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The double nature of 'source criticism': Between philology and intertextuality.

If indeed in the beginning was the Word, the greatest ambition of philologists must be centred on the investigation of sources. (1) As if before a mystery, scholars have been trying to capture this 'old myth of historical criticism' (Pasini, 1988: 7) through approximation, with a thousand interchangeable labels: from the 19th-century 'search for origins' (i.e. Quellenforschung), philology of sources or investigation into loci similes; to 20th-century studies on intertextuality, which bring up many other related subjects and subtheories (Bernardelli, 2010: 9-37) such as imitatio/aemulatio, canons, tradition/innovation, plagiarism, allusion/citation/reminiscence, hypertext/hypotext and transtextuality, the literary system, voices in dialogue, maps of memory, integrative/reflective allusions, and so on. Undoubtedly, in the end this critical burst has resulted in an alarming 'terminological confusion' (D'Ippolito, 1988: 447).

Thanks to its amazing word-compounding, the German language was able to coin the term Quellenforschung, 'research of the sources', which somehow manages to define this discipline in the way it was seen during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was a result of Positivist historicism, whose main aim was to identify the formal as well as the content-related sources of any literary work, as if to measure how deeply authors were innovating or 'copying' their models, in a delicate balance of trade between passive reception and active invention.

Nowadays, scholars look at this matter with new eyes, after abandoning the scientistic approach of Positivism--which had deteriorated to the point of considering literary works as almost mechanically direct filiations of their sources. The point of view has become more dynamic, and it heads for the notion of intertextuality. This word was actually a neologism invented by Julia Kristeva (1980: 66) while she was pondering over Bachtin's ideas, drawing a geometric 'spatialization' of the text on the horizontal and vertical axes of the 'dialogue' (between writing subject and addressee) and, on the other hand, of the 'ambivalence' (between text and context/literary corpus). Intertextuality occurs when the two axes are one and the same (remembering that Kristeva sees both writing subject and addressee as textual matter); the intertextual text is thus at least double. Still, even earlier, in that Quellen- term ('sources, springs') there was already a lively component which might lead critical research to a 'vertical' yet more active direction: the Indo-European root *wel (the same as English well and Latin volveo) pictures whirling, bubbling underground sources which would easily irrigate the fertile soil.

If any literary work is born of a 're-creation' not only of other texts but also, in general, of 'discourses' within a specific historical and literary context, the philological analysis amounts to a re-recreation that follows the current upstream, from the clear--or not even so clear--surface, down to its underground sources. Philology thus strives to study texts exactly when and how they were being conceived.

It is then not an irrelevant task to observe, here in this study, how such a long history of critical efforts, in a never-ending hand-to-hand combat with texts, has steadily brought modern scholars from the concept of source criticism to intertextual research. This analysis will focus on a small but carefully chosen selection of 'case studies', mainly taken from Italian critical literature, but with references and even long excursions to the wider and lively international landscape. First of all, Pio Rajna (1847-1930) will introduce us to Positivist research, with his monumental book on the sources and, so to say, 'legit literary thefts' of Ariosto's poem Orlando furioso, that is a study, and a line of reasoning, which can easily be placed in the context of the so-called historical school of the late 19th century, led by Carducci. Another of Carducci's disciples, Renato Serra (1884-1915), will slowly but elegantly tread a midway ground already facing onto the 20th century, still leaning on the Positivist method, yet leading the way into a more complex view of the links between sources and literary works, especially of how texts should be read and handled, maybe thanks to his own sensitivity as a writer himself Ernst Robert Curtius's (1886-1956) encyclopedic overview on the Latin Middle Ages will be the ripest and last important product of the first half of the century--and that is why it will feel natural to compare it to the earlier yet quite different encyclopedic study by Rajna-as far as source criticism goes. Which was indeed as far as historically-placed 'source criticism' did go, since in the second half of the century, especially after the 1960s, fresh theories and practices related to the new idea of 'intertextuality' spread, forcing this very study, too, to follow the development of many various 'critical' streams, sometimes in a kind of a hit-and-run way (we will at least name Carducci, Croce, Pasquali, Genette, Bachtin, Kristeva, Eco, Corti, Segre and others), yet in the end turning back to focus on Italian grounds. Gian Biagio Conte develops Pasquali's idea of allusion further, outlining the typically Italian philologically-orientated approach to texts (as Monica Storini noticed), quite on the opposite side of Harold Bloom's (1997) more 'psychological' approach. Ezio Raimondi will trace the history, reflect on the notion and put into practice the study of intertextuahty at the same time, merging 'historical' and 'narrative' needs in the very same critical act. Giuseppe Velli, in the end, discloses how such a critical act cannot help but turn to a case study approach, according to a fundamentally empirical method that stays open to new findings and interpretations, leaving no room for an encyclopedic attitude. Such a historical progression will directly delve into critical works by important scholars, collecting textual samples either from 'marginal' book chapters (prefaces, dedications, etc.), usually packed with programmatic declarations of intents, and other theoretically-dense sections, or from exemplary passages of the critical texts under consideration, such as key points on famous literary masterminds such as Dante, Ariosto and (Broch's) Virgil. This in the hope that such a critical analysis 'squared' (critical analysis on critical analysis) will bring a stronger awareness about our current study methods and research patterns, that indeed developed and expanded from our own critical 'sources', beginnings, since the oldest ones dating back to the 19th century.

At the end of the 19th century, the metaphor of water sources is recalled in the title of the philological work which best sums up the interests of Positivist historicism, with regard to literary criticism: Le fonti dell'Orlando furioso, by Pio Rajna ('The Sources of Orlando Furioso', first published in 1876 and again in 1900). This very title sets Rajna's two major lines of research: monographic focus, which, as we said, was typical of the historical school of that time; and the investigation of mainly content-related sources, which means that Rajna prefers not to study models with regard to form and style, since these do not have any role in the literary 'conception' in his eyes (Rajna, 1975: IX)--as Rajna identified invention with fantasy. Substance, materials, are indeed what Rajna is keen to study: in his preface to the second edition, he declares that he received a 'stack of materials in inheritance' (Rajna, 1975: IX); and usually he honestly quotes his own sources and models (previous studies, commentaries, analyses), as if to avoid the accusation of plagiarism that in those years Gabriele D'Annunzio was being charged with, and that Rajna implicitly addresses to Ariosto, too, thus indirectly engaging in the contemporary discussion on such a sensitive yet crucial term. The ricercatore d'origini, 'researcher of origins' (Mazzoni, introduction to Rajna, 1975: xii; Schiaffini, 1970: 41-45), as Rajna used to call himself, has the duty to unravel this hank, dug up by precedent scholars, and repay their efforts with a well-organized archive of study materials. (2)

Let us examine the fifth chapter of his book, when Rajna observes the appearance of an important character, Astolfo, who has been turned into a plant by an enchantress. Ariosto had to make only a few schematic operations, additions and subtractions, to set up this 'invention' of Astolfo as a plant, at least according to Rajna's 'quantitative' point of view (Rajna, 1975:476, 517), as scholars later pointed out (Segre, 1982: 21). Just take Dante's Pier della Vigne, still reminiscent of Virgil's model, and add a touch of Filocolo, which actually had not created anything new but just recalled Dante, again. Rajna clearly looks only at the 'substance' of the episode; this attitude becomes evident when Rajna deals with the sources of Astolfo's transformation:
In the investigation of sources it seems quite restful to go back to
the narrative aspect, which is much more transparent. So the myrtle,
which was Astolfo [...], does not leave any doubt as for the substance.
Virgil and Dante (it is useless to waste time in comparisons, as their
texts are available to all) have evidently contributed to his
invention. But here Ariosto might remember two sources of imitation in
the Filocolo by Boccaccio, too, that is Fileno's spring and Idalagos's
pine, which do not only show similar details, quite suspiciously in
such a work, but also share the identity of love victims with Astolfo's
myrtle, and especially the second source representing a love victim of
female volubility. Anyway, Ariosto is always echoing Dante above all,
though, just like Bocaccio himself in both the cases mentioned above.
As for Virgil, he just provided Ariosto with the name of the tree
species, and little more. (Rajna, 1975: 169-170)

