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Verbum valet plurimum: tracing a fragment of Dante's poetics.

This article is a rereading of chapters 24 and 25 of Dante's Vita nuova. It explores Dante's construction of a fragment of his poetics, using Augustine's theory of language and linking this theory to rhetorical theories of poetics (Poetriae) circulating in the 13th century. I will begin by introducing one of Augustine's Sermons (n. 288) and by reading chapter 24 of the Vita Nuova in the light of that Sermon, which I consider to be fundamental for understanding that chapter of Dante's first book. The link between chapter 24 and chapter 25 of the Vita nuova, in terms of the role played by tropes and figures of speech, is part of the argument of this paper. I start by recalling St. John's Gospel, a key text for an understanding of some sections of Dante's Vita nuova.

In the territory that extends beyond the Jordan, where the Baptist preached, announcing the Christ that John's Gospel called the Logos, with and in God from the beginning, with and by whom all things were made, in that stony terrain an event took place, to which, about four centuries later, between 390 and 420, Augustine dedicated a comment in one of his sermons (Sermo 288), on the feast day of John the Baptist. (1) Here I wish to recall, not so much the two characters involved in the event, or their encounter on rocky and windy ground (called Bhetania in John's text), but rather the new content that a third character, the reader from Hippo, brings to the episode, with his knowledge of the Greek and Latin patrimony underlying the Gospel text. John and Christ are identified in the locutio, in the Greek text, as phond and logos respectively. In the Latin text that Augustine reads and comments upon, the two words are translated as vox and verbum. A knowledge of stoic thought, which has its own history in Judeo-Christian culture, seeps into Augustine's writing of Sermo 288 and leads to him assign to John the word that is shouted, vox, while to Christ he assigns verbum, the interior word. The opening of this text seems to echo the stoic distinction between verbum prophorikos (prolatum) and verbum endiathetos (interior) (Pohlenz vol. 1, 61; Beierwaltes 194), a distinction we find upon rereading one of the most interesting passages of the Vita nuova (chapter 24). There, in a subtle play of cross-references and transpositions, we read that Guido Cavalcanti, Dante's first friend, is identified with John, the "vox clamantis" in the desert, heralding, according to the fourth Gospel, the advent of Christ: the verbum (word). The relationship between chapter 24 of the Vita Nuova and John's Gospel is well known, but this paper suggests a new reading of the chapter, focusing on the Augustinian subtext, which offers a more complex and important meaning.

We begin with this chapter of the Vita Nuova in order to establish, not only the distinction that Dante seeks to make between his work and Cavalcanti's at the very debut of his career, but also to appreciate the method he adopts to manifest a new understanding of the use of language, in which not only the meaning of writing is reformulated, but also the disciplines to whose pronouncement it is lent, and even the idea of humanity itself.

The original stoic distinction between phone (voice) and logos as a semantic phone (Pohlenz vol. 2, 373) seems to have come into Augustine's consciousness in this Sermon, but it echoes a passage in the De trinitate XV, 17-19, where we read that it is the mental verbum (verb) that lives in us and distinguishes itself from the external word. (2) The theory of a resemblance to the divine inscribed in the human soul, which is one of the nerve centers of Augustine's thought, seems also to be a point of meditation for Dante, found in this passage of the Vita nova and here aimed at redefining the distance between himself and Cavalcanti. This distance can be perceived not only in the light of Augustine's commentary on the 4th gospel, but also in the light of ideas that come to the fore in another text, the Sermon listed as n. 288. We know that John heralds Christ, and, as Augustine notes, John defines himself as the voice crying in the wilderness ("ego sum vox clamantis in deserto"). According to the Gospel, then, he is not the Word, but merely one who was sent to announce the Word. In the second paragraph of Augustine's sermon, De voce et verbo (n. 288), we read "Vocem se dixit. Habes Ioannem vocem. Quid habes Christum nisi verbum?" In the third paragraph, Augustine ponders the distinction between word and voice and he decides: "verbum si non habeat rationem significantem verbum non dicitur" (if the word has no significant meaning, it cannot be called verbum). Further, he writes that the voice is the word cried out and therefore cannot be called verbum: "Vox autem, etsi tantum modo sonet, et irrationabiliter perstrepat, tamquam sonus clamantis, non loquentis, vox dici potest, verbum dici non potest" (Sermo 288, 1305).

Among the many Augustinian texts whose exegesis might have resonance in the Vita nuova, this subtext has been entirely neglected. It would, however, be useless to add to the list of Augustinian sources if not for the fact that the well-established relationship between Dante and John's Gospel, when read alongside this particular sermon, opens up for Dante an analogy between human language and logos, disclosing a dialectical distinction between his own writing and that of the poet, Guido Cavalcanti. The rapprochement of Augustine's sermon and the poet's analogy to John's Gospel allows for a re-reading of Dante's Vita Nuova beginning with chapter 24.

Verbum, insofar as it is opposed to vox, is not only a critical distinction in itself. It also becomes both an essential content and the primary exponent of a line of thought that Dante will later bring to fruition. This rereading, in which Augustinian's filter is binding at this phase enhances the meaning of the incipit of Vita nuova, which links the writing of the book to a transcription from the book of memory: "In quella parte del libro de la mia memoria dinanzi a la quale poco si potrebbe leggere si trova una rubrica la quale dice Incipit Vita nova" ("In that part of the book of my memory before which little can be read, a rubric is found that says Incipit vita nova"). Moreover, it brings chapters 24-25 into relief, revealing their strategic positioning in the structure of the "libello." We are dealing with a method in which the space of interiority is circumscribed and takes shape (as a quality) in opposition to the purely phenomenological and the sensible. This method is identified from the beginning in the libello's Incipit. Not only is the writing a transcription, but the value of the transcription in itself derives from the Interior exemplum, which functions as a model for the writing. To write is to transcribe, and what guarantees the value of the transcription is the internal script.

This awareness, which clearly traces the emergence of a dialectical relationship with Guido Cavalcanti, generates a clash between two systems of thought that embody not only opposing ideas regarding the nature of human beings but also opposing ancestries: platonic and neoplatonic-Christian on the one hand and Aristotelian on the other. In late 13th century Florence, these opposing philosophical modes are concentrated in the personalities of two poet-intellectuals, central figures within "the chorus of friends," each marked by their encounter in his own way. In these opposing ancestral lines, the role played by poetry and the prose that sometimes serves as commentary to it is part of a decisive page in what we have come to call intellectual history. This contribution of 13th century Florence was destined to make its mark on Western culture. (3)

