A GLIMPSEINTO THEITALIAN LITERARY HERITAGEItalian Poets and Writers
The ORIGINSThe AeneidA book for all the times and all peopleVirgils Aeneid is as eternal as Rome itself, a sweeping epic ofarms and heroism--the searching portrait of a man caughtbetween love and duty, human feeling and the force of fate.Aeneas flees the ashes of Troy to found the city of Rome andchange forever the course of the Western world--as literatureas well.Filled with drama, passion, and the universal pathos that onlya masterpiece can express, the Aeneid has influenced writersfor over 2,000 years.
Twelve Booksrooted in ClassicismPublius Vergilius Maro(October 15, 70 BC – September 21, 19 BC)Virgil is traditionallyranked as one of Romesgreatest poets.His Aeneid, modeledafter Homers Iliad andOdyssey, is consideredthe national epic ofancient Rome.Virgils work has hadwide and deep influenceon Western literature,most notably the DivineComedy of Dante, inwhich Virgil appears asDantes guide throughHell and Purgatory.
‘THE THREE CROWNS’THE WORKS OF PETRARCH, DANTE AND BOCCACCIO IN THE 1300SFORESHADOWED THE DRAMATIC CHANGE WESTERN CIVILIZATIONWAS ABOUT TO UNDERGO AND REVOLUTIONIZED LITERATURE EVENBEFORE THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRINTING PRESS.THIS WAS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE CULTURAL AND INTELLECTUALTRANSFORMATION SWEEPING EUROPE.Petrarch, Danteand Boccaccio
They were scholars, admirers of the humanism and were determined tobring it into their world. Their most profound impact is how they helpedinfluence the rebirth of knowledge Europe was beginning to experience.Who we are as a culture— how we think and what we value —was influenced by these three men.
‘Dante’ -Durante degli Alighieri-‘the Supreme Poet’ (c. 1265–1321)Dante was born in Florence. The exact date of birth is unknown, although it isgenerally believed to be around 1265. This can be deduced from autobiographicallusions in La Divina Commedia.The Divine Comedy describes Dantes journey through Hell(Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), guided by the Roman poetVirgil and Paradise (Paradiso), guided by Beatrice, the subjectof his love and of another of his works, La Vita Nuova.
While the vision of Inferno, is vivid for modern readers, thetheological niceties presented in the other books require a certainamount of patience and knowledge to appreciate.Purgatorio, is the most lyrical and human of the three, and alsointroduces the reader to many poets who according to Dante arespending eternity in limbo ;Paradiso, is the most heavily theological and has the mostbeautiful and ecstatic mystic passages in which Dantetries to describe what he confesses he is unable to convey(e.g., when Dante looks into the face of God: "at this highmoment, ability failed my capacity to describe," Paradiso,XXXIII, 142).Wi t h i t s ser i ousness of pur pose, i t s l i t er ar yst at ur e and t he r ange — bot h st yl i st i cal l y andsubj ect wi se — of i t s cont ent , t he Co me d y soonbecame a cor ner st one i n t he evol ut i on of I t al i anas an est abl i shed l i t er ar y l anguage.
Italian‘la langue deDante’Dante was more aware thanmost earlier Italian writersof the variety of Italiandialects and of the need tocreate a literature, and aunified literary language,beyond the limits of Latinwriting at the time; in thatsense he is a forerunner ofthe Renaissance, with itseffort to create vernacularliterature in competitionwith earlier classicalwriters.Dantereconciled his humanism with devotion to the Catholic Church. Dante’s Divine Comedy does not contradict Catholictheology. The punishments fit the crimes, and Paradiso is true lovethrough union with God, deeper any human or romantic love.
The Next GenerationFrancesco Petrarca(1304 - 1374 )But while Dante railed against thosewho had been unjust and corrupt,Petrarch went deeper throughintrospection and his belief that Godgave humans intellect andcreativity for each person to use toimprove their experience of life. He remained a devout Catholic, buthis shift of focus from the Church tothe Greeks and Romans and theirhumanism helped begin a processthat ultimately would undermine thechurch.“Petrarch changed theworld through hispoetry”Giovanni Boccaccio(1313-1375)The story line of Boccaccio’s Decameronshows one reason everything was about to change .Like his friend Petrarch, Boccaccio did not see anycontradiction between his faith and humanism. Hisliterature nonetheless broke with traditional forms,even as his stories were based on old folk tales.Boccaccio’s stories and language were often lewd and risque. InItaly during the time of the Black Death, a group of seven youngwomen and three young men flee from plague-ridden Florenceto a deserted villa in the countryside of Fiesole for two weeks.To pass the evenings, every member of the party tells a storyeach night, except for one day per week for chores, and the holydays in which they do no work at all, resulting in ten nights ofstorytelling over the course of two weeks. Thus, by the end ofthe fortnight they have told 100 storiesThroughout Decameron the mercantile ethic prevails and predominates.The commercial and urban values of quick wit, sophistication, andintelligence are treasured, while the vices of stupidity and dullness arecured, or punished.