Rajna does care about the scientific 'transparence' of the textual 'fact', which must be verifiable and evident to any reader; and that is why the author gives specific references to the texts in his footnotes, too, as well as names of previous scholars concerned with the same topics (here Dolce, Fausto, Beni, Panizzi, Bolza, Lavenzuola). Actually, even though Rajna's study overtly disregards the formal side, this attentive analysis of texts on molecular levels does lay the foundation for Michele Barbi's 'new philology'. Such an analytical philological method--while interrogating the linear, horizontal surface of texts--discovers the sources underlying all their images, and it puts them together in a summa which is made available to other scholars who might desire to continue the studies on the subject (Rajna, 1975: X). Such scholars did appear later, for example Romizi, who would widen the horizon of research to the formal aspect, studying 'expressions, sentences, thoughts and images' (Romizi, 1896: 2). Rajna himself thought of his own work as a special, 'thoughtful' summa:
My relationships with the writers who in the past dealt with sources
and imitations in Ariosto are to be considered this way: that is, from
them I received a stack of materials in inheritance, bad as well as
good materials. They were usually information and data, with no
connection to one another at all. I decided to try a new way, as I
thought that stating was not enough anymore, now we had to continually
reason and discuss. (Rajna, 1975: IX)

Nonetheless, Ugo Angelo Canello's review of Rajna's first edition did blame his 'excessive caution' in reasoning, as well as his inability to 'risk deeper considerations' because of his 'worry about the matter of the sources' (Canello, 1878: 125, 127), beyond the mere investigation of what another scholar, Alfredo Schiaffini, calls 'single inventions' (Schiaffini, 1970: 41). In the end, Rajna was unable to pronounce an overall, general critical opinion about Ariosto's whole poem: 'he was so focused on the problem of "sources" [...] that he did not want to look for the very ultimate reason behind the more classical traits of Ariosto's creation' (Canello, 1878: 127). These reprimands did not dishearten Rajna, who would later show the same, if not a stronger, faith in his methods and views: his second edition is quite altered, in an effort to include all the new sources discovered by other critics, to inform readers about all the materials in a clear, precise and well-structured way--and his intent looks clear in the second half of his book, where there are long series of paragraphs and sometimes pages (for example, Rajna, 1975: 267-279, 318-352, 424-433, 487-523) in Old French, full untranslated quotes straight from primary sources. The basilar intention stays the same: since Rajna perceives the text-source relationship as a derivation pattern, and the imitation process as plagiarism, the philologist must fulfil their compilatory task as a dutiful scientist, who lists as many proofs and data as possible if they want to sound trustworthy.

The literary author and the critic thus work in opposite ways: artistic greatness is measured with the criterion of invention, filling a void left empty by past tradition; on the contrary, critical worth is based on abstinence from imagination, through observation of the materials seen as they truly are, without changing them during examination. Scholars must abstain from any fantastical transformation that may give a 'phenomenic feeling' to objective data; otherwise the critical analysis may run the risk of looking partial and subjective (Zafarghandi et al., 2012: 55). Quoting Rajna (1975: XIII-XIV):
I had planned to give more space on more general reflections in the
closing pages of my book; but in the end I abandoned this project
[...]. My attitude will probably raise the same allegations [...] that
is that I have a 'fear of ideas'. It is not ideas that I fear; but,
when we deal with science, I do fear what looks like an idea without
actually being one; I do fear subjective observations; I do fear that
phenomenon which makes us see dragons, giants, armies, castles in the
clouds, all things which live in our imagination for one moment, but
soon transform and vanish into thin air.

Although Rajna is far from the notion of intertextuality, he paves the way for a new kind of approach to source criticism: he focuses on the web of models hidden in any text, and to do so in his literary analysis he turns to a 'morphological' historical principle (Finotti, 2005: 237)--which is a concept (Siciliani De Cumis, 2005) developed by Antonio Labriola (in contrast with a 'chronological' principle), looking for types and laws in history (Labriola, 1976: 37), especially through a comparative method of research (Labriola, 1902).

The 'researcher of origins' studies the forms of civilization, too, with the same a priori intention of discovering mechanical laws at work, both in texts (3) and in their contexts. (4) Yet, in so scientific a work the 'parameter' of fantasy looks decisive when attempting a critical evaluation of the poem. Although Rajna does acknowledge that 'the products of fantasy are no exception to natural laws [...], the new, from up close, is nothing else than the metamorphosis of the old', while wondering whether 'the many materials Ariosto took from others, either copying or making them anew, diminish his merit', he answers with a politically correct tone that he does 'know that [his] opinion disagrees with the ideas of many others, since [he would] not answer with a decisive no' (Rajna, 1975: 609). In the closing pages of his book, Rajna presents his research as 'a detailed study of the mechanism of invention' (Rajna, 1975: 613, emphasis added): the critic does try to enter the laboratory of the writer and to picture texts in the moment they are being formed; but his point of view is blocked by the anxiety of proving laws, in an almost evolutionary consideration of literary sources, seeing, as Rajna (1975: 3-4) himself said, 'a living being' in the textual body, 'whose gradual evolutions I am compelled to study and represent, and which I must go and take in far regions of France, to bring them to Ferrara', Ariosto's place (Pasini, 1988: 76). Thus the invention of a work, its 'genesis is explained by the usual law of progress' (Rajna, 1975: 415), in a chain where the one who imitated is going to be imitated later. Especially for the author of a chivalric poem, that is clearly a work of 'fiction', invention becomes a scientific parameter which decides the more or less evident aesthetic value of any author--the preeminence of Boiardo, being more imaginative and open to folk influences, over Ariosto with his overly-academic attitude. Here comes into play the concept of plagiarism, forgery, which, as was mentioned earlier, was a subtle, yet brave effort to engage with the ongoing debate on the definition of literary and artistic 'plagiarism'--which we will deal with in the next few paragraphs--thus linking 'academic' studies and active contemporary literary criticism, such as Ariosto with D'Annunzio. Yet Rajna justly points out the totally different historical meaning of such a 'stealthy' writing technique, as in Ariosto's times imitation was actually looked upon favourably and encouraged, unlike in modern times, after the Romantic revolution, which prize fantasy and originality:
Anytime we talk about authors unanimously celebrated as the greatest,
we have got used to discussing invention [...] with affected disdain.
Scholars that speak so remind me of the fable about the fox and the
unripe grapes. Just try and consider if they apply such criteria
whenever they evaluate a new comedy, a new novel. Surely they do not
miss the slightest chance to raise their voices about any small theft!
And it should not be more wrong in this case than in the other. What
would the greatest authors do without any material to work on and
develop? [...]. And here after all we should really distinguish among
different genres, and different ages. [...] In fact, at the end of the
XV century, and for about the whole XVI century, imitation was regarded
as the supreme criterion of art. [...] Thus, we should not hold him
[Ariosto] accountable for a fault that, according to the laws of his
own times, was a quality. So, [...] [at the time] nobody [...] said a
bad word on his use of the Metamorphoses or the Aeneid. [...]
Castelvetro, in the second half of the century, was the only dissenting
voice, screaming at the top of his lungs: 'Thief! Thief!'. (Rajna,
1975: 608-611)

