The Author as Scribe. Materiality and Textuality in the Trecento
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CitationAresu, Francesco Marco. 2015. The Author as Scribe. Materiality and Textuality in the Trecento. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractIn my dissertation, I explore the relationship between the material aspects of an editorial artifact and their literary implications for the texts it contains. I show how the interpretation of a text needs to be accompanied by an inquiry into the material conditions of its production, circulation and reception. This study is intended as both an investigation of the material foundations of institutions of literary study and a reflection on some often neglected sides of contemporary theorizations concerning textuality, writing, and media. My purpose is to show a paradigmatic example of the basic coincidence of textual datum and material unit, content and medium, verbal-visual message and physical support.
The dissertation is articulated in a theoretical chapter followed by three case studies. In the theoretical introduction, I provide critical reflection on and expressive response to the complex, non-deterministic interplay between cultural constructs and the media within which they are formalized and by which they are formed in the context of medieval Italian literature. First, I briefly outline the theoretical coordinates within which to consider the materiality of textual supports (óstraka, papyry, codices) as a key element for the adequate interpretation of the texts that they preserve. Next, I offer examples of the interdependence between the strictly textual and material characteristics of a literary product. I sketch out the interpretive implications of these connections from the points of view of composition, circulation, and reception. I purposely draw the examples from different textual cultures, mainly classical (Greek and Latin) and medieval (Occitanic and Italian), in order to test the general plausibility of my methodology of inquiry.
The first case study is conceived as a thematological inquiry. It offers a catalogue raisonné of the metaphors of the book and book production in the Dantean corpus. It studies, therefore, the description of the materiality of the book at the level of the enunciation. Books are a recursive figure in Dante’s macrotext. The reference to the “libro della mente” in the early canzone “E m’incresce di me sì duramente” prefigures the “libro della memoria” in the incipit of the Vita nova. Moreover, the book is the metaphor for the revelation of the cosmos held together by bond of love (“legato con amore in un volume”) at the climax of Dante’s mystical vision in Paradiso 33. Dante’s entire literary production is inscribed within the metaphorics of the book, which is disseminated in poetically and hermeneutically significant places. In this chapter, I begin by charting Dante’s images of and references to books in his corpus. Basing my analysis on Ernst Robert Curtius’ historical study of the book as symbol, and Hans Blumenberg’s gnoseological articulation of the metaphor of the legibility of the world, I then outline the various semantic realms that the metaphorics of the book entails. On one hand, the hints at the book structure serve as meta-textual elements that guide interpretation, since they convey information on the book format, the typology of expected readership, and the expository order of the text. In sum, these metaphors of books and book production are chiefly concerned with the text’s dramatizing its own problematic creation. For instance, the material elements implied in the address to the reader in Paradiso 10, 22 (“Or ti riman, lettor, sovra ’l tuo banco”) underscore a precise choice of book format (the “libro da banco universitario”) and a specific readership (scholars). On the other hand, the metaphorology of the book (and of the Commedia qua book) entails a more radical cognitive experience, since it signifies the reductio ad unum of scattered entities due to its nature as all-compassing semiotic vehicle. The final step of my analysis is to compare the interpretive indications inferred from references to the materiality of the book embedded in the text with actual renditions of some early witnesses of the Vita nova and Commedia.
In the second case study, I explore the editorial and intertextual relations between Giovanni Boccaccio’s autograph of the Teseida and two exemplars of the poem (a manuscript and an incunabulum, both produced in Ferrara in the 1470s and kept at Houghton Library, Cambridge, MA). First, I delineate the complex system of authorial personae that Boccaccio impersonates in the manuscript. Then, I describe how visual and verbal elements in the autograph cooperate to engage the reader in a multi-sensorial aesthetic experience. Next, I investigate to what extent the material configuration of the Ferrara exemplars comply with the hermeneutic guidelines materially embedded by Boccaccio into his autograph as a means of managing the reception and controlling the interpretation of the poem. I outline how these two exemplars reveal the importance of Boccaccio’s editorial project in successfully inscribing his literary production within the canon of authoritative texts. In fact, the rich paratextual apparatus with which Boccaccio furnishes his autograph is the foundation upon which the Teseida grew into a classic and sprouted the proliferation of comments and accretions that surrounded the text of the poem.
The third case study focuses on Francesco Petrarca’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta. Petrarca’s songbook has been a privileged object of analysis for material philology since the publication of the fac-simile of the manuscript that preserves the autograph of the collection (ms. Vat. lat. 3195). The study of the autograph shows Petrarca’s editorial project of associating the poet’s activity with the scribe’s in an ideal coincidence of literary expression and script, text and book, composition and folio. Basing my inquiry on the fac-simile, I argue that the autograph should be considered as an organized form of visual poetry. In fact, this exemplar can be thought of as an entity that systematically conjugates a linguistic/verbal message with an iconic formation. The two are not simply juxtaposed, but rather they coexist in a sort of hypostasis, in which the iconic element affects the linguistic substance. On one hand, the verbal text brings about meanings that are of a linguistic type. On the other hand, it is structured as a medium that conveys meanings that are generally portrayed by the other order of representation (the visual). Therefore, the autograph delineates a project of integration between graphical and linguistic elements, in compliance with the classical and medieval tradition of visual poetry (from Simias’ taechnopagnia and Optatianus’ carmina figurata to the calligraphic production of the Schola Palatina). In the case of Petrarca’s songbook, the iconic element does not imply an apparatus of images, given the extreme essentialism of his editorial endeavors. Instead, it is chiefly limited to the graphic execution of the linguistic sign: its system of majuscules and minuscules, its layout, the regulation of written lines and blank spaces, and the relation between verse and line. I will therefore indicate how the iconic character of the autograph can be interpreted as a series of logical relations between the poetic language and its graphic rendition through writing. My purpose is to show that this series of relations conveys a specific set of visual guidelines that lead the reader through the decoding and interpretation of the text.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:17467386
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