Giuliana Morandini’s novel accessible to a new audience. Her translation is valuable to readers with limited or no knowledge of contemporary Italian women’s literature as well as to seasoned scholars. Quartermaine’s translation joins the exciting trend of English translations of prominent Italian women writers, such as Anna Banti, Dacia Maraini, and Franca Rame, who live on in another language and reach an ever-increasing reading public.

Carole C. Gallucci, College of William & Mary 

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Franco Zanfrilli. Il fior del ficodinndia. Saggi su Bonaviri. Quaderni dell’Istituto di Storia dello Spettacolo Siciliano. Acireale: La Cantinella, 1997. Pp. 140.

Ricco di suggestioni e di sensibilità, il lavoro di Franco Zangrilli su Giuseppe Bonaviri è un’analisi dell’ultimo quindicennio dell’opera dell’autore siciliano. Lo studioso, che aveva in precedenza pubblicato due volumi dedicati allo stesso scrittore, Bonaviri e il mistero cosmico, Abano Terme: Piovan, 1985 e Bonaviri e il tempo, Catania: Marino, 1986, suddivide, nella eloquente premessa, tre distinte fasi creative nell’attività poetica bonaviriana: la prima contrassegnata da una certa "tendenza a contaminare la rappresentazione delle cose . . . con motivi favolosi . . . delicatamente cosmici" (11), la seconda dominata da una intuizione e da una rappresentazione fantastica in cui si fondono conoscenze scientifiche e tematiche che si estendono dal filosofico all’universale, la terza ed ultima in cui lo studioso riconosce l’intrecciarsi dell’immaginazione fantastico-scientifica con una sempre piú vivace spinta alla drammatizzazione del reale in termini mitico-cosmici.

Nella terza fase il tema dominante dell’intuizione poetica bonaviriana rimane, per Zangrilli, il rapporto di interrogazione dell’uomo con l’universo circostante. Nella vasta e complessa produzione letteraria dello scrittore siciliano, che va dalla saggistica, alla poesia, al romanzo, questa interrogazione si trasforma di volta in volta in personaggi che intraprendono varie e colorate avventure, alle quali sta alla base un incessante ed estenuante viaggio di analisi, di scavo, di scoperta. Alla stringente tematica universale Bonaviri accosta, per renderla piú viva e drammatizzarla, un linguaggio sperimentale, a volte difficile, complesso, scientifico, a volte semplice ed allusivo, ma sempre carico di suggestioni e polisemie. Una personalità scrittoria, quella di Bonaviri, che si presta a una varietà di definizioni ed interpretazioni, neorealista, cosmico, simbolico, favoloso, ma alla quale Zangrilli offre una prospettiva personale, piú intima e precisa, in armonia con l’inquieta ricerca metafisica e cosmica dello scrittore.

Il Fior del ficodindia è suddiviso in otto capitoli, ognuno dei quali si sofferma ad analizzare e ad interpretare il peso specifico ed il valore poetico di figure o tematiche ricorrente nella produzione scrittoria bonaviriana degli ultimi quindici anni, non dimenticando di indicare il collegamento con la scrittura precedente e di valutare il significato di ogni scelta di stile e di ogni svolta nel contenuto tematico.

Il primo capitolo è dedicato alla figura della madre, che, presente in molta della scrittura bonaviriana delle fasi creative posteriori, riaffiora con estrema vivacità semantica nell’ultima fase, e, in particolare, nelle Novelle saracene. Nei diversi racconti questa figura materna assume significazioni favolose, arcaiche, fiabesche; la madre diviene personaggio-mito, figura archetipa di matrice, di divinità che crea e distrugge, cosmica nella sua potenza e nel suo essere centro da cui tutto ha origine. Pregne di significato sono le indicazioni, che Zangrilli offre con dovizia di esempi, sulla intrepretazione semantica e simbolica di questo personaggio che Bonaviri ha saputo incapsulare magistralmente nell’immagine di una Sicilia simbolica, preistorica, mitologica.

