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A Lady Asks: The Gender of Vulgarization in Late Medieval Italy Author(s): Alison Cornish Source: PMLA, Vol.

115, No. 2 (Mar., 2000), pp. 166-180 Published by: Modern Language Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 13/08/2011 00:22
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Alison Cornish





in Late Vulgarization

of Medieval


ALISON CORNISH, assistant professor of Italian at the Universityof Michigan,AnnArbor, is author of Reading Dante's Stars(YaleUP,2000), on thepoetic use of astronomical learning in the Divine Comedy. This essay is part of a relatedproject on the vernacularizationof science in the thirteenthandfourteenthcenturies.

T RANSLATION of Latintexts into the vernacular was one of the essential phases in the development of modern Romance languages. Gayatri Spivak remarks that "the status of a language in the worldis what one must considerwhen teasing out the politics of translation." For her, the "wholesale cross-cultural translationfrom GraecoRoman antiquity"during the EuropeanRenaissance is not comparable with the translationof Third World texts into English "because of the sheer authorityascribed to the originals" in the earlier historical phenomenon.When nonauthoritative texts are translatedinto an authoritative language,she warnsthat "democracy changes into the law of force" texts (188-89). The violence Spivakperceivesin forcing underprivileged (especially those writtenby women) into the "old imperial languages" may appearto be the reverseof the vandalismimplicit in reclothingthe auctoritatesin the languageof the vulgus. However,althoughthe authoritative text in late medieval and early modern translation was indeed moved from the old imperiallanguage (Latin)into common speech, this translation was done for the sake of those in positionsof secularauthority. The first wave of translationsinto Europeanvernacularswas motivated lanby the very peculiarsituationthatthe prestigiousand "transcendent" had become alien or to the in class guage incomprehensible power. The rise of vernacularliteraturewas alreadyan indicationthatpower had become, so to speak, unlettered.The ocean of translations produced in Italy andFrancein the thirteenth andfourteenth centurieswas no democraticinitiativeto educatethe masses; they were intended,rather,to accommodate a linguistic handicap of the prominent and well-to-do: to bring high culture to persons in high places but not privy to clerical schools or universities-those, like women, who could read Italian or Frenchbut who could not readLatineasily or well. Because of the gap in statusbetweenthe nascentRomancelanguagesandtheirdeadparent,this transmissionof informationfrom one linguistic medium to anotherentailed the contaminationof high and low, written and oral, refined and vulgar,letteredand unlettered,clergy and laity, men and women, sacred


PMLA,vol. 115, Mar.2000. ? 2000 by The Modem LanguageAssociation of America

Alison Cornish


and profane, transcendentand quotidian-a contaminationthat often made translationthe dangerous double of heresy.1 The dominant class, for could still be whom Latintexts were vernacularized, and the courteous labeled "idiot"or "unlettered"; translator-popularizerscould be accused, as in a contemporarytale, of making whores out of "the goddesses of science"("le dee della scienza";Il novellino 89; story 78). Moreover,women were often the pretexts,if not the instigators,of translation, just as they were the presumptiveaddresseesand overwhelmingly dominantsubjectmatterof vernacular popularliterature, especially lyric poetry.The project of translation was thereforefraughtearlyon with tensionsof class andgender. Medieval translations of classical texts, having lost their original function of conveying meaning, have now become mostly historical records of linguistic evolution. Modernphilologists tend to read them for their form, not their content. In the nineteenthcentury,vulgarizationswere collected, along with otherliterarycuriosities,as preciousexamples of il buonsecolo di nostra lingua, the classic period of the Italianlanguagethatis the trecento.2 Yet from the beginningItalianveracularizationswereparticularly concerned with language itself, exhibiting what one medievalisttermed"le souci de la forme" a text into the (Monfrin189). In Francetransferring an endeavorMariede Franceand others vernacular, termedromancier,also typicallymeantreworking it into verse (Folena, Volgarizzare17; Segre, "Jean" 274). By contrast,thereare virtuallyno verse adaptations from the first period of Italian volgarizzamenti,with the possible exception of Alberto della terzarimarenditionof the meteredporPiagentina's tions of Boethius'sConsolatio.The poetryof classical antiquity, such as the Metamorphoses and the into prose (Battaglia; Aeneid,was insteadtranslated Parodi; Ovid; Folena, 49; DioVirgil; Volgarizzare nisotti 115). Indeed, it is in the developmentof vernacular prose and in the precocious translationof Latinrhetoricalworks thatItaly precedesFrancein literaryhistory.The Italianvolgarizzatorilooked to strengthenthe rhetoricaleloquence of their native tongue in their prose translationsof Cicero, Vergil, Ovid, Vegetius,ValeriusMaximus,Sallust,Orosius, and others.This acuteinterestin proseexpressionis closely relatedto the political landscapeof Italy at

