This is just a quick reminder that our next event will take place at the University of Warwick on Friday, 1 February, in the usual 2-5pm slot. There will be presentations from Fabio Camilletti (Wawrick), Kenneth Clarke (York), and Nicolò Maldina (Edinburgh). Further details will be available shortly, so keep an eye out and we’ll look forward to seeing you then.
We are looking forward to hosting the next Vita nova workshop in Bristol tomorrow.
The event will take place in the Verdon Smith Room, which is part of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Royal Fort House. You can find Royal Fort House by following signs at the intersection of Woodland Road and Tyndall Avenue, opposite Senate House. Please note that the main door will be closed and the entrance is about 30 yards to the left. One of our PhD students will greet you and show you inside. If you arrive late you will need to use the buzzer at the door.
A taxi from Temple Meads station should cost no more than £10. Alternatively it is about a half-hour (steep!) walk via Queen Square and Park Street.
Laura Seemann (a graduate student at Oxford) reports:
Initially the discussion focused on the divisions of the text. After a brief examination of the break between XVII and XVIII in particular, the question was raised what the exact role of these chapter divisions might be and how these breaks relate to one another. It was noted, that XVII, for instance, appears to be preparing the way for the next chapter: there is a ‘rubrication’ of events which will follow in XVIII. In the light of these connections the chapters might perhaps even be considered one long chapter with a break (or proem/rubric + chapter) instead of two distinct chapters marked by numbered division, which carries greater weight.
Indeed, it was argued that the VN suffers from overdivision by both its readers and the text itself, which imposes limits and interruptions. While the text seems to reveal a desire to control the way it is read, these interruptive divisions distract and reveal how this control does not fully work. The almost obsessive repetitions of cominciare and fine throughout the VN show how Dante’s strategy was both successful and unsuccessful as divisions accumulate and break down the cohesiveness the text previously created. These divisions reflect an anxiety of interpretation and Dante’s need to make clear how the text must be read and interpreted. Is this authority the reflection of a new desired authorship?
The conversation then briefly focused on rhyme schemes in the VN before moving to the next greater point of discussion: the question of the interlocutor and the audience. It was noted that there appears to be a shift after XVII, where Dante ends his discourse with the the singular donna and directs himself at the donne. However, what seems to be a stake is something far greater than only a shift from a single interlocutor to a group.
By turning from the donna to the donne, Dante quits a traditional lyric mode as if to announce the beginning of a new ‘era’: the time of the plural women-as-interlocutors. In XIX he will address these women with the famous opening of his canzone ‘donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore’ [ladies who have understanding of love] and he emphasises these plural women who are, in fact, neither subject nor object to this love.
And what exactly might this ‘intelletto’ that Dante is talking about be? One speaker suggested that it might be more than knowledge and perhaps include ethical aspects or perhaps even philosophical dimensions with regards to Purgatorio XXV. This change of interlocutor might also reflect the shifting concept of space in the VN. One speaker argued that after a more introspective Cavalcantian perception of space (camera delle lacrime), there is a turning away from his claustrophobic (or perhaps claustrophilic) enclosure to a more social space which generates a new kind of poetry. This new lyric is based on this very authority as he controls the reader constructing both his readership and his authorial persona.
Laura Seemann is a masters students focussing on medieval Italian and French at the University of Oxford.