Al centro del secondo capitolo Zangrilli pone la tematica del tempo, tematica cara allo scrittore siciliano e che si ritrova, svolta ed elaborata, in tutti i suoi lavori, in quelli di prosa come in quelli di poesia. In particolare l’attenzione dello studioso si rivolge a una raccolta di poesie, O corpo sospiroso, a L’incominciamento, opera che intreccia prosa e poesia, e all’Arenario, volume di scritti critici. In questi lavori il tempo viene studiato nella sua matrice scientifica, filosofica, ma anche mitologica, come elemento indissolubilmente legato all’esistenza umana, trait d’union tra un visibilissimo e palpabile microcosmo, quello dell’uomo, della sua esistenza, della sua compatita sofferenza e della sua cultura e tradizione, e quello meno palpabile e riconoscibile del macrocosmo, quell’universo di eventi e di fenomeni che sfuggono al contatto immediato ma nel quale l’uomo ed il suo mondo particolare, specifico, sono iscritti. Il tempo in Bonaviri è proiezione, dice bene Zangrilli, di un mondo memoriale ben radicato nel microcosmo della piccola Mineo, dove si ritrovano il ricordo dei propri cari, dei suoni e dei colori del paesaggio siciliano, e soprattutto dove risuonano quelle voci mai dimenticate, le voci dei personaggi della propria infanzia, il padre e la madre, la cerchia dei familiari, ma anche i filosofi analfabeti, i contadini-poeti che popolano e animano la memoria autoriale. Il tempo-memoria, afferma con sagacità Zangrilli, è per Bonaviri un sistema circolare, armonico, completo e pieno, in cui il macrocosmo si riflette nel microcosmo, il cui afflato è contemporaneamente cosmico e mitico. E per la rappresentazione del tempo-memoria-mito, sottolinea Zangrilli, Bonaviri utilizza un linguaggio altrettanto memoriale, fatto di antiche cantilene popolari, di termini tratti dal dialetto siciliano, il tutto mescolato abilmente a termini espunti dal vocabolario tecnico-scientifico con il quale l’autore ha una continua frequentazione.

Nel terzo capitolo il critico si sofferma sul tema dei sensi e della sensualità, filtrata attraverso la creazione di personaggi nuovi, originali, come il protagonista di È un rosseggiar di peschi e d’albicocchi, Undajang, nel quale convergono lo studio di una colorata e sorprendente eroticità e la concezione di una sensualità legata alla violenza, alla morte a ai suoi riti, ed infine alla metamorfosi, in un continuum cosmico reso piú avvincente dalla esuberante simbolicità, allusività del linguaggio, che rivela in questo romanzo sia il lato straordinariamente immaginativo di Bonaviri che la sua complessa trama psicologico-sensuale.

Nel quarto capitolo Zangrilli prende in esame Lip to Lip, una raccolta di racconti in cui dominano i luoghi classici della narrativa bonaviriana e soprattutto dove ritornano i temi cari allo scrittore, quello di una religione vissuta tra la spiritualità trascendentale e il senso panico della Natura, in cui il dio è pensato come ente in continua "evoluzione cosmica" (57). Ritorna il tema del viaggio, centrifugo verso la madre o centripeto, verso luoghi misteriosi, arcani e indefiniti, un itinerario squisitamente interiore, una esplorazione della propria individualità. Si accompagnano a queste tematiche quelle tratte dalla realtà circostante, dal mondo quotidiano, che, per Zangrilli, Bonaviri sa captare con sensibilità e sa metamorfosare con linguaggio affabulatorio magistrale, arricchito da una estesa e stratificata palette lessicale, una giustapposizione di neologismi, dialettismi, di combinazioni linguistiche originali, e, senza dubbio, sperimentali.

Il quinto capitolo presenta un’analisi tematica e stilistica de Il dormiveglia, che offre, secondo il critico, ancora un nuovo aspetto della intuizione creativa bonaviriana, quello del viaggio congiunto al sogno e alla sua realtà irreale ed esoterica. Come era già stato sottolineato da Zangrilli nel capitolo precedente, il tema del viaggio viene a rappresentare per Bonaviri una continua ricerca interiore, nel quale si alternano, all’ansia e all’inquietudine l’euforia della possibile conoscenza, del profondo arricchimento umano e spirituale. Cosí il romanzo, il cui inizio appare come una disquisizione, un trattato sul sogno, diviene, per Zangrilli, l’attuazione di un percorso gnoseologico che attraverso spostamenti geografici, spaziali e temporali, attraverso approfondite riflessioni psicoanalitiche e filosofiche, approda ancora una volta ad un sogno che si potrebbe definire utopia, alla invenzione di un nuovo individuo, di un nuovo pensiero, di una nuova filosofia.