the time. In those northernItaliancity-states where citizens met to harangueone anotherin assemblies, rhetoric and politics were considered one and the same (Artifoni 59; Segre, "Jean"279). The early Florentinetranslator this BrunettoLatiniarticulated Italianperspective-ironically, in French-when he declared that the science of speaking well and the science of governingpeople ("lasience de bien parler et de governer gens") together make up the "mostnoble artin the world"("plusnoble de nul art dou monde";1.1.4). The "politics of translation"in communal Italy was especially marked since the choice of dialect implicitly affirmedthe autonomyand authorityof a particular municipality. Vernacularizationswere part of a systematic reflection on the use of language thathas been said to have had neitherprecedent nor repetition,a preoccupation with eloquence that runs through preaching, songwriting, storytelling, and political speechmaking (Delcorno, "Professionisti"1). "Vulgarization," as the Italians call it, always has the effect both of giving access to restrictedknowledge and of valorizing the language of the ignorant. Volgarizzare, which describes vertical translation from an archaic and authoritative code into common parlance,refers in effect to the vulgarization of things thatwere previor reserved, secret, sacred,often in the interously est of rendering less vulgar an "illiterate"public. At the same time, such translation dignifies the "lesser" language, first by writing it and then by making it the medium of importantdiscourse.The rustic speech into which high culture is made to stoop acquiresnot only prestige but also increased agility, wealth of vocabulary,and syntactic possibilities. Alongside the prose translations was the Latin culactivity of early poets who "translated" ture into the language of vernacularsong. These poets did not directly convert Latin learning into long verse narrative,in the French manner of romancier,but ratherinfused scholasticconcepts and terminology into the popular genre of amorous lyric. In this two-way culturalexchange, "science must become popularand concrete,poetryintellectual and abstract.The remote was made accessible, and the familiardifficult"(Vossler79). Translationwas such a precocious and massive undertakingin thirteenth-and fourteenth-century


Italy A LadyAsks: TheGender of Vulgariationin Late Medieval

Italy, exactly contemporarywith the establishment of a poetic tradition(which was belated) and an authatCesareSegre describesit thoritative vernacular, as a "mentality"at the origin of Italian literature. Segre notes thatsome of the earliestprose compositions look like translations, even if they have no Latinmodels.3CarloDionisotti arguesthatthe habit of translation conditionedthe entireliteraryproduction of the first half of the trecento(115). He takes the predominance of prose and the "intentional" mediocrityof the poetry as evidence that what was really at stake in all vernacularworks, especially was language,not content.The mentaltranslations, of ity vulgarization is thus an explanation for the bad didactic poetry of the trecento. Yet, as I will argue, translationalso underlies the most original and celebratedpoetryof the centurybefore. were famouslydivorcedin Poetryand translation the twentieth century by the great Neapolitan philosopher Benedetto Croce, who softened his first pronouncement,in the Estetica (80), of the impossibility of all translation(a declarationthat has, of course, been translatedinto many languages [Lepschy 446]) into an assertionof the impossibility of translating poetry (La poesia 100). It was also Croce who dismissed a large category of poetry, known as "didactic," that shares the illustrioustrecento with Dante, Petrarch,and Boccaccio, calling it versified doctrine-in other words, volgarizzamento (Poesia popolare 114). In these two judg-

ments,wrestedfrom theirseparatecontexts,thereis some coherence. Poetry cannot be translated,and verse renditionsof prose culture cannot be poetry. Yet if the mentalityof translation was as pervasive, and as has been claimed, it may ingrained, prior also show through some of the best lyric production of the duecento. In particular,the naturalscience of antiquity,which was rarelytaken on by the volgarizzatori,found vernacular expressiononly in Like those lyric. prose compositions thatresemble translations of some nonexistentLatin source,early Italian poetry at times poses as a transmission, in vernacular verse, of scholasticculture.The purpose of such a contaminationis not necessarily just the pompous display of a little learning, as some hostile critics charged even at the time, but perhaps also the valorizationof this new language and this new popularart form. The books of the clerics, the