If the first edition of Rajna's Le fonti dell'Orlando furioso was serenely born relying on the support of the so-called 'historical school'--tied to Carducci's lead--in 1900 Rajna's second edition came to light during a period of fiery debate against D'Annunzio and his literary 'thefts', namely led by Enrico Thovez in three articles published in the journal Gazzetta letteraria in 1896. Back in 1894, Croce had already discussed the research of literary sources, in his La critica letteraria: Questioni teoriche (Literary Criticism: Theoretical Problems), although he would always deny any usefulness of source criticism as a fully independent research method. In the following years, he even expanded his critical accusations to Parodi and Pistelli, while twisting around Pascoli's own favourable view on source studies, taking it as a declaration that at the moment they were actually 'too poor' (Pasini, 1988; Polacco, 2015)! Croce (1940: 67-70) argues that poetry owes its literary, artistic status to its formal aspect, which is thus to be chosen as a research parameter of the artistic 'definiteness' of any individual author. So, there is no use talking about plagiarism for artistic and literary creation: this is because the content, the 'matter', cannot help but be taken from what already exists, from what other writers have already said in the past, too--'said' both on paper and in real life, as well as 'done', that is the whole context surrounding a specific author. Otherwise, an author's whole life would be plagiarism!

In 1909, the year of the most intense debates, Croce writes in his Prefazione a una miscellanea di fonti' letterarie ('Preface to a miscellanea of literary "sources'") that source criticism is to be taken into account only if it is used as an intermediary level of research, to collect a 'stock of raw materials which are made available to critics of artistic works' (Croce, 1940: 489); otherwise, it is merely a redundant show of erudition. Such was Croce's opinion; and so it would stay until the very end, in Croce's Noterella polemica (Small Polemical Note), which would at last close the debate of those fiery years.

Quoting the title of an essay written by Anna Lia Pedrelli (1969), there was a famous literary critic and author who grew 'between Carducci and Croce', that is Renato Serra--who was actually closer to Carducci than to Croce.

At a very young age, in 1904, Serra wrote an essay on the 13th canto of Dante's Inferno. At first glance, looking at the aim and research method chosen by Serra, this study seems to fully belong to Positivism, as it traces the sources behind a specific image in Dante's canto, that is the 'wild hunt' tormenting profligate sinners. Such a focus, apparent in the erudite listing of long-forgotten sources, does indeed appease the folkloric interest that is typical of Positivism. Still, when Serra looks at what he calls the 'evidence of the fact', that is at what Dante's poetry actually says, his main goal is not merely to dig out Dante's ancient sources, but to understand Dante's text as a whole, as one perfectly sketched piece of art: Serra means to explain how Dante managed to make use of his sources originally, with new striking realism, to create his own masterpiece. Serra recognizes that Dante's 'figuration' of this image was born of Dante's own 'divine artistry', (5) of course combined with, and combining, materials from the ancient traditions (the legend materials about the Wild Hunt, the Ovidian myth of Actaeon). Serra follows Dante's trails, and he makes an effort to reconstruct how the great author most likely heard of a particular and specifically folk-born variant of the legend of the Wild Hunt, which was actually the result of a contamination between two older versions--so says Serra, talking with the tone of an expert chemist. Dante's talent was such that he was then able to 'paint' and 'reproduce' the image of his past tradition anew.

This way, Serra highlights Dante's impressive 're-creating' faculty, his ability to create new solutions inspired by ancient materials and premises--the same ability that Serra shows himself, as a critic. Just as Dante owned his own ancient sources, so Serra has been reading past critical works and theories, and reading them with a longsighted eye (from the very first commentaries on Dante's Commedia to Pascoli); and Serra, too, comes up with new solutions, digging them from the inside out of the old explanations which would have Lano and Iacopo descend from Actaeon himself Thus, Serra shows 'fantastical' invention himself: he can see the new in the old, as well as poetry in erudition. Such a visionary competence, born of both culture and imagination, is the key which lets the critic (and their readers, who are 'made' competent by Serra) open the door to the author's mind, to watch the creative process at work. As Dante did...
And here this is how I imagine Dante's line of reasoning developed. I
believe that, when Dante thought about the profligates' sin, he was
reminded of the myth of Actaeon [...]. But then the image of wild dogs
running after a profligate made him recall, in his fantasy, the scene
of the wild hunt, which immediately looked more brightly colourful, and
sharper in its outhnes. And he focused his artistic eye on it and it
alone, while he was sketching out and picturing his own punishment of
the profligates. [...] And after that, he worked on it with the
intention of a true poet, and nothing more: so his wood is real wood,
his hunt is a hunt, his dogs are just dogs. [...] The punishment of the
profligates is nothing else but the folk legend of the wild hunt,
reproduced and recreated by Dante with divine ardstry. (Serra, 1904:
297-298, emphasis added)

... so did Serra:
the interpreters I mendoned above; ancient, that is true; still in the
ancient we can find the new; that is why I focus on them so much [...]
[they] knew how to transform Dante's figuration in a complex, how to
say, mosaic where each small stone stands on its own, and it represents
a specific allegoric meaning. [...] Still, those great interpreters
forgot one detail, one insignificant detail [...].

That is poetry, art. [...] Poetry is not made of abstractions. I do
know that the passages where Dante thinks as a philosopher are very
different from those where he thinks as a poet [...]. Time after time,
the allegoric process must have kindled Dante's poetic fantasy; but
nothing more, as the poet will shape his matter freely, without any
norm or constraint except those due to art itself. (Serra, 1904:

The novelty of Serra's solutions is due to the novelty of his philological method. Its scientifically valuable effectiveness does not come from learned, detached, aseptic reasoning, but rather from the careful reading of Dante's works, which are 'facts' and explain themselves by themselves; they need to turn neither to allegory nor allusion to be seen and understood, although those might have sparked them (Serra, 1904: 287).

Years later, Serra would become a member of the circle revolving arotind the famous journal Voce, and especially close to its so-called 'white' phase with De Robertis, who strongly supported competence in 'knowing how to read' (De Robertis, 1967: 143-156) a text (paying attention to its style, too), so that the competent reader can 'retrace the path from the last creative expression to the first cause that started it: the germinal underlying core' (De Robertis, 1967: 155). Such a 'skin-tight' criticism may share the literary nature of the poetic text, as 'criticism comes together with poetry. It takes part in the nature of poetry' (De Robertis, 1967: 151), too (Baroni, 1997: 470; Bruscia, 1978: 21-25). It is quite foreseeable that later, after engaging with the philological school led by Barbi (one of Rajna's and D'Ancona's pupils) in Florence, De Robertis too acknowledges what Segre would later call the 'axiom of the primary importance of the text' (Branca, 1994: 19, quoting an expression by Segre, 1969: 9), which asks that a text must be examined and understood in detail, and explained against its historical and literary background; this demands deep familiarity with texts through extensive reading. After that, De Robertis would become interested in the after-Contini so-called criticism of 'variants'--or 'scribbles', as Croce reproachfully called them, since the 'dynamic' idea of a carefully thought out and planned development for a work of 'poetry' was at odds with his own 'static' idea of an 'ideal' genesis, born of a sudden inspiration of the genius (see Contini, 1982: 233-234)--while Contini was developing a line of reasoning quite alien to aesthetic values, closer to Structuralism; although there was never a direct confrontation between these two great critics, as Contini carefully avoided an open war (Baroni, 1997: 512; Segre, 2004).