Nel sesto capitolo Zangrilli affronta lo studio di una raccolta di poesie, Il re bambino e di un romanzo Ghigò. Del romanzo il critico enfatizza la dimensione autobiografica, il cui fulcro è la rivisitazione di una infanzia siciliana e mineola nel senso piú idillico e rarefatto del termine, una età permeata da una religiosità che è amalgama di differenti tradizioni storiche, il paganesimo, il cristianesimo e l’Islam, un tempo che è cadenzato dalla contemplazione di una natura che è nel contempo universo panico e cosmogonia di sensi e sentimenti. All’idillio dell’infanzia tuttavia, sottolinea Zangrilli, Bonaviri fa seguire il piú impoetico incontro con la città, con il male e la sofferenza della età adulta. Se, come afferma Zangrilli, Ghigò è di lettura semplice e chiara, non altrettanto lo è la raccolta di poesie intitolata Il re bambino. Completamente permeata anch’essa dall’elemento autobiografico, la morte della madre e la nascita del nipotino, la raccolta risente, a parere del critico, della nuova ideologia stilistica e poetica post-moderna. La contaminazione di temi, miti, epoche narrative, la sperimentazione linguistica, l’impasto e il pastiche dominano infatti stilisticamente e tematicamente il testo.

Il settimo capitolo viene dedicato all’attività poetica dello scrittore siciliano, cha aveva iniziato a comporre versi in età giovanissima. Il dire celeste diviene allora per Zangrilli la raccolta piú completa dell’esperienza versica bonaviriana, raccolta che, a suo parere, è ricca di una immaginazione tutta personale, che non si rifà ad alcuna specifica genitura poetica o ideologica, ma scaturisce dall’originale accostamento di conoscenze scientifiche e di tradizioni culturali nuove e antiche, dalla commistione di ritmi e registri fantastici e cosmico-mitici. Dall’osservazione e dalla riflessione sulla realtà del mondo si passa infatti felicemente ad un livello e ad una dimensione favolosa, ad una realtà di sogno, ad un piano situazionale eminentemente surreale.

Nell’ottavo ed ultimo capitolo il critico si sofferma sul romanzo Il dottor Bilob, anch’esso scaturito da una situazione ampiamente autobiografica, dalla quale emergono suggestioni ed interrogazioni di carattere universale. Se il motore dell’azione è avviato da un evento perfettamente inserito nel quotidiano il protagonista sposta quasi immediatamente il discorso narrativo su un piano diverso, "strano," "magico". Si ritrova qui, secondo Zangrilli, la migliore vena fantastica e immaginativa bonaviriana, che frammenta in ogni personaggio i diversi aspetti e le diverse caratteristiche della propria multiforme personalità.

Rappresentazioni dell’io poetico e umano dello scrittore sono allora, secondo Zangrilli, il prete che predica "una religione cosmica" (102) o il giovane fisico incontrato sul treno per Frosinone, aspetti forse opposti ma complementari dell’anima e dell’intelletto bonaviriano. Se i personaggi sono tutti la reincarnazione di un’unica individualità il paesaggio, che negli altri lavori è chiaramente la metafora di una Mineo divenuta esperienza ed exemplum universali, qui è diverso, laziale, ma non per questo meno simbolico, meno misterioso, meno teatro di una trasformazione che rende l’individuo un tutt’uno con l’universo, in una disintegrazione e disgregazione che promette una rinascita, una cosmica reintegrazione nell’elemento e nella materia.

Il fior del ficodindia è una capillare e approfondita riflessione sull’universo tematico e stilistico di Giuseppe Bonaviri, autore quanto mai poliedrico e raffinato. Il lavoro di ricerca di Zangrilli, con il suo approccio cosmico-filosofico-scientifico, sulla produzione narrativa, poetica e saggistica bonaviriana si può dire concluso con quest’opera che diverrà sicuramente una lettura fondamentale per la comprensione di una scrittura suggestiva e originale come quella di Giuseppe Bonaviri.