discourseof the schools, and the arguments of laware made to that and talk that talk. sing song yers Italian poetic tradition begins in a context of translation.In general,the birthof Italianliterature in Sicily has been describedas the provincialapplication of Provencal models, and it includes direct translations-the first such poetic translations in Europe-such as Iacopo Mostacci's "Umile core e fino e amoroso"("Humble,refined, and enamored The firstcompositiontranscribed in the most heart"). document of this earlyliteraryhistory,the important Vaticanmanuscript of Folquet 3793, is a translation de Marseille's"Avos, midonz, voill retrair'en cantan"("Toyou, my lady,I wantto describein song"). Withits firstword,Giacomoda Lentini's"Madonna, dir vo voglio"("Madonna, I wantto tell you")opens this collection with the unmistakable subject and pretextof the lyric genre:the lady.The genreof love song thatdevelopedin Provence,originallyby minstrels for musical performancein a court setting, is one of the most influentialinventionsof the Middle Ages and the majorvernacularliteraryinnovation thatdoes not descendfromancientmodels.Yetwhat the Sicilians reintroduce to the formthey areimitatis or culture. The translationsof ing Latin, written, indicate that the Sicilians used Provengaloriginals so that for them that transcriptions, poetry was aldivorced from music and ready orality to become writtenartifact.Right from the startof "Madonna, dir vo voglio,"despitehis overallfidelityto the orignot as singing inal,Giacomodescribeshis enterprise in the but as (as Provencal cantan) saying (dir), a termthat,togetherwith the brevityandclarityof the Italianversion,connectshis text with styles of Latin prose composition and argumentation,the "artof saying"(ars dictandi or ars dictaminis),which was mostly an art of letter writing, developing at the same time and place (Picone). Also added to the southernFrench fashion was a lexicon of learned, scientific, and philosophical allusion stemming fromcontemporary Latincompositionson scientific topics (hygiene, hunting, falconry, diseases of horses, mathematics,astrology,propertiesof stones andof the fourelements),derivedin turnfromprojects of translating Greek and Arab sources into Latin also fostered at FrederickII's court.All these poets are assumed to have been operating in this bilingualenvironment, especially since the ones we

Alison Cornish


know of beartitles like notary(Pierdella Vigna and Giacomo da Lentini,"il Notaro"), protonotary(Stefano Protonotaro), orjudge (Guidodelle Colonne).4 Not only is the poetryinfluencedby a parallelactivit is in its own righta translation of ity of translation, concepts,imagery,andterminologytakenfromdoctrinaltexts recentlymadeavailableto Latinreaders. While the levels of influence can be furthersubdivided and nuanced, it is perhaps not too gross a simplification to say that the Provengal lyric minstrelgenreturnsin the Sicilian transplant towardthe writtenand the learned.The new poetry vulgarizes Latin prose thought, of ancient and recent stamp, not just by restating it in the vernacularlanguage andthe vernacular verse formsbut also by makingit partof the vernacular subjectmatterparexcellence: the lyric discourseof love. The Sicilian translations of Latin cultureinto vernacularsong, as I am characterizingthem, come down to us, moreover,as indeed they did to the firsttheoristof Italianliterature, Dante, in Tuscanized versions, like the canzoniere in theVaticanmanuscript. This absorption preserved of Latin-or, more specifically, written-culture into popularsong is also one of the elements of Sicilian poetry that is taken up again in the north in the poetic production that scholars identify with Dante's label dolce stil novo. Guido Guinizelli, whom Dante will embrace as poetic father in his Purgatorio, was attackedfor "bring[ing]out songs cansonper forsadi scritby force of writing"("trare tura"),or composing a canzone with materialtaken from the writtenauthoritiesstudiedat the university of Bologna, Guinizelli's home town. In the sonnet "Voi,ch'avete mutatala mainera"("Youwho have changed the manner"),Bonagiunta da Lucca accuses Guinizelli of having changed the mannerof the "pleasing sayings of love" ("plagenti ditti de l'amore") in an effort to outdo all other "troubadours"("peravansareogn'altro trovatore"). The result is speech so obscure that no commentatorcan be found to explain it ("e non si puo trovarchi ben and it ispogna, / cotant'e iscura,vostraparlatura"), comes from inappropriately combiningthe wisdom of the schools with the mannerof love songs: Andit's considered evenif the highlyinappropriate, comesfromBologna,to bringout songsby learning forceof writing.

ed e tenuta grandissimigliansa ancor che '1sennovegnadaBologna, trare canson 94) perforsadi scrittura. (Marti will in effect haveto eat his wordson the Bonagiunta terraceof gluttony,where Dante imagines the elder poet learninga lesson fromhimself aboutpoetry: "Ohbrother, now I see,"he said,"theknotthatkept me andthe Notary[Giacomo da Lentini]andGuittone [d'Arezzo] fromachieving the sweetnew style thatI hear!" <<O issavegg'io>diss'elli, <<il nodo frate, che'lNotaro e Guittone e me ritenne di quadaldolcestilnovoch'i' odo!>

