Saturday, 25 June 2011

Emily-Kate Price on the Scuola Siciliana

Translation of a tradition? Re-appraising the link between the troubadours and the Scuola Siciliana

Emily-Kate Price (Magdalen College)

Despite being a MSt student, Emily Price dared to be the last speaker of I3MS this course year and delighted us with a very interesting talk about the relation of the Scuola Siciliana to the poetry of the trobadours, which has been the topic of her dissertation. The Scuola Siciliana shows certain differences to trobadour lyric with regard to its poetic purpose and the atmosphere from which it emerges: the Sicilian court was highly intellectual and form was regarded higher that content by its poets.

The Scuola Siciliana is the first manifestation of Italian poetry (1st half of the XIIth century) and shows a great influence of the poetry of the Trobadours. This influence can be explained not only by formal and thematic reasons, but is related to the circumstance that Italian was not a literary language at the time, so that it had to rely in authoritative models such as the troubadours to start forming their own literature. That is the reson why, despite depending so much on the models of the trobadours, some aspects are slightly changed in order to create a, Italian poetical identity different to the Occitan. Some of these were, for example, the phenomenology of love, the relation between love and death or the attitude towards authoritative sources. The new Italian current looked for factual poetry, instead of the personal introspective tendence of the trobadours. Moreover, they opted for clarification and univocity, in contrast to the ambiguity of trobadours.

This tendance reflects very well in translations of Occitan poems by poets of the Scuola Siciliana, which are not only translations but adaptations to and defenses of these new poetical principles. To prove this, Emily chose to analyse the translation that Giacomo da Lentini (1230s?) did of a poem by Folquet de Marselh, a late Occitan poet whose compositions start reflecting the crisis of trobadour poetry and the tensions between fin amor and poetical horizons, and quite close to the birth of the Scuola Siciliana. Apart from the above mentioned differences, Emily highlighted the similarities too and found a lot of what she called "compensations", that is, the repetition of words or ideas found in the Occitan poem which are not necessary in the translated version but which are introduced, in first place, to show the dependence from the original text; in second place, to dignify the composition through this dependence. In this sense, the function of trobadour poetry was to provide an already dignified literary form to the poets of the Scuola Siciliana, which they did not hesitate to manipulate and adapt to their personal taste.

The Q&A turn was full of remarks about similar proccesses in Spanish and Italian literature over the Middle Ages and theory of translation and of reception. At the end, we took farewell until the next term with some sparkling juice, but decided that some end-of-term drinks should be taking place some time in week 9. Therefore, keep visiting the blog for more information or suscribe to our newsletter!

Many thanks to all for coming and see you next Michaelmas term!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Rachel Scott on "Celestina"

"Celestina" and sixteenth-century Italian literary culture: Some points of intersection with "Il libro del cortegiano"

Rachel Scott, King's College London 

Last Thursday's session was a special occassion for the I3MS, as Rachel Scott has been our first guest speaker from an university other than the University of Oxford, so that we would like to thank her very much for accepting our invitation and sharing some aspects of her ongoing research with us. Rachel is a first year DPhil student at King's College who is working on the late fifteenth century Spanish work "Celestina" under the supervision of Prof Julian Weiss and, despite studying the interaction of "Celestina" with sixteenth-century European literature in order to understand its popularity outside the Iberian Peninsula, her background is in Medieval Studies. According to the spirit of the I3MS as well as to the orientation of her current work, she has presented a topic of Iberian and Italian interest which considers the interest in language of the Renaissance from the perspective of Castiglione's "Il libro del cortegiano" and its reflection (or deformation) in "Celestina".

After a short introduction to the background of the work itself (genesis, authorship, editorial success, etc.) and of its first translation into Italian (translator, commercial success, relevance of the translation for the spreading of "Celestina" throughout Europe, etc.), as well as to the cultural and political relations and exchanges of the Iberian and the Italian Peninsulas (Ferdinand's court in Naple, the Spanish Pope Alexander VI, the presence of Italian Humanists in the Castilian Court, etc.) Rachel proceeded to approach the reception of "Celestina" in Italy. In this occassion, she analysed the coincidences and the divergences between "Celestina" and the very succesful, native Italian "Il libro del  cortegiano" which, apart from having been published while "Celestina" knew its greatest popularity in Italy and having had a very similar and complicated genesis, shares with the Spanish masterpiece an interest in courtliness.

On account of this thematic coincidence, Rachel focused on the role of -courtly- language in both books. As a starting point she chose the clarity and the sincerity of language defended by Castiglione, closely related to the principle of "elegantia", and compared it to the use of language that the characters of "Celestina" do when they speak. With a few examples she concluded that in "Celestina" language is manipulated and encourages misscommunication and mutual deceit. In this sense, courtly discourse is one of the most affected aspects of language, as it is openly ambiguous and in fact ambiguitiy is the "trigger" that sets the plot in motion. It is so confusing that sometimes it is not clear if a character has understood what has been said or not, or if he just allowed himself to get deceived by the appearances. Argumentative discourse is the second most affected aspect of language, as the character of Celestina purposedly manipulates language to reach her aims, so that there is a constant distortion of Castiglione's rules of sincerity and clarity not only in the courtly field, but in one of the most important functions of language too: its convincing power. With regard to the Italian audience, Rachel stated that they would have understood this as a contradiction of the courtly rules of language, but it is not clear how they would have reacted to that: with a laugh? with horror? would they have thought that this was the way language was used in everyday situations, on the contrary to Castiglione's ideal? As this was not the topic of this speech not much could be said about this but this coincidences with "Il libro del cortegiano" may have contributed to the success of "Celestina" in Italy and worldwide.

The Q&A turn was very animated and involved a lot of cross-field questions, such as the apllication of reception theory and Jauss's ideas to our current research, thanks to which we were able to make up our minds to a certain extent. The role of the "recipient" was discussed, as well as how to analyse it from our modern perspective, relying on the studies on material culture and other fields that have contributed to understand how readers read in their corresponding periods. Other topics were dicussed such as the "literaturity" of the language of "Celestina" and its relation towards literature itself and everyday speech, or the reach of misunderstandings when they seem to appear in "Celestina". Some questions about the subversion of hierarchies of speech followed and about the English reception of "Celestina", but there was not enough time to treat them in depth.

In sum, this was a very productive and interesting session of the I3MS and we hope this will not be the last session Rachel Scott shares with us or a guest speaker from other university participates. Thank you very much for coming and remember that the next session will be the last of this course year, so that we would like as many of you as possible to come.
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