Scrittura, Riscrittura, Autoesegesi

Scrittura, Riscrittura, Autoesegesi

by Roberta Ricci, Professor and Chair of Italian on the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Chair in the Humanities


The idea of reflecting upon one’s own art is probably as old as literature itself and has its sense of participation in a wider literary tradition because it serves to overcome the medieval distinction between those who agunt de arte (the critics) and those who agunt per artem (the writers).  Comments and marginalia written by authors as explanations of their own work add a new literary dimension to the richness of the text itself because this exegesis opens issues concerned with critical inquiry, questions of authorship and readership, and the complexity of reception. Such issues are especially relevant for the genre of the epic poem, which was authoritative and fertile through the centuries and yet also particularly problematic in the first centuries of the Italian language. This study examines the presence and connections of four different literary codes in two poems remarkable for their place within the cultural panorama of early-modern Italian literature: Boccaccio’s Teseida and Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata. In the history of the epics in Tuscan vernacular, Boccaccio’s public, prolix, and learned glosses written in the third person, on one hand, and Tasso’s private, complex, and ambivalent letters addressed to the intellectuals working at the Curia Romana, on the other, not only continue to raise philological, chronological, and theoretical issues connected to the genre par excellence, but also open a fruitful line of investigation on the authorial process of artistic invention and literary self-consciousness.