WhateverBonagiuntameans by this knot or impediment (for some recent solutions see Pertile; Martinez),the exchange with Dante in Purgatorio 24 recallsothertenzoni,or lyric debates,on the subject of how to write poetry.GuidoCavalcanti,Dante's "firstfriend," mockedGuittoned'Arezzo for his in ineptitude constructing syllogisms with major and minor premises ("Da piu a uno face un sollegismo: / in maggiore e minor mezzo si pone") "on syllabled paper"("per silabate carte"), implying that scholastic argumentation indeed has a place in but that poetic composition philosophicalincompetence ("difettodi saver")leads inevitablyto bad poetry ("barberismo";Contini 2: 557). Cavalcanti himself was reprovedat varioustimes for the philosophical content of his poems, what the Bolognese Onesto Onesti would call "il vostrogir filosofando" (Favati 106). To the chargeof "excessive subtlety" ("troppasottiglianza")put forthby anotherFlorentine Guido (Orlandi; 126), Cavalcanti writes a scathing and sarcastic response, which he calls a waste of rhymes, syllables, and sonnet ("Di vil materami conven parlare / [e] perderrime, silabe e soTo the base material netto"). proposed by Orlandi, Cavalcanti opposes the ever-worthy teaching of love, which is both subtle and plain, learned and clear:"itcannotpass throughyourmind,/ thatplace wherelove teaches, subtleandplain,/ how to tell of his mannerand his state"("nonp6 venireper la vostramente / la dove insegna Amor, sottile e piano / di sua maneradire e di su' stato";Favati83-84).


in Late Medieval A LadyA4sks:TheGender Itay of VTulgarication

Cavalcanti's disdain for Orlandi's "vile" subject matter has called into question the traditional view that Orlandi proposed the theme of the most talkedabout Italian canzone of all time, on which Cavalcanti's reputation for being a great philosopher rests, "Donna me prega." Orlandi's sonnet "Onde si move, e donde nasce amore?" ("Whence is love moved, and whence is it born?"; 137-38) proposes a series of questions about love that "Donna me prega" for the most part answers. Cavalcanti sets out in the first stanza the various points to be addressed: Donna me prega,- per ch'eo voglio dire d'un accidente-che sovente fero ed e si altero- ch'e chiamatoamore: si chi lo nega-possa '1ver sentire! Ed a presente- conoscente- chero, perch' io no spero- ch'om di basso core a tal ragioneporticanoscenza: che senza- naturaldimostramento non ho talento- di voler provare la dove posa, e chi lo fa creare, e qual sia sua vertutee sua potenza, 1'essenza- poi e ciascun suo movimento, e '1piacimento- che '1fa dire amare, e s'omo per veder lo p6 mostrare. (Contini2: 522-24) In 1940 Otto Bird, who studied the Latin commentary on this poem by the Florentine physician Dino del Garbo, made the following translation in an effort to render the version "Dino would make if he were speaking English": A lady asks me thatI would tell of an accidentwhich is often fierce and is so greatthatit is called love; so thatif anyone denies it, let him hearthe truth. And for the presentI seek men of understanding, for I do not hope thatone of base heart could bringunderstanding to such reasons; for withoutnaturaldemonstration I have no desire to try to prove where it is posited and who makes it created, and what its virtueis and its power, its essence and its every movement, the pleasingnesswhich makes it called loving, and whetherone can show it by sight. (157) As is evident from its first word, "Donna me prega" at least pretends to be a response to a

woman, not to any Guido: "A lady asks me, so that I want to tell." One of the first perplexities presented by this most arduous and arcane composition has to do with its term of address, which may seem to be its simplest moment, recalling in fact the flagship poem of the Vatican manuscript, Giacomo da Lentini's "Madonna, dir vo voglio." The address to a lady would seem to ignore or insult any male interlocutor who might have proposed the question it resolves to answer. Even if a lady asked one Guido to ask the other Guido (Pasquini 700), the response still taxes verisimilitude, since, as scholars have pointed out, no woman of the time, however exalted in her lover's imagination, would be in a position to understand such an answer to her query. "Donna me prega" is a startling and fascinating use of technical terms and concepts from the latest currents of academic debate. It assumes principles of Ptolemaic astrology and Aristotelian psychology as filtered through Latin translations of Arab translations and commentaries and may even sustain Averroes's condemned doctrine of the "possible intellect," thereby denying the immortality of the individual soul (Nardi, "Filosofia" and "L'averroismo"). Virtually on the basis of this one lyric composition, the Florentine gentleman procured for himself a lasting, even legendary, reputation as a first-rate but haughty logician and natural philosopher-"ottimo loico e buon filosofo," as Boccaccio would put it in his commentary on the Inferno (526). Cavalcanti's arrogant intellectual superiority also provided entertaining subject matter for the ninth story of the sixth day of the Decameron. Given such cerebral prowess, Maria Corti concludes that the donna invoked in his most famous poem could only be an unreal woman, a personification, perhaps Lady Philosophy (17), whom Dante would name as his own beloved after the death of Beatrice. If the novelty of Cavalcanti's poem is not, however, in his philosophy (which is secondhand) but in the synthesis of philosophy and vernacular lyric, the lady might signal the lyric context into which the philosophy is going to be translated (Savona 5). As Sylvia Huot points out in From Song to Book, a dedication to a lady marks even long narrative poems full of scholastic learning, such as the Romance of the Rose, with the quality of lyric (2).

