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Vernacular Textual Cultures in Dante’s Tuscany: Education and Literary Practices in Context (ca. 1250 - ca. 1321)

Project description

The cultural context of Dante’s era

In late Middle Ages Italy, literature was written in Latin. Dante’s role in the use of the vernacular language in literature was instrumental. But what was the cultural environment in which Dante was formed? In particular which vernacular texts were used for the secular education of people in Tuscany? The EU-funded VERTEXCULT project will attempt the first systematic research on the cultural environment in north-western Tuscany and Florence during the period between 1250 and 1321 (the year of Dante’s death). The project will identify which vernacular literary texts circulated among the ruling class in that period and determine the existing cultural conditions.


The project undertakes the first systematic investigation of the vernacular literary texts used for the intellectual education of secular people in north-western Tuscany between the half of the 13th and the first twenty years of the 14th century in order to clarify the cultural context of Dante’s formation in Florence, on which almost nothing is known yet. While the lyrical poetry in late-medieval vernacular has been much studied, the doctrinal literature (both in poetry and prose) flourished in Italy in the same years is often unpublished and almost never made the object of critical studies, nor its function was connected to the formation of secular intellectuals such as Dante. The project aims to define as accurately as possible the vernacular, namely, the non-Latin, cultural context and texts circulation in Florence and north-western Tuscany during the span of about seventy years, between the death of the empereor Frederick II (1250), which ideally marks the end of the Sicilian Poetic School and the displacement of the fulcrum of the Italian vernacular literature in the “municipal” Tuscany, and the death of Dante Alighieri (1321). The chronological limits depend on the crucial role of the Florentine poet, who within this historical context had reached the highest cultural dignity of the vernacular as the literary language of the legal-notary ruling class before Petrarch and Humanism marked a radical return to the Latin, indeed parallel to the decline of the figure of the “municipal intellectual” (Dante himself and other distinguished members of this specific secular and bourgeois environment as the mercant Chiaro Davanzati, the banker Monte Andrea, the judge Bono Giamboni, the notary Brunetto Latini, and the public officials Guido Cavalcanti and Dino Compagni).


Net EU contribution
€ 255 768,00
30123 Venezia

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Nord-Est Veneto Venezia
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 255 768,00

Partners (2)