The original front of source criticism was still alive, anyway, with publications such as Studi Medievali (Medieval Studies) and Le origini (Origins) by Novati (Zaccaria and Guglielminetti, 1980). Meanwhile in Europe, after the full rejection of tradition by Futurism, there were new literary movements focused on reading texts in their bare nakedness, such as Russian Formalism and the basis of so-called New Criticism (to which Eliot's (1919) essay 'Tradition and the individual talent' served as a 'protomanifest'). The latter spread in the following decades, while in the mid-20th century Structuralism would explode and promote the study of interrelations among--linguistic and non-linguistic--phenomena, thus of well-organized structures, systems.

Let us take a small step back, to the end of the first half of the 20th century, when there were two major turning points. The first one was the concept of 'allusive art' by Giorgio Pasquali, who revived the topic of sources. He highlighted the importance of the cooperation between the author and his/her readers in producing the meaning of a text (such an idea was later recovered by literary theories in the 1960s):
a work is like stream water combining various flavours of the rock it
springs from as well as of the other soils it runs through. [...]
Reminiscences can happen unconsciously; as for imitations, the poet may
even hope they go unnoticed by their public; allusions cannot work
unless readers clearly recall the referenced text. (Pasquali, 1994: 275)

About 30 years later, Gian Biagio Conte would add that allusions usually--but not necessarily--thrive on an emulative challenge against the original model, thus pointing out the differences between these two concepts, emulation and allusion: of course, echoes of Homer in Catullus have a diiferent meaning than in Virgil (Conte, 2012:31-34).

The second turning point takes place in 1948, with Europaische Literatur und Lateinisches Mittelalter (European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages) by German scholar Ernst Robert Curtius. His inspiration is very distant from Rajna's Le Fonti dell'Orlando furioso: as Curtius himself states in the preface to the English translation (6) of his book, he carried out his research according to two major focuses, that is Latinity and 'Europeanness', against the background of medieval literature. This bifocal choice is meant to recover a feeling of European cultural unity, after the disaster of the Second World War: in his book Curtius speaks of 'literature as literature', but indeed its aim is projected beyond literature, with a broader socio-cultural intention of reconstruction, as 'it attempts to illuminate the unity of that tradition in space and time by the application of new methods'. Thus the book is addressed not only to a selected audience of scholars--as Rajna would have wished--but to all 'lovers of literature', too, and meaning 'literature as literature', as Curtius (1963: viii) points out.

Curtius's book is a work of recomposition, a cultural 'synthesis' through philological 'analysis': philology becomes the main guarantee of scientific validity, when research is carried out on literary texts with a historical point of view. Such a point of view is to be meant as a morphological--and here we remember Rajna--and not merely chronological concept: that is, the feeling of returns and variations in the socio-cultural, anthropological atmosphere of the time, which is mirrored in the literary world:
My book, as I said, is not the product of purely scholarly interests.
It grew out of vital urges and under the pressure of a concrete
historical situation. But in order to convince, I had to use the
scientific technique which is the foundation of all historical
investigation: philology. For the intellectual sciences it has the same
significance as mathematics has for the natural sciences. [...]
Geometry demonstrates with figures, philology with texts. But philology
too ought to give results which are verifiable.

But if the subject of this book is approached through philological
technique, it is nevertheless clear, I hope, that philology is not an
end in itself What we are dealing with is literature--that is, the
great intellectual and spiritual tradition of Western culture as given
form in language. (Curtius, 1963: x)

The literary nature of texts spreads to critical studies. After all, even criticism must follow aesthetic norms, so that it may suit the needs of readers, who learn to be more and more competent from the learned and well-planned explanation of the critic, the 'philologist' as, literally, a 'lover of literature':
A scientific presentation cannot avoid 'strict demonstration'. Hence,
regarded as literary composition, it is a problem which has only an
approximate solution [...]. In the historical sciences demonstration
must rest upon witnesses, in philology upon texts. Fresh dilemma! If
the writer gives too many examples, his book becomes unreadable; if he
gives too few, he weakens its demonstrative force. [...] In practice,
the dilemma reduces itself to a question of proportion, hence to an
aesthetic norm. [...]

The arrangement of the presentation and the succession of the chapters
are such as to result in a step-by-step progress and a spiral ascent.
The first chapters present facts whose significance is illuminated
later. [...]. The structure is determined not by logical order but by
thematic continuity. The interweaving of threads, the reappearance of
persons and motifs in different designs, reflects their concatenated
historical relations.

This concatenation first emerged dimly--a possibility intimated but not
demonstrable. In the course of years and decades its outlines became
clear, its content articulated. (Curtius, 1963: 380-381)

No more monography on a single work: Curtius offers a 'panoramic' view (7) on a whole culture, in some ways developing the fascination of the late-19th-century historical school with folk traditions and collective imaginary further, up to European dimensions. Through such a magnifying glass, Curtius analyzes specific fundamental literary topics in detail, and he sorts out the chapters of his book after them: content-related topics (for example, the relationship between literature and education, philosophy, theology) and form-related topics (figures of speech, especially metaphors, listing the most common ones such as the images of books, Nature, landscape, etc.). The order of the chapters does not follow Curtius's chronological development of research and writing--which had actually made him wander almost frantically, chasing a thread entwined with another he had just disentangled. It was a conscious critical choice aiming to guide non-expert readers.

In Rajna's book on Ariosto's Orlando furioso, the critic had been meticulously analyzing one episode after the other, in 20 chapters which split the poem into themes and images, following the author's narrative order. This inevitably led Rajna to a thematic dispersion, as he was forced to patiently copy Ariosto's erratic and fragmentary narrative movement, which indeed was a typical trait in Ariosto's plotting: Rajna himself points it out, thus making a crucial form-related observation, too. Such a choice placed the thematic, morphologic order within the historical, chronological order of the author's, that is Ariosto's, story.

Curtius instead imagines and foresees the needs of his readers, in an itinerary through the main chapters from the general to the particular. Then, within each chapter, Curtius sorts its sub-chapters according to an immediate and simple historical principle. This allows a panoramic view not only on prior and contemporary sources, but on 'later-following' sources, that is later works so 'strong' that they provide us with a 'regressive' understanding on the precedent uses of, for example, a recurring motive, too--quoting an expression by Maria Corti (1995: 129; there is the concept of 'intertext' in the reader's mind and memory, with the concept of 'potential' sources, too, developed by Riffaterre (1981: 6, emphasis added), with 'a practice of deja-vu [...] but more in general [...] a practice of what could have been already seen. Real deja-vu, then, but potential deja-vu, too'). This means that Curtius studies how images and forms are revived in later traditions, and of course then he can notice differences, due to anthropological gaps in the historical succession of civilized peoples and their cultures: for example, Shakespeare's use of the book metaphor would be totally different from Dante's, as they looked at two different stages of book civilization, that is manuscripts and print.