Once again, the fact that Chapter 24 of the Vita nova, which Dante presents as an "imagination" ("Allora dico che mi giunse una imaginatione d'Amore"; Then I say that an imagining of Love came to me), refers to John's Gospel has been amply underlined. What I would like to underscore, however, is the cardinal importance of the Augustinian filter--not so much his commentary on John's gospel but the Sermon we have been discussing, on the distinction between vox and verbum. The discussion in this sermon introduces Augustine's interpretation of John's logos-verbum in light of his own concept of the interior word (verbum). Thus, the "vox clamantis in deserto" which Dante in chapter 24, 4-5 takes from the Gospel of John relating it to Cavalcanti is tied not only to the voice (vox) that announces the word (verbum) but it also suggests the relativity of that very voice: phone, a voice which is only cried out. Dante's reference would be close to incomprehensible without knowledge of the bundle of relations that Cavalcanti was developing in his own work in those same years. At the center of Cavalcanti's thought was not only the writing or making of poetry but also the meaning of poetry itself. Poetry was placed in a specular relationship with the notion of the human being to whom the word "amore" refers. This was also true for a tiny group of poets that took up the recent vernacular tradition and gave it relief and substance by filling it with new content and meaning. It is within the word "amore" that they conducted their investigations and took stock of what Love reveals about human nature. The stratigraphy of meanings that such a word encloses, beginning with the Sicilians, is part of a preliminary understanding of Dante's thought. It sheds light on the dialogue between the young poet and his interlocutors, not only poets and friends, but also texts written in both poetry and prose, in the vernacular and in Latin. But returning to Augustine's subtext, the Sermo's text, in exegesis, becomes useful in rendering the distinction between voice and word. We read that "verbum valet plurimum et sine voce" (the word has a plural value even without voice), while the voice without the word is empty, "vox inanis est sine verbum, verbum autem nisi aliud significet, nisi ... aliud menti inferat verbum non dicitur" (the voice is empty without verbum, the word if has no meaning, if it does not bring something to the mind a word that cannot be said). Further, as Augustine explains, that which is already within you, conceived within your heart, which your memory retains, is prepared by your will and lives in your intellect "hoc ipsum quod vis dicere, iam corde conceptum est, tenetur memoria paratur voluntate, vivit in intellectu." Further on, we read the crucial assertion, destined to shape Western theories of language, which announces that human beings share a pre-linguistic structure that is coincident with thinking and is responsible for the meaningfulness of language:
   Et hoc ipsum quod vis dicere,quae corde concepta est non est
   alicuius linguae nec graece nec latinae ... Remove diversitatem
   auditorum, et verbum illud quod corde conceptum est nec graecum
   est, nec latinum ... Ergo in me tamquam in cardine cordi, tamquam
   in secretario mentis meae, praecessit verbum vocem meam. Nondum
   sonet vox in ore meo et inest Jam verbum cordi meo, ut autem exeat
   ad te quod corde concepi ministerium vocis inquirit.

   What you want to say, what your heart has conceived is not Greek or
   Latin ... Thus, if you remove the physical language of the
   listeners, that word which is conceived in the mind is neither
   Greek nor Latin ... In myself in the hinge of my heart in the
   secret of my mind my word was born before my voice. My voice has
   not sound but inside my heart there is already the verbum ... and
   only when it comes out does it search for a voice that is
   comprehensible (Sermo 288,3).

Still other occurrences in Augustine's text should be underlined. For example, the fact that John the Baptist is "the friend of the husband" ("et illi sponsus amicus humilis") seems to echo Guido, who, in the Vita nuova, is indicated as Dante's "first friend." Moreover, we read that the one who possesses the bride is the husband: "Qui habet inquit sponsa sponsum est." This paragraph, which Augustine takes from John and which we find also in his commentary on the Gospel text, is remarkably similar to the way in which Dante assigns meaning in a process of textual layering. In Chapter 24, Dante's text generates a subtle cross-referencing of the two subtexts in John's Gospel and in Augustine's sermon. At the center of Dante's text is the interior word: that which in John's text is "verbum" passes through Augustine's filter and, in the Middle Ages, Augustine's tradition reaches Dante directly and indirectly.

In the Vita nuova, in Chapter 24, most important are the relationships incorporated in Dante's line of thought. If it is true that the interior word is at the center of the text, then we should also note that what Dante writes is the transcription of the words of Love that Love speaks in the heart. As noted, the chapter recounts an "imaginatione" or an "imagining." Dante calls it "an imagining of Love":
   Allora dico che mi giunse una imaginazione d'Amore; che mi parve
   vederlo venire da quella parte ove la mia donna stava, e pareami
   che lietamente mi dicesse nel cor mio

   Then I say that there came to me an imagining of Love, whom I
   seemed to see coming from the place where my lady dwelt, and he
   seemed to say joyously in my heart (24,2)

The fact that he presents an imagination of Love, and that Love is represented as speaking inside, suggests that what we are reading is an imagination in which the identity of the interior word and of the vision which the text proposes are one and the same. A technique of transcription is at work here, where what is transcribed seems to be the imagination dictated by Love's interior word, which the author transforms into alphabetical signs.

In this vision, Dante introduces the analogy of John the Baptist as the herald for Christ insofar as "Giovanna" precedes Beatrice. Giovanna is presented as she who comes first ("prima verra"), while Beatrice is "colei che, a chi volesse sottilmente considerare chiamerebbe Amore per le molte somiglianze che ha con me." Here is a quotation from chapter 24:
   E poco dopo queste parole, che lo cuore mi disse con la lingua
   d'Amore, io vidi venire verso me una gentile donna, la quale era di
   famosa bieltade, e fue gia molto donna di questo primo mio amico. E
   lo nome di questa donna era Giovanna, salvo che per la sua
   bieltade, secondo che altri crede, imposto l'era nome Primavera; e
   cosi era chiamata. E appresso lei, guardando, vidi venire la
   mirabile Beatrice.

   And shortly after these words, which my heart spoke with the tongue
   of Love, I saw coming towards me a gentle lady, who was famously
   beautiful and was the much beloved lady of this foremost of my
   friends. The name of this lady was Giovanna, except that because of
   her beauty--as people believe--she was given the name Primavera
   (Springtime) and so was she called. And behind her, when I looked I
   saw approaching the wondrous Beatrice (24,3).

I point out, first of all, that the essence of Giovanna derives from her association with Giovanni (John the Baptist):
   E se anche voli considerare lo primo nome suo, tanto e quanto dire
   Primavera, pero che lo suo nome Giovanna e da quello Giovanni lo
   quale precedette la verace luce dicendo "Ego vox clamantis in
   deserto, parate viam Domini."

   And if you also wish to consider her first name, it is tantamount
   to saying, "She will come first" in that her name Giovanna derives
   from that John who preseded the true light saying: Ego vox
   clamantis in deserto: parate viam Domini (I am the voice crying in
   the wilderness:prepare the way of the Lord) 24,4

But we should also note that the text introduces a second and rarely discussed association insofar as Love, who speaks in the heart, sends us back to Augustine's Sermon no. 288 (discussed above), whose adaptation can be seen in Dante's own words if we observe that the introduction of John, as voice, contrasts with the central place given to the inner word "e parve che Amore mi parlasse nel cuore," and if we understand that what is told is the transcription of an inner word that captures the vision itself:
   Queste donne andaro presso di me cosi l'una appresso l'altra, e
   parve che Amore mi parlasse nel cuore, e dicesse: <<Quella prima e
   nominata Primavera solo per questa venuta d'oggi; che io mossi lo
   imponitore del nome a chiamarla cosi Primavera, cioe prima verra lo
   die che Beatrice si mosterra dopo la imaginazione del suo fedele.>>

   These ladies passed near me, one after the other, and Love seemed
   to speak in my heart, and to say: "She who comes first is called
   Primavera uniquely for this, today's coming; for I inspired the
   bestower of her name to call her Primavera because she will come
   first (prima verra) on the day that Breatrice will show herself
   following the imagining of her faithful one" (24,4).

