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Giovanni Cappello. La dimensione macrotestuale. Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarca.

Ravenna: Longo Editore, 1998.

The book under review is a solid example of how textual excavation, typical of the philological theories and practices that are characteristic of the Italian tradition, can exist in a relationship of conjugal union with a methodology rooted in the attempt to shed light on the signifying properties and systems of the text. The fusion of these approaches leads to interpretative results that force us to question the assumptions we might have about Medieval Italian literature. In Cappello's case, we are dealing with Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch.

La dimensione macrotestuale is divided into five chapters. The first chapter ("La dimensione macrotestuale") establishes the theoretical underpinnings of the book, while chapter two deals with the Vita nuova: here Cappello considers issues such as its internal chronology of, its macrotextual levels, its intertextual nature. Chapter three instead looks at Dante's Rime and chapter four considers the Decameron. The final chapter focusses on Petrarch's Canzoniere.

The structural component that is present throughout Cappello's reading of the "tre corone" is that of "macrotext," which he defines as a collection or co-existence of autonomous texts that exist under the rubric of one title (17), and which share a semantic unity that allow them coalesce into textual union (22). Cappello is able to refine these definitions within the context of the Italian literary tradition he is studying, and thus concludes, among other particulars, that there is a "macrotesto d'autore," which refers to "una strategia autoriale chiaramente perseguita e riconoscibile attraverso studi relativi al contesto dell'opera: la storia del testo e delle sue edizioni [...]" anda "macrotesto testuale o critico," which implies the search for textual clues and indices that are not part of the author's intent (58). For Cappello, macrotextuality is a means through which literature is able to articulate what he terms the "universality" of art, that is, by illustrating how seemingly fragmented and disjointed verbal and textual components are, in the end, part of a larger structure (62-63).

Cappello's language is very dense and replete with technical terminology which, at times, forces the reader to focus more on the author's words and expressions than on what the author is seeking to say. But it is fair to say that the words do not get in the way of Cappello. Yet it is also true that the linguistic density is also an important part of the Cappello's methodology: an interpretative strategy that rotates on a required sensitivity toward the semiotic and systematic features of literary texts. While it is undeniable that no critical approach can ever be totally complete and absolute, it is fair to state that any given approach can, if used in an efficacious manner, provide significant insights into the internal and external spheres of the literary work.

One of the notions that this book confirms is that the literary sciences can still rely upon interpretative instruments, such as the one employed by Cappello, to unveil the layered complexities that a work of literature has to offer. While it may be true that the focus of current inquiries includes forms other than literary works, it is equally the case that literary research is in continuous need to maximize the use of critical instruments that continue to produce useful results. The structuralist (and I use this term with its widest spectrum of meaning) mind set continuous to yield significant readings in a age which does not tire to declare just how much ideas and methods are dead.
Laurentian University
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Author:Collili, Paul
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2002
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