It is memory, always on-the-move, that connects authors from the literary tradition, critics and readers: the authors' invention; the critics' choice to research one trail rather than another (Curtius, 1963: 381); the conscience of the public, whose presence criticism expects in order to fulfil its 'initiatory' socio-cultural purpose in contemporary history, with death before rebirth (Curtius, 1963: 396-397). Indeed, memory is always swinging between preservation and destruction, thesaurus and tabula rasa--in the literary tradition too, with the ongoing querelle of conservators and innovators. The very survival and the open-ended, non-finished nature of the literary tradition depend on the fixed forms of rhetoric, the figures of speech, firm yet empty cells left for each author to fill, with the reassurance they will last over time. Of course, among all authors a special place is reserved for the Italian poet Dante--the only figure about whom Curtius writes a whole chapter--as Dante's works are the richest in medieval culture, almost overflowing his own time, and linking past and future thanks to his own strong individual character. Dante shows an almost alchemic ability to mix ancient formal tools, rhetoric--ever-lasting schemata conveying cultural contents, whose preservation they guarantee--mixing them with seemingly traditional motives and themes, which he unpredictably transforms from within. With Dante, memory does indeed become creative:
[...] Goethe said to Eckermann: 'Dante appears great to us, but he had
a culture of centuries behind him'. Carlyle heard in Dante the voice of
'ten silent centuries'. [...]It is the cultural cosmos of the Latin
Middle Ages, and of Antiquity seen through the eyes of the Middle Ages.
[...] Theologico-political prophecy is a feature which constantly
occurs in the twelfth- and thirteenth-century picture. But in Dante it
is given an intellectual substructure, and the power of his poetic
vision [...] raises it to a fortissimo. It is a leaven which Dante
casts into the tradition of the medieval West. The leaven penetrates
the coagulated mass to its most remote regions and organizes it into a
realm of new forms. (Curtius, 1963: 378-379)

In Dante's own eyes memory is an almost religious duty, a book as 'sacred' as the Scriptures, and at the same time a phase to overcome so that a new text can be created within that very tradition; and future readers will offer the same veneration to it as to classical models. There is a canon, but it is flexible and ever-expanding. Such a conception of memory is explained by Curtius with the usual medieval consideration of books, manuscript books, which are tools for both reading (reception) and writing (creation):
In Dante's youthful lyrics we already find the book of memory. [...]
The entire book imagery of the Middle Ages is brought together,
intensified, broadened, and renewed by the boldest imagination in
Dante's work. [...] For the Middle Ages, all discovery of truth was
first reception of traditional authorities. [...] A comprehension of
the world was not regarded as a creative function but as an
assimilation and retracing of given facts; the symbolic expression of
this being reading. The goal and the accomplishment of the thinker is
to connect all these facts together in the form of the 'summa'. Dante's
cosmic poem is such a summa too. [...] Dante expressly recommends that
the Divina Commedia be read and studied. [...]

[...] Had Dante remembered the episode of Polydorus in the Aeneid (III,
22 ff.) in time, he would have been saved from hurting the soul of Pier
della Vigna in its tree prison. But Dante would seem not to have
believed that passage in the 'alta tragedia.' So at least Virgil says
(Inf., XIII, 46 ff.) [...].

Ignorance of a text and faulty reading can, then, be the causes of evil
deeds. (Curtius, 1963: 326-327)

In the quotes above, it is easy to notice the recurring frequency of a specifically 'de-monstrative', phenomenic vocabulary (as in faino/passive fainomai, 'to show'/passive form 'to appear', in ancient Greek, with the same root as phenomenon). Thus, considering only strictly phenomenic-rooted terms (such as phenomenology, phenomenon, etc.), in Curtius there are 40 occurrences, while in Rajna (8) there are only three (among which one alone seems relevant: the one in the preface about the errant fantasizing of some critics, who are thus prone to contaminating experimental data). Indeed, Curtius thinks of his work as a 'phenomenology' of 'literary biology': it is a scientific analysis on how literary texts 'manifest' themselves to and interact with an observer who holds their own share of historical, cultural and literary memory. The more extensive the reading experience stored in their memory, the deeper their insight into the text. Still, for Curtius, never mind if the method is scientific: the object has a literary historical nature, and it is almost animated by a 'spiritual' afflatus that touches the critical research, too. Of course, it is science, but there are no rigid laws: biology as in a science of life, that is always changing, always flowing; and it is a phenomenology, quite different from Literatur-wissenschaft. Thus, either the ignorance or the misunderstanding of a text--and its context--by the critic represents a serious weakness, if not a moral sin like Dante thought:
The recurrent or constant phenomena of literary biology are
investigated; the opposition between 'ancients' and 'moderns' [...].
[...] All these and other questions are prolegomena to what I should
like to call a phenomenology of literature. This appears to me
something different from [...] 'Literatur-wissenschaft'. [...]
(Curtius, 1963: ix)

One of the tasks of the philologist is observation [...]. To that end
one must, of course, read a great deal [...] and sharpen one's eye for
'significant facts' (Bergson). One encounters a phenomenon which
appears to mean little or nothing. If it recurs constandy, it has a
definite funcdon, (Curdus, 1963: 382)

If the literary tradition stays open, the same happens to the criticism about it. The scholar must stop when, even though they are aware that much is still unexplored, they reach an 'organically' coherent result, which might be able to 'stand' on its own. Once again, the laws of 'literary biology' are valid for the critical body, too:
We call a halt. The investigations into the Middle Ages here presented
form an organic sequence which can stand by itself But both
methodologically and thematically, our viewpoint reaches beyond the
Middle Ages. This I hope to show in future studies 'in questa tanto
picciola vigilia de' nostri sensi ch'e del rimanente'. (Curtius, 1963:

During the second half of the 20th century, the viewpoint proceeded far beyond the line of the horizon set by Curtius and his predecessors. Following the 'red thread' of Dante, arguably the greatest and most famous Italian literary figure, so far this study has tried to uncover the reasoning of scholars from different historical and cultural periods who were crucial for the development of this kind of research. It has looked at how they describe their line of work and how they do work, the weight they choose to give to similar topics, their symbolic, imagery-related, linguistic codes: Positivism with Rajna's pioneering encyclopedic search for origins and raw materials; Serra's in-depth reflections on the poetic reworkings of a specific raw fragment at the turn of the century; Curtius's systematic but still open-ended organization in the very transition from the first to the second half of the 20th century, which is why his non-Italian presence was discussed nonetheless, as it brings to completion a very 'Italian' line of literary criticism. Indeed, after Curtius's 'halt', the debate shifted from 'source studies' (9) to 'intertextuality', from the 1960s onwards, going on for long decades. This neologism, intertextuaUty, which would be quite famous and variously used, was coined by Julia Kristeva (1980) in her essay Word, Dialogue and Novel (in 1966-1969), taking as a starting point Bachtin's theories on dialogism and polyphony, in his famous study on Dostojevskij dating back to 1963, and even earlier in 1929 (D'Ippolito, 1988: 442, 451).

So, intertextuality 'is an intertextual term itself, as it was born of interpreting Bachtin's linguistic theories, even though with influences from Julia Kristeva's semanalysis' (Segre, 1982: 15). Bachtin sees in one discourse or text an implicit dialogue between two different 'words', each one of them charged with different ideological stances, creating a kind of polyphony, plurivocity; Kristeva extends the idea of a dialogue between different ideological positions to a dialogue between diff'erent textual sources, already hinted at by Bachtin himself (Bernardelli, 2010:12). Kristeva gives him credit for pointing out the inner dynamism of texts interacting with one another (Kristeva, 1980: 64-65), as any author is first of all a reader themselves, whose memory keeps synchronically alive texts from different writers and times, as well as different historical and cultural contexts. So, it is clear that 'any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of intertextuality replaces that of intersubjectivity, and poetic language is read as at least double' (Kristeva, 1980: 66).

