Only R.W.B. Lewis-the renowned biographer and author of The City of Florence-could write so insightfully about Dante Alighieri, Florence's famous son. In Dante he traces the life and complex development-emotional, artistic, philosophical-of this supreme poet-historian, from his wanderings through Tuscan hills and splendid churches to his days as a young soldier fighting for democracy, and to his civic leadership and years of embittered exile from the city that would fiercely reclaim him a century later.
Lewis reveals the boy who first encounters the mythic Beatrice, the lyric poet obsessed with love and death, the grand master of dramatic narrative and allegory, and his monumental search for ultimate truth in The Divine Comedy. It is in this masterpiece of self-discovery and redemption that Lewis finds Dante's own autobiography-and the sum of all his shifting passions and epiphanies.
The Absence of Grace is a study of male fantasy, representation anxiety, and narratorial authority in two sixteenth-century books, Baldassare Castiglione's Il libro del Cortegiano (1528) and Giovanni Della Casa's Galateo (1558). The interpretive method is a form of close reading the author describes as reconstructed old New Criticism, that is, close reading conditioned by an interest in and analysis of the historical changes reflected in the text. The book focuses on the way the Courtier and Galateo cope with and represent the interaction between changes of elite culture and the changing construction of masculine identity in early modern Europe. More specifically, it connects questions of male fantasy and masculine identity to questions about the authority and reliability of narrators, and shows how these questions surface in narratorial attitudes toward socioeconomic rank or class, political power, and gender.
The book is in three parts. Part One examines a distinction and correlation the Courtier establishes between two key terms, (1) sprezzatura, defined as a behavioral skill intended to simulate the attributes of (2) grazia, understood as the grace and privileges of noble birth. Because sprezzatura is negatively conceptualized as the absence of grace it generates anxiety and suspicion in performers and observers alike. In order to suggest how the binary opposition between these terms affected the discourse of manners, the author singles out the titular episode of Galateo, an anecdote about table manners, which he reads closely and then sets in its historical perspective. Part Two takes up the question of sprezzatura in the gender debate that develops in Book 3 of the Courtier, and Part Three explores in detail the characterization of the two narrators in the Courtier and Galateo, who are represented as unreliable and an object of parody or critique.
Achille Bocchi and the Emblem Book as Symbolic Form is an introductory study of the Symbolicae Quaestiones, published in Bologna in 1555, in which Elizabeth See Watson argues that the context of the Symbolicae Quaestiones reflects the intellectual and cultural currents of the university and the literary academies rather than the hidden heresies of the sixteenth century. In order to make Bocchi's work more accessible to readers, the first part of the book provides a biographical context. The second part explores poetic theory and the symbol in the development of Bocchi's symbols, then examines the rhetorical strategy of paradox and the symbolism of mythology in the way they shape the content of the work. Bocchi fashioned his symbols, each one an emblematic unit of poem, engraving, and motto, from a mix of classical and post-classical myth, symbol, and fable and from allusions to his contemporaries. The iconography of these emblematic units and of the closely related facade design for Bocchi's palazzo, serves as a programmatic statement for Bocchi's interrelated projects.
Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1996
The Decameron is a narrative account of a situation in which narration takes place-a collection of one hundred stories set within a larger story. As a group of young men and women fleeing the plague trade stories to pass the time of crisis, storytelling occurs in a social context that allows for comment upon the tales by the tellers themselves, in a setting that elicits one story in return for another.
In his close and original analysis, Pier Massimo Forni uses the notion of rhetoric as a guiding principle for a critical assessment of the Decameron. He explores the discursive tools with which the narrators connect the contents of their stories to their audience's environment, and goes on to argue that the book is significantly marked by Boccaccio's habit of exploring the narrative potential of rhetorical forms.
By showing how the Decameron marks a new stage in the development of vernacular realism, Forni also charts a new course in Boccaccio criticism. Viewing the cultural and rhetorical context of the medieval masterpiece from a fresh perspective, he offers intriguing insights into the functioning of Boccaccio's narrative. Adventures in Speech maps the cognitive poetic processes that rule the complex authorial network of relationships involving speech, event, received culture, and narrative objects.
Honorable Mention for the 2019 American Association for Italian American Book Prize (20-21st Centuries)Allied Encounters uniquely explores Anglo-American and Italian literary, cinematic, and military representations of World War II Italy in order to trace, critique, and move beyond the gendered paradigm of redemption that has conditioned understandings of the Allied-Italian encounter. The arrival of the Allies' global forces in an Italy torn by civil war brought together populations that had long mythologized one another, yet "liberation" did not prove to be the happy ending touted by official rhetoric. Instead of a "honeymoon," the Allied-Italian encounter in cities such as Naples and Rome appeared to be a lurid affair, where the black market reigned supreme and prostitution was the norm. Informed by the historical context as well as by their respective traditions, these texts become more than mirrors of the encounter or generic allegories. Instead, they are sites in which to explore repressed traumas that inform how the occupation unfolded and is remembered, including the Holocaust, the American Civil War, and European colonialism, as well as individual traumatic events like the massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine and the mass civilian rape near Rome by colonial soldiers
The curiosity with which Europeans approached the New World was reflected in the writings of Italian historians, missionaries, travelers, and explorers, who described with fascination the customs of the peoples they encountered in their travels. In this study Stefania Buccini examines the representation of the Americas in Italian literature during the Age of the Enlightenment.
She begins by analyzing the motivations and circumstances behind the emergence of the myth of the "noble savage." Eighteenth-century Italy had a strong orientation toward the more "advanced" American societies of the Incas and the Aztecs, and these pre-Columbian civilizations became the preferred myth, dissociated from any notion of wildness and easily compatible with illuministic canons of progress. However, a new America--revolutionary and democratic, animated by noble principles of liberty and equality--was soon formed, onto which the old Europe projected its dreams of renewal. As the New World came to be associated with the English colonies, Benjamin Franklin, scientist, writer of political and moral works, and founder of the new republic, gained the stature of an illuministic myth in Italy.Buccini finds that the myths of the old and new Americas meshed and created a more complex image of the New World for the Italians.
Professor Wright's objective is to see Boccaccio in relation to the personality of the writers to whom he appealed and simultaneously to observe the changing taste of successive ages as it was revealed by their choice among Bocccaccio's writings. Boccaccio was also a Eurpoean literary phenomenon, and this study attempts to consider his fortunes on the Continent. In considering Chaucer's relation to Boccaccio, the author examines Chaucer's poems afresh, studying the Italian originals closely in order to ascertain the precise nature of the English adaptation or transformation. Various minor figures of English literature are also dealt with at some length due to the importance of Boccaccio's influence on their work.
In The Building in the Text, Roy Eriksen shows that Renaissance writers conceived of their texts in accordance with architectural principles. His approach opens the way to wide-ranging discussions of the structure and meaning of a variety of literary texts and also provides new insights into the famed architectural ekphrases of Alberti and Vasari.
Analyzing such words as "plot," "topos," "fabrica," and "stanza," Eriksen discloses the fundamental spatial symmetries and complexities in the writings of Ariosto, Shakespeare, and Milton, among other major figures. Ultimately, his book uncovers and clarifies a tradition of literary architecture that is rooted in antiquity and based on correspondences regarded as ordering principles of the cosmos.
Eriksen's book will be of interest to art historians, historians of literature, and those concerned with the classical heritage, rhetoric, music, and architecture.