Another aspect to be underlined is that, in rereading the prose text of chapter 24, which gives us the narration of love's imagination, we note that such narration is organized with frequent reference to the poetic-rhetorical figure of nominatio:
   Lo nome di questa donna era Giovanna ..., imposto l'era nome
   Primavera e cosi era chiamata, ... quella prima e nominata
   Primavera, ... mossi lo imponitore del nome a chiamarla cosi ... lo
   primo nome suo ... lo suo nome Giovanna e da quello Giovanni

   The name of this lady was Giovanna ... she was given the name
   Primavera ... and so She was called ... for I inspired the bestower
   of the name to call her Primavera ... her first name ... her name
   Giovanna derives from that John (24,3-5)

It is impossible not to notice that the focus on the interior word, previously signaled to in various passages, here neatly opens up several levels of interpretation in which the very technical question of metaphorical transfer is central. In fact, the name Giovanna-Primavera is explicitly derived from the Gospel of John, where John the Baptist "is someone who comes first." That is, as the Baptist functions as the herald of Christ, Dante's Giovanna is a herald for Beatrice. We also notice the subtlety with which Beatrice is alluded to in this context. She is not named but only suggested, via her likeness to love. Love says, "a chi volesse sottilmente considerare chiamerebbe [Beatrice] per molte somiglianze che a meco." Not only is Love's identity central to the passage; but further, this identity of Love is inferred from his 'speaking within.' What this means remains unclear until we consider the relationship between the verbum of John's Gospel and Augustine's interior word, which, for Dante, is both spoken and personified by Love (prosopopea).

The true meaning of this passage is to be found in the correlation put forth between the verbum of John's Gospel, Augustine's verbum interius or verbum cordis, and Dante's 'word of the heart.' The meaning of Chapter 24 is sealed within this relationship. Moreover, because he who transcribes the interior word is the author, or the character of someone who says "I," the value of this chapter resides in the meaning introduced by this network of relationships: the word of the author carries an awareness of the complex nature of the verbum. And if Cavalcanti is the "voice" by virtue of his assimilation to the Baptist, who preceded the Word, the words of the one who says "I" represent the new awareness of the verbum at its rational, imaginative, and linguistic levels.

What is suggested here is a new awareness that enters into history through Beatrice and the new language chosen to speak of her. Beatrice's likeness to Love, ("e chi volesse sottilmente considerare quella Beatrice chiamerebbe amore per molte somiglianze che ha meco"), who in his turn is assimilated to the inner voice, once this is brought into relation with the Augustinian logos, allows us to identify Beatrice with verbum or logos.

But the chapter obliges us to consider another aspect, that is, the relationship suggested here between the imagination and the interior word. In other words, a visual thinking in which what the author transcribes bears the task of signifying the image of thought itself.

What Chapter 24 indicates as "una imaginazione d'Amore" (an imagination of Love) is coincident with the word which the heart says when it uses the language of Love. And this language, which uses the vernacular language of si, employs rhetorical figures, as the recalled "nominatio" shows. This link raises the crucial question of the relation the text creates between the language of vision and figures or tropes. In addition, it is noteworthy that nominatio is repeated, and that it creates a transposed meaning in which one thing is said and something different has to be understood.

We will return to this point later. For now, what is crucial is that the text forces us to consider that the nominatio Dante uses introduces the rhetorical figura of transumptio, a figure of great importance in the 13th century and utilized as a device able to bring deep structures to the surface (Purcell, "Transumptio').

According to Boncompagno da Signa, transumptio is the mother of all ornaments ("mater omnium adornationum"), as we read in his Rhetorica novissima, which had been circulating in Bologna since the first half of 13th century and which devotes a large space to transumptio (281-286). A large space to transumptio was reserved also in the Poetria nova written by Geofrey of Vinsauf. According to him, transumptio is a complex trope which includes several tropes and which he indicates as "ornatus difficilis." He does not identify transumptio with metaphor but includes in it a few tropes. Among them we find nominatio, pronominatio and permutatio (Poetria nova lines 949-954). (4) Transumptio, according to an old tradition that goes back to Donatus, who as Quintilian used the term metalepsis but not transumptio, is utilized as a syllogistic tool and therefore as an argumentative and technical device (Purcell, Ars poetriae 78). According to recent studies on transumptio, nomination, together with pronominatio and allegory (which a scholar like Faral and others identify with onomatopoeia, antonomasia and allegory), are based on a similitude to be explained. They refer to an enthymematic method of connecting words for figurative use (79-80).

Going back to Dante's text, we understand that the vision of Love, one in being with his internal word, creates a nodal transfer: behind Giovanna and Beatrice are John the Baptist and the Christ, one the voice, the other the word. This reveals a knot of metaphorical associations, in which the prose text suggests multiple levels of meaning. It should be noted, however, that, within the economy of Chapter 24, all this is not stated explicitly but rather alluded to enigmatically. What is crucial here is the relation between what is said and the fact that this is the result of imagining.

An awareness of the word and its complex nature as derived from Augustine is the auctoritas on which this page is constructed. Here, a double inventio is activated: from one side a coincidence between interior word and imagination, and from the other that between the images of the mind and the language of prose, in which, as I will show, an imaginative thought is rendered through tropes or images.

Once again the passage confirms its indebtedness to John's Gospel. But of especial importance is the latter's Augustinian interpretation in the rapprochement between interior word and interior thought and the synchronicity between internal vision or thought and word (Beierwaltes 189-196). This line of thinking, which does not appear just in this chapter but is disseminated throughout the Vita nova, is essential to understanding the knot of relationships through which Dante will advance his ideas later in the Convivio. Meanwhile, regarding the relationship between the word and love, we read in the De trinitate 9, 10, 15: "verbum in amore est et amor in verbo et utrumque in amante atque dicente," and further that the word is knowledge with love.

My discussion serves not so much to underline a source in Augustine but to bring to the fore the intertextuality and the relationships that emerge in light of Augustine's writings and constitute the newness of Dante's text. (5) The equivalence in the Vita nuova between seeing and the interior word challenges the Aristotelian-Cavalcantian idea of the imagination as a product or an activity motivated by the senses. In Dante, as I have begun to show, inner seeing is not necessarily linked to the function of the sensitive soul, but rather directly to thought. This point of view in a culture dominated by Aristotle and Aristotelianism shows Dante's originality.

This creates a new center of meaning in which the Augustinian idea of a correspondence between interior word and interior vision presides over the organization of the chapter 24, in which a vision is told by the word of Love. Thus, in order to understand such association what the Sermo 288 says should be thought in relation to Augustine' theory of the inner word. This complex theory implies a discourse on human nature, which an article by H. Arens, a scholar of linguistics, ingeniously summarizes.

According to what we read in this article, the interior word must be seen in relation to the different levels of the human mind in which it lives. The first is pure thinking, an element envisioned by mental cognition. This is the real and proper word and the causa efficiens of the other verbal manifestations. The second is the realization of the mental concept in a human language, but only imagined, not voiced, and the proper vehicle of human thinking. The third, being the spoken word, is the sensible transient sign of an intelligible permanent idea ("Verbum Cordis"). According to this theory, the distinction between vox and verbum, as in the Sermo 288, once related to Guido and the character who says "I," in underlining the value of the word, is intended to counteract what is identified as voice.