A few years later, in 1974, in his Memoria dei poeti e sistema letterario (Poetic Memory and Literary System), Conte discusses the double nature of texts in a new way, developing Curtius's reasoning on memory as a rhetorical figure, metaphors above all. The allusive process overlaps with the functioning of metaphors (for 'integrative' allusions) and of similitudes (for 'reflexive' allusions):
it is not hard to assimilate poetic memory and rhetorical functioning
[...], [with] a similarity in the way of functioning between rhetorical
figures [...] and allusion [...], especially metaphor [...]. There is
only one visible presence (the one set by the concrete statement) which
with a transferring action (trope) is superimposed over the verbum
proprium, hiding it; and with its invasive concreteness it removes this
and creates a new meaning. (Conte, 2012: 54)

So in general:
[these forms of poetic discourse] as 'improper' forms of expression
[...] thrive on the double nature of the discourse they offer, and they
come into play closing, in their tension, the gap between the concrete
aspect of a statement and the indirectly conjured image. (Conte, 2012:

In Ezio Raimondi's words, which link Curtius and Conte for their similar interest in metaphor, in relation to literary memory:
According to Curtius, poetic memory passes on through peoples, that is
the most important metaphors continuously recurring in every epoch.
Conte says that there are two possible forms, and he explains his own
phenomenology of memory.

'In the first form (Catullus's memory of Homer--and in many respects
the relationship between Homer and Virgil, too, which has been remarked
for its stylistic appropriation, rather than for its emulative
competitivity), the two voices that meet in a specific word are prone
to merging harmoniously, creating one single word enriched with an
inner resonance: a designation which leads to an oriented connotation'.

A new term stands out: the concept of appropriation. [...] It is a
quote from Seneca that Conte chooses as the very title of his own book:
it is the image of bees gathering pollen from flowers and then
transforming it [into honey]. There is a kind of organic
transformation. Any author works like a bee, too [...]. (Raimondi,
1991: 219)

Of course, Conte recognizes Pasquali's immense relevance for source criticism, already surpassing Positivist Quellenforschung towards a philologically-orientated intertextuality (Conte, 2012: 169). Then he takes the reasoning one step further: he sees the drawing of intertextual maps as a philological tool for reconstructing the origin, the generative process of a text. Quite recently, Monica Storini (2015) has recognized this special attention to the use of intertextual studies with a philological intention as a typical inclination shown by Italian scholars, who merge the theoretical reasoning on the nature of intertextuality with the application of interpretive intertextual methods to texts, and actually in a way subdue the first to the latter--sometimes reinventing those very methods anew, such as with the application of intertextual analysis to many texts at the same time through the aid of digital tools (Mastandrea, 2017). Quite interestingly, Conte (1986: 26-27) himself argues against what he perceives as a diametrically opposed, 'psychological' approach to texts, such as Harold Bloom's (1997) anxiety of influence, countering that this type of author-centred vision--apt to take into (a historically-relevant) account only Romantic and post-Romantic literature, whose aesthetics was truly preoccupied with the imperative of originality for the first time--cannot but weaken the 'centrality of the text as a unified, complete, and interlocking system', thus the web of texts as a philological field. A work is always placed in a specific literary system, as its own literary status depends on the dialogue with its own tradition: both tradition as norm, forms that are empty and ready to be filled, potential culture (as Curtius would say), and tradition as a canon of authors and texts, actualized culture --which the writer had once been a reader of:
In fact we cannot grasp the meaning and the structure of a work if we
do not see it as a work related to models; and these models derive from
a long series of texts in respect of which the models themselves
represent their invariant, in a way. In relation to such underlying
models, the literary text works in terms of either actualization,
transformation, or transgression. Any work is unconceivable outside
this kind of system: the very understanding of a work demands a
decoding 'competence' of the literary language, which asks for an
extensive and manifold experience of reading various texts. [.,.] If
intertextuality and figures of speech share the same logical
foundations, this means that philologists can observe the text right in
the process of its production and almost 'reproduce' the mechanism of
its formation, as it lets them compare the single textual reality with
the model behind it. (Conte, 2012: 177, emphasis added)

As a consequence, the reader/critic has to identify themselves with the author, too, observing the re-creative process from within the author's mind; but backwards, from the surface to the bottom, to the underlying sources in the underground--the Quellen, now properly placed in the specific 'soil' they run through, in their own context, while they used to be considered as single rivulets on their own:
A culture that takes place within a specific poetic context is
reorganized by a text, be it big or small, according to the purpose of
that very text, When the philologist approaches a text, they can either
break it down, dissect it vertically or at least explore the space
underneath its compact and hard surface: when we see it from below,
[...] in its depths it crawls with stringy roots which spread a web of
references in the fluid of the historical culture. [...] This network
of meanings represents the actualized, functionalized culture: in order
to find a poetic motivation, it needs to show that it is orientated,
which means provided with meaning by the very organism which nourishes
it and hosts it, the literary system where it is actualized. After all,
any serious action of philological criticism consists in drawing this
web of linked meanings, tracing a context-consistent orographic map of
the multiple connotations, all of them held together in an implicit but
necessary bond with the context. (Conte, 2012; 51-52) (10)

About eight years later, Genette reintroduced the idea of intertextuality as research on the double nature of texts, with a typically philological terminology: a palimpsest. The source, hypotext, is hidden under the text on the surface, hypertext, which is correlated with its source through a 'manifestly' transformative relationship (Genette, 1982: 11-12).

Meanwhile, a whole theoretical as well as 'applied' critical literature was blooming about intertextuality: just to give an idea of the--geographical, and not only geographical--dimensions of this debate, we will quickly remember just a few names of scholars who discussed the topic. Among Italians, there are Giovanni Nencioni (1967), author of the essay 'Agnizioni di lettura' ('Reading agnitions') (which gave an important cue to Conte (1972) himself); Marco de Marinis, who deals with theatrical intertextuality but then widens his horizon to a more general reflection, too; and semiotics experts such as D'Ippolito, Umberto Eco and Cesare Segre. Out of these, Segre's (1982: 17-19) study 'Intertestuale/interdiscorsivo: Appunti per una fenomenologia delle fonti' ('Intertextual/interdiscoursive: Notes for source phenomenology'), reasoning on Bachtin and the development of the idea of intertextuality after Kristeva--which he distinguishes from interdiscoursivity--particularly attracts our attention on the concepts of intertextual criticism as phenomenology and of 'sources' as 'demonstrable', 'signed', direct contacts between texts (and the demonstration is usually due to textual 'viscosity'), seeing sources as bearers of 'sphragis' traces left by another author's prior use of the wider, non-traceable yet already tightly intertwined linguistic plurality. Among other Italian scholars worth mentioning there is Alessandro Barchiesi (1980), who observes Virgil's use of the Homeric model in terms of a 'communicative strategy' specially devised to work in the specific context of a Roman-Augustan audience. Another important Itahan critic is Bice Mortara Garavelli (1982), who makes an important theoretical distinction between explicit and hidden citations, to which another Italian scholar, Maria Corti, adds a third midway category that asks for the reader's collaboration to function (Corti, 2003: 83-84). Moreover, Maria Corti distinguishes between direct and indirect sources, and she develops the concept of 'regressive' intertextuality we already mentioned, that is when a work with many sources allows us to cast a wholly different light on those very (earlier) sources. Maria Corti (1995: 121, 130) underlines, too, that proper source criticism and 'diachronic' intertextuality, although quite different, are indeed linked, and that such an orientation in the intertextual method is very valuable for interrogating the text and solving unanswered questions, as it lets critics inside the author's mind. Outside Italy, there are many more scholars addressing these kinds of issues, and here a rapid list will have to suffice: Barthes, (11) Arrive, Veron, Popovic, Dallenbach, Laurent Jenny, Compagnon, Michel Riffaterre and of course Genette. (12)

Ezio Raimondi (1991) studied the development of such criticism, holding a series of classes later published in print, under the title of his whole teaching course, Intertestualita e storia letteraria (Intertextuality and History of Literature). He remembers many others dealing with this subject: famous Italian scholars such as Contini and Mazzoni, and foreign ones too, such as Harold Bloom, Stierle, Greene, Miller... This way, Raimondi unfolds a first- and second-degree intertextual criticism; that is, he traces intertextual paths between different works, but he also ponders on the very concept of intertextuality and its role in the history of literary criticism.

