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

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VERTEXCULT (Vernacular Textual Cultures in Dante’s Tuscany: Education and Literary Practices in Context (ca. 1250 - ca. 1321))

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-08-31

VERTEXCULT aims to the first systematic investigation of the vernacular literary texts used for the intellectual education of lay people in western Tuscany between the half of the XIII century and the first twenty years of the XIV century in order to clarify the cultural context of Dante’s formation in Florence. While the lyrical poetry in late medieval vernacular has been much studied, the coeval doctrinal literature is often unpublished and almost never made the object of critical studies, nor its function is generally connected to the formation of lay intellectuals such as Dante. The project aims to define as accurately as possible the vernacular cultural context and texts circulation in Florence and western Tuscany during the span between the death of Frederick II (1250) and the death of Dante (1321). The main historical and methodological problem related to this research is that until the present, the general assumption has prevailed that the lay intellectuals in medieval Florence and Tuscany would have had admission to major manuscript collections and to traditional centers of higher education that in Italy related to the ecclesiastical environment and provided a cultural baggage in Latin. This anachronistic viewpoint failes to take into consideration both the realities of medieval intellectual life, in which books were few and often the preserve of religious elites, and the fact that most of the intellectuals who belonged to the legal-notarial class had only received a limited education matured in a lay environment and based on vernacular texts.
VERTEXCULT has 4 objectives. 1) to develop an analytical and historical framework, with Florence and other leading cities in the production of vernacular texts in western Tuscany as an exemplary case study, within which to investigate the bourgeois’ intellectual formation outside the ecclesiastical schools, its engagement with the medieval culture and the correlation between its literary activity and the parallel civil commitments. 2) to map out and examine the foundations of Dante’s and his contemporaries’ knowledge of doctrinal literature through the study of the vernacular manuscripts produced between the XIII-XIV centuries in western Tuscany. During this period, lay intellectuals exclusively contributed to and dialogued with this literature, which thus makes it imperative to establish which books were actually present in western Tuscany, as well as the likelihood that the intellectuals from that area could have had the opportunity to read them and in which schools. 3) to provide a new overarching account of Florentine and western Tuscany lay culture, literature, and intellectual life in the late Middle Ages. Most existing accounts concentrate narrowly on lyric poetry making only passing reference to other genres, as the doctrinal poetry and prose, which were often more prolific and substantial. Poetic and prose texts disseminating philosophical, rhetorical, scientific, political, chronicle, and practical subjects in vernacular are being classified, analyzed, and edited within the project. 4) is to reshape the understanding of Dante’s intellectual education in the light of the doctrinal texts examined. It is expected to bring to light unedited documents never approached by critics to Dante’s work. Vertexcult aims to detail the influence of the doctrinal literature on Dante’s early works (Rime, Vita nova, Convivio) through intertextual findings so far never brought to light. It’s meant to make rethinking the provenance of Dante’s philosophical pattern, traditionally brought back to his attendance in the religious schools of Florence (Franciscan Santa Croce and Dominican Santa Maria Novella), while it has yet to emerge the contribution provided by the lay environment of the city.
The work that I performed (from 1 September 2019 to 30 November 2019; then from 1 March 2020 to 30 November 2021) is articulated through research and publications, conferences, dissemination for a general audience. In the first period (September-November 2019), my research took place in the library, between Tuscany and Venice, in order to collect study material from the examination of the manuscripts of the XIII and XIV centuries relevant for my research. From this first research, I obtained information useful for the definition of some of my publications related to the project, which were published by 2021. In the second period (March-August 2020), due to the Covid-19 emergency, my research was carried out essentially remotely, through the electronic and digital resources of the major research libraries in Italy and worldwide, for the purpose to implement the investigations started in the previous months. In particular, I thought it appropriate to use this period of reduced mobility to carry out two main research activities: 1) work on the publication of two scientific articles on Dante and the translation into vernacular of the Consolation of the philosophy of Boethius; 2) transcribe a digitally reproduced manuscript of the Riccardiana Library in Florence, which contains an unpublished doctrinal text from the end of the XIII century, the "Libro di costumanza" (a moral philosophy treatise), which I plan to publish for the first time. I also developed a collateral branch of my research (the relationship between Dante and the contemporary poet Albertino Mussato), which gave rise to other 3 publications (2 scientific articles and 1 monograph). In the third period (September-November 2021), I have concentrated on participating in conferences and seminars organized in Italy and around the world for the celebration of the 7th centenary of Dante's death; and, I have completed the drafting of 7 other scientific articles (4 published in 2021, 3 to be released in 2022). During the first 24 months of my project, I published 7 scientific articles and 1 monograph, and I coedited 2 books; furthermore, I participate, as invited speaker, in 19 conferences and seminars; and I organized 1 international conference and 3 workshop series.
I am concentrating on didactic-philosophical texts in the vernacular, hitherto largely ignored by the scholars. Based on manuscripts, I am drawning up the first list of vernacular works circulating or composed in western Tuscany by the early XIV century (i.e. the "Libro di costumanza" and the vernacular translation of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy). Through the analysis of the census texts, VERTEXCULT aims to change our concept of the vernacular cultural of medieval Tuscany. An original objective is to reshape the understanding of Dante’s intellectual education in the light of the doctrinal texts examined. I have started to bring to light unedited documents never approached by critics to Dante’s work because of a prejudice regarding their intellectual rank. VERTEXCULT aims to detail the influence of the doctrinal literature on Dante’s early works through intertextual findings so far never brought to light. Some of the results expected from now until the end of the project have already been achieved in these first 24 months of research and they consist in the publication of 7 articles, 1 monograph andd 2 co-edited volumes perfectly focused on the subject of VERTEXCULT, which have been published between the end of 2019 and the end of 2021. Other 4 articles and 1 monograph (that will resume the main results of the project) are expected to be published by the end of 2023.
Scaffale Dantesco - Seminar (April-December 2021)
Seminario Dantesco Internazionale (March-June 2021)
International Dante Conference Saverio Bellomo (July 2021)