The Italian Tradition of Authorial Philology and Variant Criticism


OCTET Lecture on Textual Editing and Theory:  The Italian Tradition of Authorial Philology and Variant Criticism

English Faculty, St Cross Building, Manor Road, Oxford

Lecture Theatre 2


paola italia

In European literary history, the Italian case is peculiar. From the 16th century onwards, with Petrarch's Canzoniere, it presents not only a poetic model that has been imitated throughout Europe, but also a work whose author himself wished to preserve for posterity some of the papers of the first draft, known as the Codice degli abbozzi, which immediately became an object of worship, to the extent that it merited a print edition, edited by Francesco Ubaldini, as early as 1642.

This extraordinary ‘archival will’ gave rise to Authorial Philology, which – thanks to Dante Isella – became an autonomous discipline. From 1937 onwards, it was joined by Variants Criticism, founded by Gianfranco Contini, in opposition to Benedetto Croce, on the study of the Orlando Furioso fragments, which, together with genetic criticism in the 1970s and inspired by Mallarmé’s and Valéry's poetics, changed the history of modern criticism.

This OCTET lecture traces the fascinating history of ‘scartafacci’ in the Italian tradition, from Petrarch to Ariosto, from Leopardi to Manzoni, up to Montale and Carlo Emilio Gadda.