Raimondi argues -just as Curtius and Conte did (13)for the dynamic, transformative nature of the 'tradition' seen as memory and (re-)production of hterature: 'Images for art are like metaphors for literature. [...] Images live in memory, they persist and transform' (Raimondi, 1991: 106), after talking about Curtius, and about Curtius's dedicatee Aby Warburg's idea of art history as a 'big system of images'. Warburg was a 'memory anthropologist', who had studied art history in terms of 'a great iconology, a set of forms and concepts which repeat themselves over time, and which transform themselves over time' (Raimondi, 1991: 106). So, Raimondi shared with Curtius 'the problem of memory, of collective memory, not only individual memory'. Raimondi comes up with a new kind of visual symbol, too, that marks a different side of intertextuality, showing its 'historical' connotation: a 'genealogic' map, animated with one's own personal memory, which is selective towards its sources from the very beginning, when it starts to choose among them, reading them--and thus interpreting and transforming them from the very beginning, too:
[it is] cultural filiation, so of course intertextuality has a genetic
-genealogical purpose, since in this way a text follows its own
genealogy, that is the most convenient one for itself. [...] We can
already start to understand the meaning of the title of this course,
'intertextuality and history of literature'. The relationships between
texts are of course a matter of history of literature. (Raimondi, 1991:

So, according to Raimondi, the macroscopic history of topoi, of literary categories and images, goes side by side with the microscopic history, or story, of individual memory, drawing from and actually changing the very literary tradition itself. Any author cannot help but compare themselves with the authors, texts and categories prior to them, usually in a tense relationship of competitive emulation that brings 'a harsh metamorphosis' of the sources: 'it becomes a kind of domestic drama as much as a historical drama' (Raimondi, 1991: 306-307). In this literary war, history and story, that is Conte's historical as well as philological attention, and Bloom's psychological explanation, seem to blend in Raimondi's genealogical vision of intertextual relationships as a kind of 'family drama', a literally 'generational' conflict. Such a conflict has been explored since Raimondi's very first classes, when he reads a book that is innerly metaliterary, as it depicts the bond of an author (actually, the Author, at least for Dante, i.e. Virgil) with their own models--although it is actually a narrative (hi)story: a novel, that is The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch in 1945. (13)

From Broch, Raimondi especially remembers a specific passage where it is clearly painted how:
in one voice of a text there are other voices speaking, too, as it was
sensed, with death-close trembling, by Hermann Broch, the marmoreal,
feverish, hallucinated narrator of the Death of Virgil: 'Oh. everyone
is surrounded by a forest of voices, everyone wanders in it throughout
his life, wandering and wandering...' (Raimondi, 1994: 124)

Broch's Virgil is anguished with the thought of writing merely a copy of Homer; and here, Raimondi notes, the narrator chooses to echo Dante (who considered Virgil himself one of his main 'sources'!), yet without any remembrance of medieval theology, of course. From Raimondi's (1991) Intertestualita e storia letteraria, while reading Broch:
Wandering and wandering, and yet [everyone] is motionless in the forest
of voices, entangled in the sprouts of the night and the roots of the
forest, which take hold beyond all time and space, oh, everyone was
threatened by the untamable voices and their lurking arms, by the
branches of the voices, by the names of the voices that interweaving
with one another intertwine him, that while growing split and shoot up
straight, and then fall back again twisting against one another,
demonic in their independence and in their loneliness, voices of
minutes, years, immense aeons, expanding in the weave of worlds and

[...] It is as if the forest is a pullulating world, something
fermenting, with sprouts and roots, and the sprouts of the night are
like the roots of the forest. [...] Once more we are compelled to
recall a fantasy like Dante's, and what happens in the forest of
suicide sinners with Pier delle Vigne. As if to say that in the
medieval imaginary Dante builds a big universal existential allegory,
effective beyond theology, since Broch does not take part in the
medieval theology and maybe not even in Dante's faith. Still the word
returns to certain origins, possibilities again. [...]

Sweaty with grieving moans and dry for the wild joy of a whole world.
Here again we could remember Dante. [...] This shows Dante's
extraordinary expressive force, which from the Middle Ages fought its
way through centuries till the time of such writings. This is evidence
that we can grasp the ancient better if we read the modern, we prove
the vitality of the ancient and their shoots. (Raimondi, 1991: 72-73)

So, philologists must trace the 'paths of the reader' in the 'forest' of the historical and literary context where the text was born, recalled by the 'memory' of the readers. All the 'pullulating' recalls the fermenting waters of the 19th-century research of Quellen; (14) but now the point of view is radically changed, as the derivation from a source does not imply only a simple filiation 'mechanism' from a text to another text. Now it is clear that there are exchanges and intertwining threads, and crossings of multiple--and not only literary--discourses.

The symbol of maps--already mentioned by Conte and actually earlier by Curtius, too, in his panoramic view--comes back with Giuseppe Velli, who again studies intertextual relationships. In a collection of his essays about 'tradition, memory, writing' in Petrarch and Boccaccio (quoting from the subheading), in the preface Velli admits:
In the essays collected in this book [...] the main aim is to conquer a
non-abstract overview of literary facts: the dialectic relationship
binding the individual language and the 'language of the tradition'
together. [...] Actually, theoretic implications could have been dealt
with more directly. But I believe that precise philological
exploration, the--attempted, at least--production of well-structured
maps of the literary memory of specific writers is a primary moment in
defining and comprehending the problem. Unless, of course, the
presented materials are left inert and untreated in a positivistic
inventory. (Velli, 1979: VII)

Like Raimondi, Velli states that intertextuality must reflect on its own nature, and on its own theoretical development through the history of literary criticism; still, he is sure to automatically carry out such a task by actively drawing 'maps of memory', with a dynamic attitude before the text, which is to be studied in its contents as much as in its forms. (15) The philological method itself makes up for this theoretical deficiency, as it is 'applied theory', that is literary criticism put into action: in the same way, texts are applied culture, models (or codes, borrowing a term from semiotics) seen in the moment of their actualization and fulfilment. Vice versa, an intertextual point of view reaches important philological and, more in general, critical results. For example, Velli illustrates how the use of the Virgilian model in the beginning of the poem 'Africa' by Petrarch shows that its composition took place in one single time unit and with 'unity of conception' (Velli, 1979; 54), and thus not in many fragmentary phases. Moreover, the trail of classical allusions in Boccaccio's Teseida is to be explained by the author's intention of giving historical undertones to his work (Velli, 1979: 150). Intertextuality serves as a precious tool of philology, as it keeps one foot in the camp of historical and philological criticism, and the other in the camp of poetry and rhetoric (Logan, 1981: 47-50).