Simona Wright, The College of New Jersey 

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Adriana Cavarero. Tu che mi guardi, tu che mi racconti. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1997.

Adriana Cavarero has long been known as a key feminist thinker and one of the chief proponents of il pensiero della differenza sessuale in Italy. She played a leading role in the development of the Italian women’s group Diotima and was involved in many of its early publications. She is also one of Italy’s foremost specialists in ancient philosophy and a professor of political philosophy at the University of Verona. In many ways, then, she straddles two worlds: a deeply committed feminist scholar, she continues to engage with the metaphysical tradition in which she was originally trained. This orientation was ultimately one of the central reasons for her split from the Diotima group and fellow-founder Luisa Muraro’s more radical separatist stance. Yet it is also one of the great strengths of her work and a fundamental part of what makes it relevant to both feminist scholars and a broader range of critical thinkers, including literary critics.

Cavarero’s first book, Nonostante Platone, represents a feminist deconstruction of the Platonic myth and the foundations of the patriarchal philosophical tradition through an examination of female figures in ancient philosophy. Her second, Corpo in figure, continues her work on sexual difference. In her latest book, Tu che mi guardi, tu che mi racconti, Cavarero moves on to explore the issue of identity in terms of the question of "who" or rather "what" an individual is. Taking as a starting point Hannah Arendt’s conception of the uniqueness rather than unity of the individual, Cavarero proposes a version of identity that differentiates itself both from the strong subject of the Western philosophical tradition and from the postmodern fragmented self in this emphasis on "whoness," rather than "whatness." Emphasizing the fundamental role of narrative in identity formation, she travels through stories by authors from Blixen to Borges, the great myths of the Western tradition, and the experiences of ordinary Italian women in women’s groups to establish the link between hearing one’s story told and identity formation.

Cavarero’s book opens with a summary of a story by Karen Blixen: A man who is wakened by a noise goes outside in the dark to see what it is and in the morning discovers that his night-time footprints have left behind the outline of a stork on the ground. Blixen asks whether at the end of the design of her life she, or others, will see the outline of a figure. For Cavarero, the question is whether the course of every life leaves behind it this kind of unintentional, yet meaningful and unified design. As she points out, the design is only visible posthumously: "L’unità figurale del disegno, il significato unitario della storia, può essere posta, da chi la vive, solo in forma di interrogazione. O, forse, di desiderio" (8). Being told our story by another, however, gives us the possibility of tracing at least part of the design. Aspects of our lives – our births and deaths – are always told by others; so even our own autobiographical accounts of the stories of our lives are bound up with their narration by others. Using Arendt’s notion that ‘nessuno ha una vita degna di considerazione di cui non si possa raccontare una storia’ (quoted by Cavarero 9), Cavarero establishes storytelling as a key element of developing ways to live together in a community. She is concerned with narratives rather than the forms they take. She sees the postmodern obsession with the text as misguided and argues that, for her purposes, it is the fact of storytelling itself, rather than the specific story and its particular form, that counts. For Cavarero, telling others their own stories is a gift, and according to her the patriarchal philosophical tradition has missed this point and its ethical and political implications. She claims that women have an important advantage when it comes to storytelling of this kind because of what she sees as their particular ability for privileged and intensely narrative relations.

In line with the tradition of the Diotima group, Cavarero bases much of her theory in lived experience, both her own and that of other women. However, here, as in Nonostante Platone, she also critically engages with some of the Western philosophical tradition’s best-known foundational myths in order to point to the ironies and contradictions inherent in that tradition. The first section of the book takes a new look at some of the heroes of the Western tradition. In their stories, Cavarero sees at the heart of her conception of identity the desire to hear oneself narrated by another. Oedipus’s ignorance of his own story is seen as symptomatic of the suppression of storytelling in the philosophical tradition from Plato onwards. Ulysses, on the other hand, becomes an emblem of the problematic relationship between autobiography and biography that Cavarero discusses. Although he is able to recount his exploits himself, it is not until he hears a blind seer sing of them that he fully realizes their true significance, and is given the knowledge of who he is: "il racconto di un altro . . . finalmente gli svela la sua identità" (28). Yet, as Cavarero points out, Ulysses, like Oedipus, ignores the fundamental point from which his identity began: "Chi incarna l’ex dell’ex-istente, ossia la madre da cui nacque, pur essendoci stata all’origine della sua ex-istenza, ora infatti non c’è più"’ (30). In their ignorance and/or neglect of their maternal origins, these heroes are symbols of the disregard for sexual difference that characterizes the Western philosophical tradition and is reflected in its language. Here, as in her earlier works, Cavarero seeks to reveal the monumental and monstrous Man, both male and neuter, at the center of Western metaphysics. This figure excludes the fact of sexual difference and denies women (and indeed men) a language with which to think about it. In exposing this exclusion, she exposes the silencing of a female voice in philosophy. Tu che mi guardi, tu che mi racconti is part of her ongoing project both to dialogue with and resist the language of Western philosophy while valorizing female philosophical discourse.

