Category: | Italian

Learning More About Italian Literature

Italian literature is literature written in the Italian language, particularly within Italy. It may also refer to literature written by Italians or in Italy in other languages spoken in Italy. Literature is the mirror of society during a certain age. Therefore, entering and learning more about Italian literature plays a significant role in understanding Italian history and culture.

The first Italian vernacular literature began in the 13th century. Sonnets were said to have been written first by Sicilians. Sonnets became widely used as a form of poetry in Italy and later spread throughout Europe. The Sicilian style was dominant in the north until 1260 when Guido Guinizelli, a Bolognese poet and jurist moved from courtly love into a more mystical and philosophical topics.

Then 13th century also produced folk poetry, doctrinal poetry, imitations of the chansons de geste in various dialects, and a magnificent flowering of religious poetry. Prose works included translations from Latin and French as well as collections of tales, anecdotes and sayings.

Dante Alighieri is one of the most prominent Italian writers. Dante’s work, the Divine Comedy, was considered one of the masterpieces in literature. Dante invented the iambic tercets for his epic journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.

Dante was among those talented people who can never be silent during political turmoil. During the political factions of Florence in 1295, he became heavily involved in diplomacy on behalf of Florence’s White Faction. When the Black seized the city, Dante was sentenced to two years of exile. He failed to pay the fine and was sentenced to die in 1392. But he continued to lived for the next 19 years although he was never to return to his city.

During his years in exile, Dante started working on the Convivio which is intended to be a feast of philosophical knowledge in fifteen books. He was also set unto working on De vulgaria elequentia about the proper literary use of Italian. But these projects remained unfinished. In 1307 he started working on the Commedia.

Another known Italian writer is Petrarch. Petrarch gave hints of his love to Laura in his collection of 366 poems called Rime. Scholars have tried to identify the Laura, matching different Lauras of his time based on his poems. Other scholars said that Laura is a poetic fiction, made so that Petrarch can talk about the demand of human love, love of God, experience and purity.

Another yet important figure not only in Italian literature but also in world literature would be Boccaccio. Boccaccio is among the devoted admirers of Petrarch. His greatest work would be the Decameron. Il Filostrato is a more significant work in Boccaccio’s development. It is a poem on the love of Troilo and Criseida, it carried much more ambitious lengths than the Decameron.

The early Italian writers paved the way for the development of literary works in Italian literature. It cannot be denied that these classical works provided inspiration and encouragement to more Italians to venture into literature.

Contemporary Italian writers would include prose writers include Luigi Pirandello, who explored the shifting nature of reality in his prose fiction and such plays as Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1921) ; novelists Giovanni Verga (an exponent of verismo or Naturalism) and Cesare Pavese.

Contemporary poets would include Filippo Marinetti, Salvatore Quasimodo, Giuseppe Ungaretti and Eugenio Montale (winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Literature). Other novelists include Alberto Moravia and Umberto Eco became internationally successful with his novel Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose, 1980).

Learning world literature would always give us a glimpse of Italian literature. Learning more about Italian literature would give us a better understanding of world literature.

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