At this point, I must emphasize that if the dialectical terrain on which the chapter is anchored escapes us, the meaning of what we read in the passage will also be lost to us. The interior word and the imagination linked to it as a 'seeing within,' which is also thought, are not produced by the senses and so not bound by corporeality. Thus, the human being is able to know and learn by way of imagining things he has not seen. (6) Especially in his prose writing, Dante makes use of a textual patrimony, at once new and ancient, in order to set into motion an unhinging of equations that, in a culture marked by Aristotelianism, seemed to be irremissible. Mental knowledge is the pivot on which verbum and vox are put forth in a unique dialectical relationship. And in fact in Sermon, 288 we read: if the voice comes before the verbum or word, it is empty. In actuality, Dante's Chapter 24 passes an irrevocable sentence on Cavalcanti's poetry. Here, in fact, the intrinsic unity between interior word and mind-imagination, while it opposes Guido's theory, centered on the sensitive ontology of the human being, also introduces another and different idea about poetry and writing.

Dante's new dimension presents a profound correspondence between human language and intellection. It is in light of this content that Dante proceeds to rethink the nature and role of poetic speech.

If the imagination as generated by the senses was at the center of Cavalcanti's lyric, imagination, conceived of as internal vision, was at the center of Dante's. The mental paradigm penetrates and filters facts and events in Dante's writing. There emerges in these two poets, called the two eyes of Florence, an appeal to two different traditions. At the center of Dante's dialectical position, we find his rethinking of the concept of the human being (of which is part of that of imagination) elaborated in stark contrast to Guido, for whom poetry is pure sensory voice, produced by a sensory-driven imagination.

The Augustinian vox is thus most suitable to rendering the perspective in which Dante evaluates Guido and his ideas about the human being, which are all anchored in and limited to the sensitive sphere and to which language and poetry are related. In likening Guido to John the Baptist as vox, Dante seeks to highlight, in Cavalcanti's work, the idea that the ontology of human nature is linked not to the intellect but to the senses. (7)

In Dante, not only do language and writing outline the intellectual identity of the person but, as evidenced in the prose text, the Vita nova intends to construct, by virtue of that identity, a new understanding of poetic language. At the same time, the Vita nova proposes a correlation between the language of poetry and intellection that is conscious of the debates on the imagination, both the force and limit of human being according to Dante's first friend and to those physicians and medical doctors for whom Guido functions as a most subtle and critical interpreter. As a great epigone and at once interpreter, ingenious and innovative, of a type of poetry that came into existence with the so-called Sicilian School, Guido represents the counterpoint and the point of departure for Dante's experimentation and reformulation--a process that is dramatized in the poems of the Vita nuova and analyzed in the prose commentary. At the same time, the Vita nuova delineates an individual story that assigns the highest value to poetic language. But equally important is the prose commentary, which serves to explicate and define it, and which also partakes of the visual and imaginative elements proper to poetry--something on which Dante will theorize in the De Vulgari eloquentia, where he writes that prose has to be written like poetry, but already outlined, as we will see, in Chapter 25. The discussion of the relationship between human intellection and poetic activity constitutes a core content of Dante's first work. The poet will continue to explore their intersection and to develop his ideas throughout his life and writing.

Going back to chapter 24, while the reference to John's Gospel is quite obvious in Giovanna, I have hinted that there are perhaps subtler and even more important allusions to the Gospel text (and to Augusfine's commentaries). We will first recall that in John's Gospel and in Augustine's interpretation of it, the husband's identity is derived from the wife: "Qui habet sponsam sponsus est," one recognizes the husband in the wife (John 3, 29; Sermo 288, 2). (8) This fragment sheds light on another aspect of Dante's relational enterprise, wherein Beatrice's identity is gently and indirectly suggested through the appearance of Love and via her likeness to him. In this context (Chapt. 24, 5-6), in fact, it is Love who personifies the inner word, and the connection with Beatrice opens up a field of associations to be understood. More important, however, we should note the technique at work here in the attribution of names and in the creation of a web of metaphorical and textual relationships that are entrusted to the reader's intelligence and understanding. Moreover, the fact that in this chapter Guido is reiterated as Dante's "first friend" also seems to refer to this passage to antonomasia or pronominatio. In this way, we can see that meaning, in Dante's text, is in large part dependent on these transpositional rhetorical devices: if Giovanna comes first and is associated with Giovanni, who also comes first, and if we recognize the husband in the wife, Giovanna as woman of Giovanni sheds light on the other relationship: that between Beatrice and the narrator or author. In fact if Beatrice is associated with the character who narrates in the first person (as his Lady), then not only is Beatrice associated to the logos or verbum, but also it is he, the character who says "I," who carries the word to be signified. Further, the word and its transcription are at the center of the writing of this author, for whom Love dictates from within. All this however is only suggested and transpires without ever being stated explicitly.

And thus it seems that the "imagining" that is narrated contains an equation that is made evident only in part, but which the reader must uncover and complete: Giovanna is to Giovanni as Beatrice is to the first person narrator. And further, the voice is to John the Baptist as the verbum is to Christ, he who comes after. Perhaps, hidden within this analogy is the making of a new plan and pathway.

The analogy has a subtle function within the text, such that the way in which the two poets speak of their ladies reveals the nature and essence of their poetic word: Vox in Guido, verbum in Dante. The fact that the poet's lady resembles Love and Love personifies the heart's word makes him her husband and therefore the bearer of the word.

The internal word and its manifold levels, as in Augustine's work, are offered here as an alternative to a materialist knowledge that is bound to the human body and which Dante intends to oppose from the beginning of his youthful book of memory. The Augustinian alternative will continue to exert its force in the dialectical relationship between the poet and his first friend. This dialectic is, in part, the subject of the Vita nova.

First, however, we must clarify the import of Cavalcanti's work in order to make sense of this passage in the Vita nuova and to show the younger poet's very divergent ideas. In Dante the heart is a secret interior (so he will write in the Convivio) and is opposed to the medical-physiological notion of the heart proper to Cavalcanti's thought. Interestingly enough, Dante does not renounce Cavalcanti's physiological notions but rather finds them to be insufficient. His answer, the force of what Dante offers us in the Vita nuova, is derived from the relationship he creates between the interior word and imagination as an interior vision that transforms the imagination into the activity of a thought. According to Augustine, to think means to generate a concept or image (Beierwaltes 194-195). Anselm of Canterbury and Bonaventure, among the others, will expand this Augustinian teaching.

Knowledge through visions and imaginings, the gift of tears, the connotations associating the homo novus with homo christianus, who is thought as the bearer of a new sensibility, all inform Dante's libello. They have their most profound influence in the poet's conception of the interior word. The internal senses cannot explain the being of man. Imagination as an internal sense faculty, an activity bound to the sensitive soul is surpassed in Dante by the idea of imagination as inner vision, the vision even of things unseen. There is something grander and more complex that lives within the human being. In the De trinitate, Augustine associates this "inner life" with the "eternal reasons" that inform the human being (9, 6,10). The human being's act of imagination shows that inside him there lives a superior principle.

It is a reflection on this learning that enters to reshape Dante's relationship between the nature of language and poetry itself, and becomes a reflection central to Dante's thought and work. Dante will later problematize the question in the De vulgari eloquentia. The poems of the Convivio will serve to further investigate the theme in a way that continues to elude us and which deserves our critical attention. We shall now explore the ways in which the new understanding of the word is tied to the language of poetry, as Dante conceives of it. We shall read Chapter 25 in order to find a relation between the two chapters.