In Curtius, the literary nature of the object under analysis is reflected in the critical study as well; this causes its inner 'open-endingness'. With Raimondi, Velli and their contemporaries, this 'unfinished' trait means an empiric approach to texts. Scholars do not engage in panoramic, organically unitary, almost encyclopedic works anymore; what is written are rather collections of essays (such is Velli's publication), transcripts of class notes (sorted by date, without chapter titles, in Raimondi's case!), analysis of one author at a time. It is a phenomenology, one case study after the other. Critics must observe many literary situations, synthesize them and thus guide readers along a journey consisting of many small and seemingly different steps, yet all pointing to one direction that, according to that scholar, might try to explain them all in the most coherent and best possible way. Only 'best possible', still, as the critical path hides an inner dynamism which makes it difficult to pin down all the meanings, relationships and inner workings of a text; and such a secret ever-moving life reverberates on the final critical product--a collection of essays, in Velli's case, as aforementioned:
I sorted my essays according to a different principle than the
chronological order of my wridng. [...] At least once [...], it shows a
remarkable change of my point of view and my opinion on the matter; but
I have intentionally preferred not to completely cross out that first
step [of my research in this book] [...], a sign of impermanence I
frankly do not dislike at all. (Velli, 1979: VIII)

These lines above come from the closing of Velli's preface to his book Petrarca e Boccaccio (Petrarch and Boccaccio). Such an 'unfinished'-orientated quote offers a good chance to put an end to this study too, with a sign not quite of impermanence but rather of mere beginning for this kind of research; and, hopefully, readers will not dislike it either, after being led with forced marches through many stops--indeed very distant from one another, but strategically important--along the underground streams of literary sources.


(1.) This article was originally written in Italian and presented, both orally and in written form, in December 2013, as a 'term paper' for Prof Fabio Finotd's Fall Semester graduate course Philology and History for the PhD programme students of the Center for Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, USA). It was later inserted, with a few edits and cuts, in my MA degree thesis (defended in July 2014) in the introduction section. It soon started to informally circulate among scholars, in its abridged as well as complete forms, as my thesis did too. To my dismay, there have been cases of plagiarism. Yet, to my honour, Prof Finotti, Prof Paolo Mastandrea, Prof Silvio Ramat, Prof Federico Schneider and Prof Elisabetta Selmi have helped me to further develop and revise my article: I thank them all for their precious support. With regard to the 'sources' for this paper, as most of the references are in Italian, it was deemed necessary to directly translate into English, whenever quoting, all the passages taken from non-English primary as well as secondary literature sources, in order to offer a coherency in English that might reflect the originals. Therefore the author of this article directly translated the quotes from non-English materials into English herself, if not stated otherwise. This was done even in cases when an English translation already exists--such as for Gian Biagio Conte's work, Memoria dei poeti e sistema letterario, which can be partially found in Conte (1986). See Conte (1986: 50,52-53) for Conte (2012: 54, 58-59), and Conte (1986: 48-49) for Conte (2012: 54, 51-52).

(2.) Compare with Velli (1979: VII).

(3.) See, for example, Rajna (1975: 166-167).

(4.) See, for example, Rajna (1975: 24, 37).

(5.) Serra (1904: 278) seems to bend Croce's concepts to Carducci's methods, finding the 'artistic' inspiration behind historically placed 'sources'.

(6.) Unlike other non-English sources used here, all the quotes from Curtius come straight from the official English translation of his work. This choice offers the chance to analyze the authorial preface to this translated edition, written by Curtius himself much later than the first publication of his book in 1948, and actually only few years before his own death (in 1956, while the English translation dates to 1953, reprinted in this 1963 edition).

(7.) See Curtius (1963: ix), comparing his 'technique of literary investigation' to 'aerial photography'.

(8.) Curtius indeed refers to literary or literarily-relevant (historical, cultural) events and concepts in almost every occurrence of the word phenomenon, with its related other forms, e.g. plural forms, and similar adjectives, from the beginning to the end of his book, and beyond. For example, in his appendix (Curtius, 1963: 585) he uses the term to mean a contemporary trend of literary criticism, 'the phenomenon which I might call American medievalism'; when he does not use it with regard to literature and culture, we can meet idiomatic expressions such as 'natural' phenomena. In Rajna, too, we find that two occurrences simply apply the word as a synonym of 'event' or, again, 'natural phenomenon' (Rajna, 1975: 452, 537); in fact, Rajna only uses this word in a relevant way once, when he describes the feared, criticism-wise wrong 'phenomenon which makes us see dragons, giants, armies, castles in the clouds' (Rajna, 1975: XIV).

(9.) In 1956, so-called source criticism is 'old', yet still alive, for example in Fubini (1956: 63-75), where Mario Fubini writes 'A proposito di una vecchia questione: lo studio delle fonti'" ('About an old matter: "source" studies', quoting from the title), arguing that this specific approach is useful, yet not necessary for critical analysis, unless with allusive art.

(10.) Compare with Segre (1979: 12). See Segre (1982: 17-18), while reasoning on Bachtin's ideas: 'the source is thus a kind of condenser, which after a first (personal) organization of linguistic plurality offers its product to the new author, who will be able to use it again, yet conserving all or some of the traces left by the precedent use'. Segre supports a relationship of mutual assistance between philology and semiotics, and his ideas sound quite similar to Conte's--after all, Segre did write the introduction to our edition of Conte's book. Such ideas are, for example: 1) the idea of literary tradition as a 'system' based on models, meaning both norms (langue) and a set of texts (paroles); 2) the idea of literary status for any text due not so much to its context, but rather: (2a) due to its connotation, that is the conscious unidirectional destination of all its traits so that they create a consistent structure according to a specific 'aim' or 'motivation', (2b) due to its repeatability or, for Conte, 'reuse' (Lausberg), which highlights the importance of literary memory, (2c) due to the presence of rhetorical figures in order to make the text 'opaque' and thus show its formal framework, forcing readers to dwell on this as well as on the text built around this, and to remember it better too; 3) the idea of structural coherence as a principle invoked to aid philological purposes; 4) the idea of the necessary cooperation between the author and his readers (copyists, critics, the public) in diasystemically producing the work; 5) the idea of duplicity, the double nature of a work, with text and images of the text, especially with regard to its transmission.

(11.) Barthes seems to collect many ideas from Julia Kristeva (such as the spatialization and the plural nature--at least double--of a text). Quoting from the famous title of an essay by Barthes in 1968 (Barthes, 1977: 142-148), the 'death of the author' implies, for his work, the nakedness of the 'text': the text itself appears then in its full autonomy from its own author and in its nature of texture composed of many intertextual threads, which readers must unravel by themselves. The text is then a 'process of demonstration' (Barthes, 1977: 157), of manifestation before the readers. Barthes distinguishes between a source-dominated philology, applied to authorial 'works' (material substances, objects of filiation), and the study of intertextual networks, reserved for 'texts'.

(12.) See the works cited in the final bibliography of D'Ippolito (1988).

(13.) As usual, this is my own translation from Raimondi's quotes: I read Broch's novel in a modern Kindle English edition, that is Broch (1995), which inspired my own Raimondi-orientated translations at times.

(14.) The definitions of 'source' and of 'intertextual relationship' are sometimes not quite the same: they do not precisely overlap, in Pasini (1988: 29), where he is actually quoting D'Ippolito (1985: 20). According to Maria Corti, in certain respects the research of sources is close to a 'diachronically-oriented' intertextuality, yet keeping a few important warnings in mind though, especially that intertextuality asks for a flexible, 'always in progress' and agile approach to literary--and thus social, too--phenomena (Corti, 1995: 130).

(15.) Unlike Rajna, now left far behind, the formal aspect is absolutely vital in the studies of literary memory: see Velli (1979: 15, 23-24), on metrics and phonetics, and on Petrarch's swift merging of meters/phonetics and meanings of ancient models in his works. See Contini (1970: 381, 385) for similar ideas.


The author wishes to thank Professor Fabio Finotti, who suggested the topic of this article and advised them during the research and their studies.


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Alessandra Munari

Padova, Italy

Corresponding author:

Alessandra Munari, Independent researcher, Padova, Italy.


DOI: 10.1177/0014585818813894
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