Alison Cornish


"Donna me prega"presents one of the most interesting moments in the complex relations between Latin and vernacularculture in the second half of the thirteenthcentury.Whereasveracularization usually implies an effort to make learning, to a wideraudiwalled in by Latin,comprehensible ence, Cavalcanti's poem is explicitly aimed at an elite. The difficultyof the composition,as well perof unworthyreaders, haps as the poet's proscription compelled Dino del Garboto explain in plain Latin what was going on in this arcanevernacularsong. Describedby the chroniclerGiovanniVillani as the "best doctor in Italy" ("il migliore e sovrano medico che fosse in Italia";11.42), Dino acts as a kind of interpreter for the learned, Latin culture of which he is a part. His commentary was subsequently vulgarized into Florentineby a certainJacopo Mangiatroia, for the usual reason that more readersin Florence might understandit better.Dino's commentary,which identifiesitself as a scripturnin contrast to the cantilena that it expounds, honors the vernacularpoem by deeming it worthy of gloss. It is a commentary,like many, that is reas if the cultureof vernacular ally a translation, poto the cultureof etry had become incomprehensible Latin literacy. Like most commentariesand translations, it tries to rescue the content from the forbidding container of unfamiliar language. In this poem, ironically, the difficult concepts articulated in Italianare derivedfrom Latin sources,so thatthe commentary in one sense laboriously retranslates the poem's matterback into originalform. Like the Latin commentarieson Dante's Commedia,which were presumablyaimed at an audience whose linguistic skill gave them direct access to the learning digested in the poetry and expounded in the gloss, Dino's gloss intends less to render hard concepts comprehensiblethan to make an ambitiousproject in the vernacularacceptable to the Latin-reading world. The commentaryis, moreover,written in a more nearly universal language that would make the poem betterknown and understoodbeyond the local context,by those whom Dante called "litterati fuori di lingua italica"(Convivio 1.9.2), by lay and cleric, professorand merchant-but not by the catwomen. egory of personto whom it is addressed: Dino del Garbo was the first to say that the donna is an indicationof the poem's subject,an an-

nouncement that the text will be about love-in particular,heterosexual love, not the other kind. Using the Aristotelian language of causality, dear to commentatorswanting to account for the origin and authorityof a work, he declaresthat the song's "efficient"cause (causa movens) is not the author but the woman, or ratherlady, who asked him: The author,wantingto determine the questionof love's passion,firstsets downthe causethatmoved himto treat of love.Thisefficient causeis thewoman or ladywho askedhim.Therearetworeasons thisis attributed to a womanor a lady:the firstis thatthis kind of passion,which is love, aboutwhich he is speaking,usuallyconcernsa woman.And even if sometimesit concernsa man,it is moreraresince suchloveis bestialandthusagainst nature. Therefore, hereit is onlygoingto be about a woman. Uolensigiturauctor determinare de passione amoris, causam mouentem de premictit ipsumadtractandum amore.Causaautemmouensad hoc est muliervel Causaquareistudattridomina,queipsumrogauit. buiturmulierivel dominefuit duplex:unaest quia ut huius[modi] passio,queest amorde quoloquitur, circamulierem versatur; et, licetaliquando plurimum versetur (sed raro,cumsit talisamor ergamasculum bestialiset ideo preter ideo solumhic pronaturam), circa mulierem. (359) ponit Insistenceon the naturalness of the love treatedhere is perhapsmoregenericallythanmorallymotivated. The poem is going to be a physical, virtuallymedical, analysis of a naturalphenomenon, using the arguments of natural science: "naturaldimostramento."In the volgarizzamento of this commentary, the shadow of homosexuality disappears, as the translator convertsDino's point aboutthe two kinds of love, for women and for men, into the different propensitiesof men and women to love. In Mangiatroia'sversion,the firstreasonthe womanis cited as cause is "becauseit happensmore often to women, and even if men sometimes have this passion, it is rare" ("lepiu volte avvienealle femmine:e avvegnache gli uomini alcunavolta abbinoquestapassione, Shaw 102;Mangiatroia egli e raro"; 74). Thereis no mentionof anythingbestialor contrary to nature. Dino's second reason for the donna is pseudohistorical: the authorwas strongly troubled at the time by this passion for some woman,and therefore