We have already noted how Chapter 24 is constructed upon a series of deductions where the final analogy remains incomplete. Giovanna, likened to Giovanni, suggests an analogy between Beatrice and Christ. But in the Augustinian filter, the vector is oriented toward the new understanding of the word, and Beatrice-Christ passes through the relationship between Guido and the author, the latter being the promoter of the new word and transcriber of the word within. The understanding of a new weight assigned to the word creates a plurality of directions that Dante steadily appropriates and which he uses to give us access to his first work.

Let me start by considering Chapter 25 in an effort to determine whether it is possible to find some continuity with Chapter 24. A continuity is visible where, in the opening of the chapter, Love is described first in the negative--not in and of itself substance ("sustanzia intelligente"). It is not "corporeal substance" but instead "accidente in sustantia." Chapter 25 begins:
   Potrebbe qui dubitare persona degna da dichiararle onne
   dubitazione, e dubitare potrebbe di cio che io dico d'Amore come se
   fosse una cosa per se, e non solamente sustanzia intelligente ma si
   come fosse sustanzia corporale: la quale cosa, secondo la veritate,
   e falsa; che Amore non e per se si come sustanzia, ma e uno
   accidente in sustanzia.

   Here might doubt a person worthy of having every doubt explained,
   and one might be doubtful of this, that I speak of Love as a thing
   in itself, and not only an intelligent substance, but also a
   corporeal substance: which according to truth is false, for Love is
   not in himself a substance but an accident in substance (25,1).

Of course, the positive definition seems to echo Cavalcanti's Donna me prega, where love is defined as an "accident." Once again, the focus of our reading is a relationship that is merely implied. If we look carefully, Dante's construction in words underlines "accidente in sustanzia," opposing it to Guido's definition of love as an "accident" in his major canzone. (9) I have already treated this amply in my book on Cavalcanti. Here it is sufficient to recall that "accidente in sustanzia" presupposes a relationship between the body and soul and thus, the indissoluble unity of the sensitive and intellective souls, of reason and the senses, which opposes Guido's idea of love as a purely sensuous being. Love as a name for the ontology of human nature is confirmed, and the sensuous ontology of Cavalcanti's accident is opposed by Dante through the idea of an accidente in sustantia.

But our goal in reading this chapter is primarily to evaluate the discussion introduced through the personification of Love or prosopopeia:
   E che io dica di lui come se fosse corpo, ancora come se fosse
   uomo, appare per tre cose che io dico di lui. Dico che lo vidi
   venire ... Dico anche di lui che ridea, anche che parlava ... e
   pero appare ch'io ponga lui essere l'uomo.

   And that I speak of him as he were a body, indeed as if he were a
   human being is clear from three things that I say about him. I say
   that I saw him approach ... I also say of him that he smiled, and
   also that he spoke ... so it appears that I posit him human (25,2).

After this personification there follows, in order to describe Love's being, a discussion about rhetorical figures. Dante launches into a long digression in which he discusses the poets ("dicitori d'amore") who have written in Latin and those who write in the vernacular. His conclusion serves to show that "poetic license" is quite allowed to the poets and that those who write in prose, or use other genres, simply cannot compete. The superior licentia accorded to poetry is a function of its subtlety in the use of rhetorical devices, figures of speech, and in the ability to draw metaphorical relationships. Dante's digression is not altogether aimless, as his intention is to make a case for poetry in the vernacular. Just as Latin poets were able to speak to inanimate objects and to make inanimate objects come alive and speak, so too might the "dicitori in rima," "speakers in rhyme," that is, vernacular poets. In this discussion, Dante essentially introduces the licentia of using rhetorical colors or tropes or figures in vernacular poetry. He appears to be especially fascinated with prosopopeia or personificatio.
   Chapter 25 eloquently introduces some Latin examples of prosopopea
   or personificatio:

   Dunque, se noi vedemo che li poete hanno parlato ale cose inanimate
   si come se avessero senso e ragione, e fattele parlare insieme; e
   non solamente cose vere, ma cose non vere, cioe che detto hanno, di
   cose le quali non sono, che parlano, e detto che molti accidenti
   parlano, si come se fossero sustanzie ed uomini degno e lo dicitore
   per rima di fare lo somigliante, ma non sanza ragione alcuna, ma
   con ragione, la quale poi sia possibile d'aprire per prosa.

   Therefore, if we see that poets have addressed inanimate things as
   if they had sense and reason, and have made them speak to each
   other: and not only of true things but of things not true: that is
   they have said of things non-existent that they speak, and said
   that many accidents speak as if they were substances and human
   beings; worthy is the vernacular writer in rhyme to do the same,
   but not without a reason, rather with a reason that is then
   possible to disclose in prose (25,8).

Here, there emerges the continuity between the two chapters. Indeed, if we consider that in Chapter 24 we have a series of nominations, which activates a transumptio, then in Chapter 25 we have instead prosopopeia as the most central figure of speech and also pronominatio or antomasia (since Guido here is again indicated as first friend). It is the use of rhetorical colors that constitutes the continuity between Chapters 24 and 25. This continuity is, first and foremost, of a poetic-rhetorical nature. As the text proceeds, a seed of Dante's poetics is planted. He establishes the legitimacy of the use of tropes in vernacular poetry (and by this the legitimacy of vernacular poetry itself), and then, by discussing the rhetorical devices in the prose commentary, he emphasizes that the trope should be constructed with reason so that it could be revealed open in prose afterwards (25, 8).

This initial attempt at the design of a poetics is nonetheless permeated with Guido's work and ideas about poetry. The discussion of figures of speech could easily be a dialogue with the older poet, and so Guido serves as the glue between the two chapters in the same way that rhetorical devices do.

In rather decisive authoritative terms in Chapter 25, Dante seeks to establish a continuity between himself and the Latin ancient poets and opens it to other vernacular poets. The vernacular poet, like the auctores before him, has the liberty to make recourse to figures of speech and rhetorical devices, although Dante recommends they be strongly meaningful and easily recognizable so that they might be discussed in prose. After a series of examples and citations taken from the ancients, Dante adds the caveat that these devices and figures must be applied with reason:
   E per questo puote essere manifesto a chi dubita in alcuna parte di
   questo mio libello. E accio che non ne pigli alcuna baldanza
   persona grossa, dico che ne li poete parlavano cosi sanza ragione,
   ne quelli che rimano deono parlare cosi non avendo alcuno
   ragionamento in loro di quello che dicono; pero che grande vergogna
   sarebbe a colui che rimasse cose sotto vesta di figura o di colore
   rettorico, e poscia, domandato, non sapesse denudare le sue parole
   da cotale vesta, in guisa che avessero verace intendimento. E
   questo mio primo amico e ione sapemo bene di quelli che cosi rimano

   And this should be manifest to whoever objects to any part of my
   little book. And so that no unschooled person may become emboldened
   from this, I say that neither Latin poets wrote in this manner
   without reason, nor should vernacular poets write like this without
   having any reasons in mind for what they write; for great shame
   would be upon those who put things under the veil of figures or
   rhetorical color and then, asked, could not unveil their words in a
   way that would show their true reasoning. And this best friend of
   mine and I know well some who rhyme so senselessly (25,910).