This unambiguous political agenda and her clear, unpretentious style are refreshing, yet she avoids oversimplifying her complex interweaving of narratives and theorizing. Although at times the repetition of phrases such as "in altri termini" or "per dire alla buona" becomes tiresome, her restatement of her arguments provides useful clarification of complicated philosophical theories. Her explicit reiteration of her commitment to the "pensiero della differenza sessuale" and its significance is also illuminating. For Cavarero, from the moment of birth, sexual difference is defined as the primary element of the "whoness" of the individual. Clearly, she does not intend her emphasis on the uniqueness of every individual (his or her "whoness" rather than "whatness") to disturb the theoretical underpinnings of sexual difference. Nevertheless, the essentialism of her conception of sexual difference sometimes leads her to make intuitive generalizations. For example, she characterizes female friendship as based on the mutual exchange of narratives, and male friendship as based around conversations about possessions and football. Her refusal of postmodern fragmentation leads her ultimately to create categories such as "female friendship," which, by virtue of being categories, seem to risk sliding back into the realm of "whatness" she seeks to avoid. The primacy of sexual difference as a defining feature of "whoness" also seems to be problematic: How is this different from categories of "whatness" such as, for example, race?

Another question that Cavarero’s book raises but never fully answers is that of the role of the visual in the quest for an understanding of identity that she describes. Visual metaphors dominate western philosophical discourse, and Cavarero responds to this question with her own visual metaphors, as with the Blixen story of the stork design. Yet despite the complex web of visual metaphors with which Cavarero engages, and despite the book’s title, there is very little direct discussion of how the tu che mi guardi relates to the tu che mi racconti. Cavarero makes the point that the uniqueness or ‘whoness’ of the individual consists in the simple fact of his or her unrepeatable physical and mental existence, which is most obviously made apparent to us by his or her presence before our eyes. She never fully explores the important implications of this issue for the relationship between seeing and telling nor does she address the complex interactions that take place in the visual field; nevertheless, her discussion of the central role of narrative in identity relations and politics is thoroughly and persuasively argued.

Arguments against the essentialism of il pensiero della differenza sessuale can be raised just as much here as with regards to Nonostante Platone. Ultimately, however, Tu che mi guardi, tu che mi racconti can only be seen as an important contribution to the discourse on sexual difference. It adds a conception of selfhood that takes the sexual difference debate to a new level and presents an alternative to both the monolithic traditional Subject and the postmodern fragmented self. Using the notion of uniqueness rather than unity, and her conception of the relation between narrative and a specifically Arendtian politics, Cavarero negotiates a delicate path between postmodern fragmentation and traditional unity and opens up a space for a new understanding of identity.
Sarah Hill, The University of Chicago  *** Brief Notices

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Tomaso Kemeny. Melody. Milano: Marcos y Marcos, 1997.

"Aspetto la rara scintilla anarchica in grado di mutare il deserto che avanza in un bosco di rose ardenti", dichiarava Tomaso Kemeny nel 1976 alla pubblicazione del suo primo libro. Oggi, nella sua poesia, sensualità e fisicità balzano subito all’occhio, sbucano direttamente dal caos dell’esperienza quotidiana.