A LadyAsks: TheGender in LateMedieval Italy of Vulgarimation

to praise her he puts her in as the cause ("secunda causa fuit quod forte hic auctor vexabatur tune passione ista circa aliquam mulierem et ideo, ut ei applauderet, proponit hanc causam circa mulierem"; 359). In other words, the author compliments his beloved by positing her as the author of the work. For medieval commentators, the efficient cause of a text is almost always its author, the "moving force which brought something from potentiality into actual being" (Minnis 28). As Alistair Minnis has shown, the efficient cause was often doubled in the exposition of a work of Scripture since the Holy Spirit was supposed to be the real author, but human beings wrote the books (78-79). In a commentary ascribed to Albert the Great, for example, Isaiah becomes the "operating" cause, while the causa movens is the Holy Spirit, "which moved Isaiah that he should write. The Holy Spirit itself did not write" (qtd. in Minnis 79). The worthiness of the poem's moving cause, according to Dino, is expressed in the choice of the term domina rather than mulier. She is a lady, not just a woman. The title indicates maturity, intelligence, virtue, and noble extraction: And note thathe says, significantly, donnato show that this requestis a just one, which mustbe satisfiedif possible.Withthis wordhe shows thatthe requestis just by reason of the person who asks; for a request is just by reasonof the personrequesting whenthatpersonknows whathe or she is askingandwhen thepersonrequesting is a worthy person. The name donna is attributedto a woman when she already has perfect understanding, and thereforethe name donna is not used for a woman who is still in a childish state andwhose understanding is not perfect. Moreover,this termis used for a worthy woman; for that name is applied to an honest woman since a prostitute is not called donna. Above all, this nameis used for a womanwho is the daughterof some family of no meanbirth,whence she has worthinessbecause of her virtueandbecauseof whose child she is. Et nota quod significanterdixit Donna, ut ostenderet quod ista petitio est iusta cui debet satisfacere,cum esset potens in satisfaciendo.In hoc enim verboostenditur quod petitio est iusta ratione illius qui petit: nam tunc est petitio iusta cui satisfieri debet ratione illius qui petit, quandopetens cognoscit illud quod petit et quandoqui petit est personadigna.Non autemhoc nomen donna attribuitur mulieri cum iam habeatcogni-

tionemperfectam,quoniammulierique est in etatepuerili, in qua cognitio non est perfecta, non attribuitur hoc nomen donna. Iterum, etiam attribuiturmulieri digne; nam illud nomen attribuiturmulieri honeste: non diciturdonna.Et maxime mu[lier]enim meretricia attribuiturhoc nomen mulieri que est proles alcuius familie,que non est animoviliternata:undedignitatem habetex honestateet ex prolegenerationis sue. (360) The double register Dino is at pains to maintain (the lyric explained in terms of the scholastic) is most evident in his remarks about the lady. On the one hand, according to the norms of extravagant praise in amorous lyric, the poem exalts her even to the point of attribution. She, not the poet, is the efficient cause of the poem. She is a lady, whose requests are honorable and demand satisfaction. On the other hand, she is a woman, asking to be taught, and he is the master, able to teach her:5 But note thatalthoughthe cause thatmoved him to attempt this on the subject of love was a woman, or lady, whom he liked a lot, nonetheless he did not say thatthis woman commandedhim, but he said that she asked him, in order to show that he will treat these things not as one suffering from the passion of love. Because someone who is really suffering in this way thinks he must carryout whateverhis beloved wants, so that whatever the lady he loves says to him is a command,like those issued by a lord to his servant. Sed advertequod licet causa propterquam motus fuit ad tentandum hoc circa amorem fuerit mulier vel domina quam forte dilexerat, tamen non dixit quod haec domina sibi praeciperet,sed dixit quod rogavit eum, ut ostenderet ea quae tractat hic non dicet in quantumpassionatus tali passione amoris. Nam qui hoc modo passionatus est cogitur ad exequendumea quae vult res quamamat;unde et hoc modo illud quod ei dicit domina quam amat est ei praeceptum sicut dictumdomini servo. (359) To talk about love on this level, according to Dino, one cannot be in its throes. Yet according to the doctrine of the "gentle heart," it is precisely love that gives understanding. Cavalcanti's exclamation "si chi lo nega possa '1 ver sentire!" can be translated either as a call for the ignorant to open their ears ("so that if anyone denies it, let him hear the truth!") or as a connection of truth to experience: "Would