In other words, poetry remains an intellectual pursuit. Indeed, it would be most shameful if "colui che rimasse cose sotto vesta di figura o di colore retorico, e poscia domandato non sapesse denudare le sue parole da cotale vesta, in guisa che avessero verace intendimento." Here, again, Cavalcanti is recalled ("E questo mio primo amico e io ne sapemo bene di quelli che cosi rimano stoltamente"), insofar as he and the author of the libello are in agreement over the use of figures of speech. Thus, in these chapters we can trace the poets' consensus in terms of the foundation of an important poetic tradition in the vernacular language and, at the same time, the limits of their accord. Behind this rhetorical-poetic harmony a dissonant chord can be heard. The two poets represent divergent and irreconcilable cultural traditions that clash and distinguish themselves in the Vita nova. The two chapters, if linked, show a poetical rhetorical harmony but also two opposite points of view. In spite of this opposition, both perspectives collaborate in building the role of our vernacular poetic language.

Now it is important to note that what Dante's text leaves unsaid, but which is strongly suggested all the same, actually constitutes the meaning of the two chapters. As I have already shown, in 24 it was the unsaid that held the key to the true meaning of the immaginatione. In 25 what is not said is why the use of rhetorical devices is allowed and what makes them useful and necessary. It is precisely what is not said that pushes us to investigate Dante's discursive course for a possible relationship between the new word built on the interior word (verbum), imagination, and the language of poetry. It is also of note that this course shows a syllogistic structure that can be formulated in the following sentence: If, as we have seen, the human word is built on the interior verbum, which encloses a mental vision, in the same way the language of poetry, which in its own nature is fictivus (i.e. is constructed on figurae or tropi) can be the natural language of human thinking or the inner word.

This relation is only suggested and not easy to understand. In order to assist the reader, I go back to Chapter 24 in order to recall the importance that the impositio nominis holds in this chapter, openly constructed as it is on a technique that can also be called transumptive. This nomination leads to questions about the name of Beatrice, which in turn leads to another question: Which nominatio could thus be given to the "I" or author, since he is the one who is related to Beatrice (according to John's Gospel and Augustine, he is the husband, and we may recognize him from the bride).

Thus it is evident that this transumptive technique is the mode that invites the reader to complete the unfinished through relations that are introduced as mere suggestions. We have seen that the construction of names or onomatopeia is openly transumptive and works for both Cavalcanti, now Giovanni, and for Giovanna as derived from Giovanni, who is also called "Prima verra" or Primavera. The inventio here is of course in the transumptive mode that is activated. But noteworthy is the introduction to a kind of reasoning that is given in a truncated form. It is this form that allows us to find another link. Studies on transumptio in fact not only define transumptio as a key trope able to bring deep structure on surface, but also claim that transumptio is an enthymematic way to connect words (Purcell, Ars poetriae 75 et seq). This is a kind of abbreviated syllogism, in which a part remains unsaid because it is judged to be implicit (Mortara Garavelli 79-80).

The way Dante uses transumptio here seems to bring a deep structure to the surface. In fact, the nominatio uncovers what is not said and which transumptio allows us to understand. If Giovanna is "colei che prima verra" and Giovanni is vox (voice) like Giovanna, then it is possible to construct a kind of equation: the relation of the voice to Giovanni is the same as the voice to Giovanna. And if Giovanna is in its turn also a name for Cavalcanti's discourse on love in his poetry, then Guido's poetry, coming before the verbum, is, according to Augustine, a text empty of meaning.

However, since I have focused on a dialectical opposition between vox and verbum, what still remains unsaid is the space reserved to the verbum. This emerges if we construct a new equation similar to and different from the first, and now shaped on verbum. Beatrice's similarity to Love allows the following equation: Beatrice:verbum:: verbum: author, i.e., Beatrice's relation to verbum is the same as the relation of verbum to the author.

In the first equation, the relation between the voice and two characters (Giovanna and Giovanni) brought up a third meaning i.e. the emptiness of Cavalcanti's poetry of love, transumptive indicated through Giovanna. The second equation, however, in order to be constructed, required a new element that does not appear in the vision of Love: the author. In other words, the nominations related to the voice organize a further meaning that an elemental mathematical procedure has brought on surface. The second equation embodies a more difficult organization because we lack of a part of equation.

Beatrice, here, is not subjected to the rhetorical strategy of nomination. She is twice described as someone who comes after, and a few lines later the reader is told of her similitude to Love. At this point, all these elements come together, and the first equation pushes the reader to establish the second one. Thus, the relation between Beatrice and Love (i.e. verbum) easily brings us to the author, whose writing (because of Beatrice) brings the word out into the open and signifies it.

Transumptive modes, which include the unsaid, once decoded, allow the reader to conclude the series that were open. The fact that this elliptical method of writing here builds a link between two elements that leads to a third element, which the link itself creates, allows us in some way to reach a logical conclusion that goes beyond the characters recalled or suggested. What becomes central is the relation between the ontology of Love and its signification, as it takes place through the voice or through the word.

Dante uses a kind of veiled logic here, but the relation between verbum and Dante's writing is already created, and this verbum lives in the space of imagination of things not seen and in the correspondence between the images of thinking and the tropes of poetry. The utilization of figures as onomatopeia or pronominatio, whose implied meanings we have attempted to reconstruct, must be evaluated in light of a peculiarity of transumptio itself. Transumptio, in fact, was assumed to be not just a figure related to rhetoric (Buoncompagno da Signa) or to poetics (Geofrey of Vinsauf) but a part of what is called Logica modernorum, as for instance in Petrus Hispanus, Summulae logicales. (10)

Now, if we take a different pathway and rather than attempt to reinvent the missing pieces and to fill the blank spaces, we leave them on the page and examine as they are--as lacks and lacunae--we will see that the prose and the poetry complement one another in the construction of a difficult, even deliberately enigmatic discourse.

For example, in Chapter 24, there is Beatrice's resemblance to Love and that of which Love himself informs the reader ("e chi volesse sottilmente considerare quella Beatrice chiamerebbe Amore per molte somiglianze che ha meco"). There are several possible explanations for this. If we try for a moment not to untangle them, thereby acknowledging the metaphor's enigmatic qualities, we recognize enigma itself as a trope. All these elements link together if we consider that the level of meaning that this reading offers brings to the surface the intent to reveal, through images of words, a thinking that is announced as an imagination.