Alessandro ManzoniThe Making of a NationAlessandro F. T. Manzoni(7 March 1785 – 22 May 1873)was an Italian poet and novelist.He is famous for the novelThe Betrothed (I PromessiSposi) (1827), generally rankedamong the masterpieces ofworld literature.The novel is also a symbol ofthe Italian Risorgimento, bothfor its patriotic message andbecause it was a fundamentalmilestone in the development ofthe modern, unified Italianlanguage.The Betrothedan Historical NovelRound the episode of the Innominato, historically identified withBernardino Visconti, the first manuscript of the novel I Promessi Sposibegan to grow into shape, and was completed in September 1823.The work was published, after being deeply reshaped by the author andrevised by friends in 1825–1827, at the rate of a volume a year; it at onceraised its author to the first rank of literary fame.It is generally agreed to be his greatest work, and the paradigm of modernItalian language.In 1822, Manzoni published his second tragedy, Adelchi, turning on theoverthrow by Charlemagne of the Lombard domination in Italy, andcontaining many veiled allusions to the existing Austrian rule.With these works Manzoni’s literary career was practically closed. But helaboriously revised The Betrothed in Tuscan-Italian, and in 1840republished it in that form, with a historical essay, Storia della ColonnaInfame, on details of the 17th century plague in Milan so important in thenovel.He also wrote a small treatise on the Italian language.
A BRIEF OUTLINE OF MODERN CONTEMPORARYITALIAN LITERATURETHE NOBELLAUREATES OF ITALYItalian Nobel Prize Winners
Giosuè A. G. Carducci (1835 –1907) was anItalian poet and teacher. In 1906 he became thefirst Italian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.Grazia Deledda (1871 – 1936) was an Italian writer whoseworks won her the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1926.Deleddas whole work is based on strong facts of love, painand death upon which rests the feeling of sin and of aninevitable fatality.Carducci (1906) and Deledda (1926)"not only in consideration of hisdeep learning and critical research,but above all as a tribute to thecreative energy, freshness of style,and lyrical force which characterizehis poetic masterpieces"Prize motivation"for her idealistically inspiredwritings which with plastic claritypicture the life on her native islandand with depth and sympathy dealwith human problems in general".Prize motivation
Luigi Pirandello (1867 –1936) was an Italian dramatist,novelist, poet and short story writer. He was awarded the1934 Nobel Prize in Literature.Salvatore Quasimodo (1901 –1968) was an Italian authorand along with Giuseppe Ungaretti and Eugenio Montale,he is one of the foremost Italian poets of the 20th century.Pirandello( 1934) and Quasimodo ( 1959)Prize motivation: "for his bold andingenious revival of dramatic and scenicart"Pirandellos works include novels,hundreds of short stories, and about 40plays, some of which are written inSicilian. Pirandellos tragic farces areoften seen as forerunners for Theatreof the Absurd.Prize motivation: "for his lyrical poetry,which with classical fire expresses thetragic experience of life in our own times"
Eugenio Montale (1896 –1981), widelyconsidered the greatest Italian lyric poetsince Giacomo Leopardi, was awarded the1975 Nobel Prize in Literature.Dario Fo (24 March 1926) is an Italian actor-playwright, theatre director, stage designer,songwriter and political campaigner, andrecipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in LiteratureMontale (1975) and Fo (1997 )Attentive to the effects ofhistory, Montales poetry standsout as congenial to spirits thatare aware of the consequencesof the second world tragedy,which the writer saw astemporary reflections of an evilwithout origin and without end,according to a parable whichmakes him belong to the moreconscious part of the EuropeanintellectPrize motivation:"for his distinctive poetry which,with great artistic sensitivity,has interpreted human valuesunder the sign of an outlook onlife with no illusions“Dario Fo is the most widely performed contemporaryplaywright in world theatre.Much of his dramatic work depends on improvisation andcomprises the recovery of "illegitimate" forms of theatre, such asthose performed by giullari (medieval strolling players) and, morefamously, the ancient Italian style of commedia dell arte.The Swedish Academy praised Fo as a writer"who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages inscourging authority and upholding the dignityof the downtrodden".
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