Alison Cornish


that he who denies that were able to feel its truth!" (Nelson 39). This interpretation is supported by Cavalcanti's subsequent remark that his discourse seeks not persons of "base heart," who, in other words, do not love, but those who know. Love, as the canzone confirms later on, is to be found mostly among persons of worth ("che 'n gente di valor lo piu si trova"). They are, presumably, the ones identified as having "understanding," among whom the canzone is sent to circulate in the author's congedo: You, song, can safely go Whereyou like, for I have so embellishedyou Thatyour argumentwill be greatlypraised By those personswho have understanding: You have no desire to be with others. (Nelson 41) Tu puoi sicuramentegir, canzone, 1a've ti piace, ch'io t'ho si adomata ch'assai laudata- saratua ragione da le persone- c'hanno intendimento: di starcon l'altre tu non hai talento. (Contini2: 527, 529) The identification of gentility not with wealth and feudal right but with a refined capacity for love is one of the distinguishing features of the dolce stil novo. In trying to bring the text back from the amorous scenario to the context of the schools, Dino turns the master-servant dialectic right around to the "natural" order between teacher and student, man and woman: But these things thathe will say will be discussed in a scientific mannerand truthfultreatmentaccording to the precepts of natural and moral science. In such things, however,which one person says to another,the one who says them takes the place of the teacher,since thatperson is in the know, while the one who receives those things that are said takes the place of the disciple, since that person is ignorantand is learning.And therefore just as the teachertakes firstplace, so too the author wanted to show that he takes the lead role of teacherin this subjectmatter.Justas the word of a servant to a lord should be not a commandbut a request (the servantmust not commandthe lord but ask him), in the same way for this reasonhe did not say, "A lady commandsme,"but he said, "A lady asks me." Sed illa qua dicet referet scientifico modo et veridico, tractoex preceptisscientie naturaliset moralis.In tali-

bus autemque sic dicunturab aliquo, ille qui dicit optinet locum magistricum sit sciens; qui vero recipitea que dicunturoptinetlocum discipuli, cum sit ignorans et addiscens. Et ideo, sicut magister optinet locum principatus, ita in hac materia voluit se ostendere quantumsit in hoc optinerelocum principantiset magistri; et ideo, sicut subditi verbumad dominum non debet esse cum precepto sed cum rogamine (subditus enim non debet precipe[re] domino sed rogare), sic iste, propterhanc causam,vertensse ad istam intentionem, non dixit Donna mi comanda, sed dixit Donna mi priega. (359) It is science that issues commands here, since the same word is used for the precepts of science ("ex preceptis scientie") and for the commands that servants, ladies, and students should not utter ("non [.. .] cum precepto sed cum rogamine [...] non [. . .] precipe[re] domino sed rogare"). The scientific mode, as opposed to the amorous one, renders the haughty beloved ignorant and eager to learn, a pupil hoping to be taught. Dino's commentary associates itself with the world of Latin that, Dante will say, is "lord over the vernacular" ("lo latino e sovrano del volgare"). Because a commentary should serve and obey the text it comments, Dante says, a Latin commentary on a vernacular text (like Dino's) is a perversion of the order of command that Dino here insists on ("Comandare lo subietto a lo sovrano procede da ordine perverso-che ordine diritto e lo sovrano a lo subietto comandare"; Convivio 1.7.4-5). We might with reason suspect that all this supposed talk to women, even in the context of the dolce stil novo, is really to impress other men, and then only an elite among them. A "man of base heart" ("om di basso core") can hardly be hoped to understand the reasoning and natural demonstration carried out in the poem. Cino da Pistoia, who eventually replaces Cavalcanti as Dante's named friend, would later reprove Cavalcanti's disdainful elitism by modestly describing himself as "low-witted" in deliberately similar terms ("un om cotal di basso ingegno"; Favati 91). Yet whereas the word meaning "man" in Cavalcanti's canzone refers to the excluded public, the adjective describing the target audience (conoscente) is of indeterminate gender and presumably would not preclude the lady to whom the poem is addressed. At least on the level of pretense, the notion of a knowledgeable woman able to understand