From Paul to Augustine, and in medieval culture more generally, the enigma was considered a trope or a similitude that was obscure and hard to understand. (11) The enigmatic mode required, and indeed stimulated, a modus intelligendi on the part of the reader (Cook). The fact that medieval thinkers considered intellectual activity to be anagogic, that is, something that brings us toward a higher being, enlightenment, etc., already helps us to understand, on the one hand, Dante's choice and, on the other, why the opposition to Cavalcanti's position reveals not only an alternative language but also an alternative purpose. And if, from Paul and mediated through Augustine, the enigma inspired speculative activity in medieval culture, the use of the enigmatic mode in Dante's libello becomes even more interesting. Dante uses enigma variously. In these chapters, it is most obvious in relation to his tropes and rhetorical devices. Moreover, the De doctrina christiana says that the difficulty and effort required for the deciphering of metaphors (verbis translatis) was sweet, insofar as it stimulated intellectual activity. (12) The strategic use of the difficult and the enigmatic marks medieval culture. In sum, Chapters 24 and 25, when seen in relation to one another, suggest an alternative reading that emphasizes and validates their use of the tropic and the enigmatic. The strength, here, is not only the use of recondite discourse but also the necessity of the act of deciphering and interpreting which this use implies. In Augustine, especially in the De trinitate 15, 'enigma' is an obscure trope or simile. (13) So when, in Chapter 25, Dante tells us that he will take his modus from the auctores, we understand that he means to include a particular "difficult" mode that seeks to express ideas which can only be suggested covertly, ideas that the prose will serve to gloss and clarify. And if, as we have noted, the enigmatic mode permeates the Vita nova (which is evident in many other passages as well), it is here that Dante interjects the important fragment of discourse, in which he says that tropes can be used as long as they can be justified by an important meaning. Tropes and enigmatic language signal a continuity between the two chapters--"concatenati," as Dante will say in the De vulgari-especially once we link the discovery found, the "new word" as introduced by the bearer of the verbum, with the language of tropes and their intellectual value. That Dante's position is constructed upon a standard locus ("figura est vitium com ratione"), and from the tradition of grammarians such as Donatus and Priscian, nonetheless hardly explains the value the poet assigns to figures of speech and rhetorical devices in Chapters 24-25. Their value can be fully understood only if we read the chapters together in their continuity. And so, if the heart's word ("verbum cordis') is pitted against the vox clamantis, ("inanis'), and if the language of the heart refers us to a crux in Augustine's thought--that the word in the heart of man is the likeness and enigma of the divine word (De trinitate 15,11, 20)--then we must also evaluate the language Dante uses to render these associations. His language is an intricate tapestry of transpositions and transumptive modes, including nominatio, pronominatio (Chapter 24), and prosopopeia (24 and 25).

The poetic figurae appear to be the language appropriate to render that imaginative event which Chapter 24 proposes and indicates as "immaginazione d'Amore" (imagination of Love). It is here that the interior word, in its manifold value, reveals itself as able to construct a fragment of Dante's poetics.

At the center we find the imagination, which, as the historical readers D'Ancona and Casini have underlined, is part of the visionary activity that the Vita nuova stresses. The coincidence between imagination and tropes compels us to establish a new relation that the two chapters seem to introduce: that between the interior word and the tropes that the bearer of the word is able to use and signify.

The interior word lives on many levels. Dante follows Augustine, who distinguishes three crucial elements in language: first, a mentally envisioned element of cognition, a verbum cordis that causes the other manifestations of the word; second, the realization of the mental concept in language, but only imagined, not voiced; and, third, the spoken word, which is the sensible transient sign of an intelligible permanent idea.

The imaginative-intellectual level, first linguistic in form but not alphabetically conceived, finds in Dante its own expression in the language of tropes: what belongs to the intellectual is linked to tropes. The poeticus and fictivus are central. And insofar as for Augustine and his readers (Anselm of Canterbury in primis) the interior word belongs to all languages, in the same way tropes can be used for all languages.

The transition from Latin to vernacular is thus built on the awareness of many texts. Thanks to them a new auctoritas is established. But the context tells us that Dante's profound discovery is to be found where the classical rhetorical-poetic tradition meets a Christian rereading. The mental images that connote one level of the interior word, which is the enigma of our likeness to God (as we read in Augustine De trinitate 15,10), are expressed and signified by Dante through the figurative language of tropes and their writing.

The tropes and figures of speech complement the enigmatic texture. Chapters 24 and 25 become integrated, and writing offers itself enigmatically as a mode of speculation. The transformation of the speculantes (De trinitate 15, 8-9) comes about through the activities of reading and poetry, and the reading of poetry both brings about subtle learning and constitutes sweet intellectual exercises. The Augustinian association between dulcescere (sweetening) (14) and intellectual activity passes through tropes and their reading.

The new word and its vernacular expression come to find their home, relevance, and truth in the space of poetry. If Beatrice resembles Love, and if Love personifies the heart's voice, the concept of likeness that lives in the verbum brings us back to the theory of speculation that is essential to the Christian Middle Ages. Likewise, the interior word leads us to the likeness and the enigma of the divine Word. Here Dante lays the foundations for his poetics.

The building of Dante's edifice also traces his intellectual biography, which emphasizes the primary importance of the language of poetry insofar as poetry, through tropes, communicates knowledge and intelligence. The importance of these tropes in both the grammatical and rhetorical traditions functions as a point of reference for Dante. He also makes the writing of the Vita nuova, as well as the act of reading, into a speculative exercise. Legere is equal to intelligere (intus-legere). Reading and intellectual activity are, in the end, one and the same thing.

Beginning with the Vita nuova, the supremacy of poetry is established. Prose has the task of underlining the role and function of poetry, but it is built upon and adorned with the same rhetorical figures. In the De vulgari, we read that prose is written in the same manner as poetry. This connection, starting from Augustine's De doctrina christiana, is evident in the medieval tradition. It can be verified, for example, in Alain de Lille, or in Roger Bacon who, in his treatise on grammar, underlines the speculative nature of the language of tropes. (15) Beginning with Paul, we know that tropes are tied to speculative activity (speculation): "Videmus nunc per speculum in aenigmate, tunc autem facie ad faciem." Recent studies like E. Cook's supply us with some useful and groundbreaking reflections that link speculation with enigma as a trope, as in Augustine. Dante points to the inexorable coexistence of man as an intellectual being with language and with poetry, whose task is to enunciate and proclaim such identity. The relationship between poetry and intellection depends upon an understanding of the human being as intellectual entity and also posits language as an intellectual faculty.

Dante will continue this line of thinking. But for now, a content has been established: the coincidence between the interior word and the tropes introduces the equipollency between poetry and human thought. Or better, poetry becomes the natural language of human thought.


Ardizzone, Maria Luisa. Guido Cavalcanti. The Other Middle Ages. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2002.

Arens, H. "Verbum Cordis. Zur Sprachphilosophie des Mittelalters." Historiographia linguistica 7 (1980): 13-27.

Augustine. De Doctrina Christiana. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina. t. 28. Thurnhout: Brepols, 1970.

--. De Trinitate. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina. t. 50-50. Turnhout: Brepols, 1968.

--. Sermo 288. Patrologia Latina, vol. 38. 1302-1308. Beierwaltes, W. Agostino e il Neoplatonismo Cristiano. Milano: Vitae Pensiero, 1995.

Boncompagno da Signa. Rhetorica novissima. A cura di A. Gaudenzi. Bologna, 1896.

Carruthers, M. "Sweetness." Speculum, A Journal of Medieval Studies 81.4 (2006): 999-1013.

Cook, E. "The Figure of Enigma. Rhetoric, History, Poetry." Rhetorica 19.4 (2001): 349-378.

Dante Alighieri. Vita nuova. Italian text with facing English translation by D. S. Cervigni and E. Vasta. Notre Dame: The University of Notre Dame Press, 1995.

--. La Vita Nova di Dante Alighieri, illustrata da note e preceduta da un discorso su Beatrice per Alessandro D'Ancona. Pisa: Libreria Galileo, 1884.

--. La Vita Nova di Dante Alighieri. Con introduzione, Commento e Glossario di Tommaso Casini. Firenze: Sansoni, 1885.

Faral, E. Les artes poetiques di XII et du XIII siecles. Recherches et documents sur la technique litteraire du moyen age. Paris: Champion, 1962.

Mortara Garavelli, B. Manuale di retorica. Milano: Bompiani, 1993.

Pohlenz, M. La Stoa. 2 vols. Firenze: Le Monnier, 1978.