Poesie che corrono come cavalli in fuga, in cui si inseriscono sprazzi vivaci di memoria, capaci di trasformare cose piccole e ciclopiche in "essenze" indimenticabili. Completano il volume un dramma-lampo e un quaderno di traduzioni, da Dylan Thomas ad André Breton, da Jozséf Attila a Seamus Heaney. Si tratti di poesie o di traduzioni, il linguaggio di Kemeny riesce sempre ad aprire nuovi squarci, quasi nuove figurazioni cosmogoniche: "I tuoi grandi occhi / mi persero il cielo / in un istante di piume e di foglie:/ ma la tua pelle sprigionò / subito le voglie / pronte a rovescaire il nostro nido / nella polvere".
Massimo Maggiari, Charleston College 

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Arturo Onofri. Ciclo della terrestrità del sole. Terrestrità del sole – Vincere il drago! A c. di Marco Albertazzi. Trento: La Finestra, 1998.

Il volume include le prime due raccolte del ciclo lirico della Terrestrità del sole, composto da Onofri tra il 1925 e il 1928. Nell’ambito della lirica contemporanea italiana quest’opera ricopre un ruolo di grande importanza: in essa, infatti, sono evidenti gli influssi metafisici propri di certa tradizione poetica occulta del nostro paese. Non si tratta quindi di poesia formale, ma di poesia "altra", in cui testo e metatesto si fondono nell’opus artistico finale. L’autore è accostabile ai nomi di spicco della poesia metafisica dellÓtto-Novecento europeo, come, ad esempio, Pessoa, Yeats, Rilke e Montale.

Oltre a queste due si riediteranno anche le altre tre raccolte del suddetto ciclo (Suoni del Gral, Zolla ritorna cosmo, e Aprirsi fiore insieme a simili melodie rapprese in mondo), al fine di far conoscere un’opera che è, per molti versi, unica nel panorama letterario italiano ed europeo. Massimo Maggiari, Charleston College 

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Lucente, Gregory. Crosspaths in Literary Theory and Criticism. Stanford: UP, 1997. Pp. 193.

This volume on recent trends in American and Italian critical traditions is divided into three parts. The first part, "Recent Theory," covers "Deconstruction, Marxism, and Feminism in Current Theory" (3-18); "Critical Pluralism in the American and European Traditions" (19-34); "History with a Future(?)" (35-53); and "‘Could you elaborate on that?’ (Well, Yes and No)" (54-73). In the second part, "The Historical Imagination," the chapters are: "Vico, Hercules, and the Lion" (77-88); "Hayden White’s ‘The Content of the Form’" (89-93); "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow" (94-103); "Rationality and Myth in Pirandello’s Later Works" (104-20); and "Literary Representation and Sociopolitical/Cultural Contexts in the Historical Novel" (121-32). The final part entitled "Three Debates" contains: "‘The Exercise of Silence’" (135-48); "‘Against Theory?’ Yes and No" (149-61); and "Weak Thought/Strong Thought" (162-67).
Anne Tordi, Chapel Hill, NC

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Ridolfi, Carlo. The Life of Titian. Ed. Julia Conway Bondanella, Peter Bondanella, Bruce Cole, Jody Robin Shiffman. Trans. Julia Bondanella & Peter Bondanella. University Park: U of Pennsylvania P, 1996. Pp. 146.

This edition and translation opens with the following introductory chapters: "Titian: An Introduction" by Bruce Cole (1-10); "‘Artistic License’: Titian in the Works of Vasari and Ridolfi" by Jody Shiffman (11-48); and "Translators’ Note" by Julia Bondanella and Peter Bondanella (49-54).The volume concludes with Carlo Ridolfi’s work, "The Life of Titian Vecellio from Cadore, Painter and Knight" (55-146). Anne Tordi, Chapel Hill, NC 

Archeografo triestino. Ed. Società di Minerva. Serie 4. Vol. 57 (105 della raccolta). Trieste: Tipografia-litografia moderna, 1997. Pp. 681.

This collection of essays commemorates the awarding of the biennial prize Minerva d’Argento on May 31, 1996. Among the many contributors are Genziana Marussi, Gino Pavan, Bruno Maier, Alberto Craievich, Daniela Mugittu, Mario Dassovich, Sergio Sghedoni and Paolo Marz. The essays cover various fields, including literature, art, history, naval engineering, and numismatics.
Anne Tordi, Chapel Hill, NC

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