Selected Italian Medieval Poetry
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Something that the book conveys particularly well, I think, is the variety of contexts in which Anglo-Italian cultural exchanges took place — not just through trade and banking, as Ignazio Del Punta, Bart Lambert, and Helen Bradley describe in such rich detail, but also through diplomatic, political, and literary connections. If there is one theme that brings together these different contexts of cultural exchange it is the rise of the city and a commercialized economy in Britain from the late thirteenth century. With its powerful city-states, Italy had led the way in modelling the political structures of urbanization and arguably played a crucial role in bringing Britain into the European mercantile arena.
By setting out the variety of contexts in which British and Italian cultural practices were in dialogue with each other and how they helped to shape the medieval worldview at a time of urban economic growth, we hope to have started some new conversations about transnational exchanges in the medieval world.
In Florence, these two loyalties were represented by the Guelph party, which supported the papacy, and the Ghibelline party, which supported imperial power. Dante, as a visible and influential leader of the Whites, was exiled within a year. Dante became something of a party unto himself after his exile.
His attitudes were, at times, closer to those of a Ghibelline than a Guelph, so much did he dislike Boniface. The pope, as well as a multitude of other characters from Florentine politics, has a place in the Hell that Dante depicts in Inferno —and not a pleasant one. Despite the important historical context of the work, Inferno is far from merely a political allegory. Inferno is, for one, the exercise of an astounding intellect that handled writers such as Aristotle, Ovid, Virgil, and Thomas Aquinas with ease and skill.
Inferno is also a landmark in the development of European language and literature, for it stands as the greatest medieval poem written in vernacular language—the common tongue of a people. Critics spanning nearly seven centuries have praised its poetic beauty and compass, virtually unmatched by any other medieval poem. Dante acknowledges the seeming folly of such an attempt by entitling his masterpiece The Comedy the adjective Divine , indicating the religious nature of the work, was added in the sixteenth century.
Rather, the word comedy refers to one of the two classical styles, the other being tragedy. It happened again the other day. I was walking down the street in my home city in the US when I heard it; a couple speaking Italian. I hurried to catch up with them, staying close so I could eavesdrop. From what I could understand, they were talking about remodelling their house.
Not the most elegant topic. But the words sounded so beautiful that I cried.
BBC - Travel - How Italian became the language of love
I had the same reaction when I moved home after spending two years in Florence, when I wept at the lack of attention to beauty in my own American city. Italians are always using the word bello beautiful for everything good.
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In Italy, beauty is paramount. And Italian is no different. Some move to Italy on a whim and remodel abandoned farmhouses. Others endeavour to stay awake through hours-long operas.
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Italian, as we know it today, was meant to enchant, charm and beguile. Italian has a unique history born of geopolitics.
Compared to its Western European counterparts, like France and Spain, the country was unified relatively late, in For hundreds of years, what is now Italy was divided into regional kingdoms and lacked a cohesive government with an official, administrative tongue.