Purcell, William Michael. Ars poetriae, aRhetorical and Grammatical Invention at the Margin of Literacy. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.

--. "Transumptio: A Rhetorical Doctrine of the Thirteen Century." Rhetorica 5.4 (1987): 369-411.


New York University


(1) The Sermons devoted to John are numerated from n. 287 to n. 293. Augustine pronounced them in order to celebrate the birthday of the Baptist.

(2) "Verbum autem nostrum illud quod non habet sonum neque cogitationem soni, sed eius rei quam videndo intus dicimus, et ideo nullius linguae est; atque inde utcumque simile est in hoc aenigmate illi Verbo Dei, quod etiam Deus est, quoniam sic et hoc de nostra nascitur, quemadmodum et illud de scientia Patris natum est: nostrum ergo tale verbum, quod invenimus esse utcumque illi simile, quantum sit etiam dissimile sicut a nobis dici potuerit, non pigeat intueri" Augustinus, De Trinitate 15, 16-17.

(3) See Ardizzone, Guido Cavalcanti. The Other Middle Ages.

(4) Geofrey of Vinsauf, Poetria nova and in particular the section devoted to "Ornatus difficilis," in Faral, E., pp. 221 et seq.

(5) I quote here a fragment from Augustine, De trinitate, useful to introduce to his inner word theory: "In illa igitur aeterna veritate, ex qua temporalia facta sunt omnia, formam secundum quam sumus, et secundum quam vel in nobis vel in corporibus vera et recta ratione aliquid operamur, visu mentis aspicimus; atque inde conceptam rerum veracem notitiam, tamquam verbum apud nos habemus, et dicendo intus gignimus; nec a nobis nascendo discedit. Cum autem ad alios loquimur, verbo intus manenti ministerium vocis adhibemus, aut alicuius signi corporalis, ut per quandam commemorationem sensibilem tale aliquid fiat etiam in animo audientis, quale de loquentis animo non recedit. Nihil itaque agimus per membra corporis in factis dictisque nostris, quibus vel approbantur vel improbantur mores hominum, quod non verbo apud nos intus edito praevenimus. Nemo enim aliquid volens facit, quod non in corde suo prius dixerit." De Trinitate, 9, 7, 12.

(6) De Trinitate, 9, 6, 9-10 introduces the imagination of things never seen: "Unde etiam phantasias rerum corporalium per corporis sensum haustas, et quodam modo infusas memoriae, ex quibus etiam ea quae non visa sunt, ficto phantasmate cogitantur, sive aliter quam sunt, sive fortuito sicuti sunt, aliis omnino regulis supra mentem nostram incommutabiliter manentibus, vel approbare apud nosmetipsos, vel improbare convincimur, cum recte aliquid approbamus aut improbamus. Nam et cum recolo Carthaginis moenia quae vidi, et cum fingo Alexandriae quae non vidi, easdemque imaginarias formas quasdam quibusdam praeferens, rationabiliter praefero. Viget et claret desuper iudicium veritatis, ac sui iuris incorruptissimis regulis firmum est; et si corporalium imaginum quasi quodam nubilo subtexitur, non tamen involvitur atque confunditur." Augustine, De Trinitate, 9, 6, 10; De trinitate, 15, 10, 17 quotes a passage from Matthew's Gospel ("Et cure vidisset Iesus cogitationes eorum, dixit: Utquid cogitatis mala in cordibus vestris?") in order to explain that thoughts are mental images.

(7) That the ontology of human being is rooted in the sensitive soul is one of the main contents of Cavalcanti's theory of love. See Ardizzone, Guido Cavalcanti, pp. 71-133.

(8) "Qui habet, inquit, sponsam, sponsus est. Et quasi diceres, Quid tu? Amicus autem, inquit, sponsi stat, et audit eum, et gaudio gaudet propter vocem sponsi." Sermo 288, 2.

(9) Guido defines love as an "accident" in his canzone Donna me prega. For a discussion about this definition see Ardizzone, Guido Cavalcanti, pp. 47-55 and 64-72.

(10) L. M. De Rijk, Logica modernorum. A Contribution to the History of Early Terministic Logic, vol. 1, Assen: Van Gorcum & Comp, N.V: Prakke & Prakke, 1962, pp. 51-54; Petrus Hispanus, Tractatus called afterwards Summulae logicales, critical edition by L. M. De Rijk, Assen: Van Gorcum, 1972, pp. 176-178.

(11) "Haec dicta sunt propter quod ait Apostolus, nunc per speculum nos vi dere. Quia vero addidit, in aenigmate; multis hoc incognitum est qui eas litteras nesciunt, in quibus est doctrina quaedam de locutionum modis, quos Graeci 'tropos' vocant, eoque graeco vocabulo etiam nos utimur pro latino. Sicut enim 'schemata' usitatius dicimus quam 'figuras', ita usitatius dicimus 'tropos' quam 'modos' " De Trinitate, 15, 9, 15.

(12) "Dicendum ergo mihi aliquid esse video et de eloquentia prophetarum, ubi per tropologiam multa obteguntur Quae quanto magis translatis verbis videntur operiri, tanto magis, cum fuerunt aperta, dulcescunt" Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, IV, VII, 15.

(13) According to Augustine the enigma is an obscure allegory: "Aenigma est obscura allegoria." I quote a fragment from De Trinitate, 15, 9, 15. "Haec dicta sunt propter quod ait Apostolus, nunc per speculum nos videre. Quia vero addidit, in aenigmate; multis hoc incognitum est qui eas litteras nesciunt, in quibus est doctrina quaedam de locutionum modis, quos Graeci 'tropos' vocant, eoque graeco vocabulo etiam nos utimur pro latino. Sicut enim 'schemata' usitatius dicimus quam 'figuras', ita usitatius dicimus 'tropos' quam 'modos'. Singulorum autem modorum sive troporum nomina, ut singula singulis referantur, difficillimum est et insolentissimum latine enuntiare. Unde quidam interpretes nostri, quod ait Apostolus: Quae sunt in allegoria, nolentes graecum vocabulum ponere, circumloquendo interpretati sunt dicentes: 'Quae sunt aliud ex alio significantia'. Huius autem tropi, id est allegoriae, plures sunt species, in quibus est etiam quod dicitur aenigma. Definitio autem ipsius nominis generalis, omnes etiam species complectatur necesse est. Ac per hoc sicut omnis equus animal est, non omne animal equus est: ita omne aenigma allegoria est, non omnis allegoria aenigma est. Quid ergo est allegoria, nisi tropus ubi ex alio aliud intellegitur."

(14) For the semantic area of "sweetness" "dolce" and "dolcezza" in Italian see now the article by M. Carruthers, "Sweetness." Speculum, A Journal of Medieval Studies 81.4 (2006): 999-1013.

(15) I. Rosier, Le Traitement speculatif des constructions figurees au treizieme siecle, in I. Rosier (ed.), L'heritage des grammairiens latins, de l'Antiquite aux Lumieres. Actes du colloque de Chantilly 2-4 septembre 1987, pp. 181-204; J. A. Trentman, Speculative Grammar and Transformational Grammar, A Comparison of Philosophical Presuppositions, in Hymes, D. ed, Studies in the History of Linguistics, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1974, pp. 279-310.
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Author:Ardizzone, Maria Luisa
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Jul 9, 2013
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