A Ladj Asks: TheGender Italy of Vulgariationin Late Medieval

much,even morethanthe poet, was not alien to lyric convention. That old southern poet Giacomino Pugliese recalls after the death of his lady that her qualities included her teaching, knowledge, and handsomespeech,as well as herbeauty,eyes, mouth, good looks, fancy clothes, andmanners: e lo suoinsegnamento, Ov'emadonna la suabellezza e la grancanoscianza, lo dolzerisoe lo bel parlamento, gli occhie la boccae la bellasembianza, - e cortesia? e lo suoadoramento 1: 147) (Contini Dante himself addressed "ladies who have understandingof love" in the watershed canzone of his first little book of poetry, the Vita nuova, in which Cavalcanti is repeatedly named his "first friend." The poem, "Donne ch'avete intelletto d'amore," marks a shift in the anthology from verses lamentingthe poet's sufferingto a poetry of praise, a change broughtaboutby a groupof ladies who shame the young lover with their criticism. It is also the composition that Dante will have Bonagiuntada Lucca quote as a signatureverse not only of Dante'spoetrybut also of all the sweet new style thatBonagiuntaand others (Guittoneand Giacomo da Lentini) never attained. In the prose commentary on the origin of "Donne ch'avete" in the Vita nuova, Dantejustifies his addressto ladies, as does Dino del Garboin his commentaryon Cavalcanti's poem, on the basis of theirgentility:"I thoughtthat it would not be appropriateto speak of her except by addressingladies in the second person, and not just any lady but only those who are gentle and are not just women" ("pensai che parlaredi lei non si convenia che io facesse, se io non parlassea donne in seconda persona, e non ad ogni donna, ma solamente a coloro che sono gentili e che non sono pure femmine"; 19.1-2). The success of this canzone afterit is circulated("divolgatatrale genti")moves a friend(perhapsCavalcanti)to ask Dante the same question (what is love?) with the same verb (pregare) as in Cavalcanti'spoem (20.1). Recently this passage has been used as evidence that "Donname prega" is the older poet's polemical critique of Dante's ethereal vision of love (Malato 22-44). The sonnet producedin response to the requestre-

corded in the Vitanuova is "Amoree '1 cor gentil sono una cosa" ("Love and the gentle heartare one and the same";Vitanuova 20.3). In the second line of this sonnet ("si come il saggio in suo dittare pone"),Dante cites his allegianceto the doctrineof the gentle heartpronounced by thatBolognese sage Guido Guinizelli in the famous canzone "Al cor gentil rempairasempre amore"("Love always repairs to the gentle heart"; Contini 2: 460-64). These are defining compositions in Dante's youthful poetic autobiography thatbring up questionsof literarypatrilineage,yet the compositionof his poetry as well as its circulation is closely associated with the audienceof women. "Youwill go talkinga lot among the ladies,"Dante says in the congedo to his canzone addressed to the Florentine women, speakingto the poem ("Canzone,io so che tu girai parlando/ a donne assai"; Vita nuova 19.57-58). Moreover,an addressto ladies is not just the occasion for this poetic piece but also the founding cause for the whole genre. Dante claims that the origins of his art("diresi come poeta volgare")can be soughtin the desireof a man to say somethingto a woman ("si mosse pero che volle fare intenderele sue parole a donna")who had troubleunderstanding Latin ("la quale era malagevole d'intendere li versi latini";Vitanuova 25.6-7). For this supposed historical reason, he declares in this early work, with a purismhe will laterabandon,thatone should not write vernacular poetry on any othertopic than love, for which this mode of speech was invented. "Donname prega"is evidence thatputtingLatin thought into the vernacular does not necessarily make things easier-for women or for anyone else. Vulgarizationis not always a divulgative project. Even Brunetto Latini, whom the chronicler Giovanni Villani called the first to "devulgarize"the uncouth newly rich Florentines ("cominciatore e maestro in digrossare i Fiorentini, e farli scorti in bene parlare,e in sapereguidaree reggerela nostra repubblicasecondo la politica";9.10), shows some ambivalence.He admonishesthe wise addresseeof his popularizing, encyclopedic poem in rhyming septets, Il tesoretto, to be "avaricious"with this text so that it does not come into the wrong hands ("che ne siate avaro"; Contini 2: 178-79). This jealous text could be contrastedwith the prefaceby IacopoAlighieri, Dante's son, to his rhymingency-

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clopedia, II dottrinale, which while imitating Latini's style is openly divulgativein its purpose: So thatit will be clearforeverynation of Italian location,nearandfar,I will tell verseby versethe nature of theuniverse. Accibche siapalese paese perciaschedun del sitoitaliano, dapresso e dalontano, l'esserdell'universo, dirba versoa verso.


In the earlyfortuna of Cavalcanti's philosophical poem, the pendulum also swings between secrecy and exposure. Cavalcanticlaims he wants to limit his audience at the same time thathe respondsgallantly to a lady's request;Dino's commentaryis for the literatecrowd, not ladies; Mangiatroia'svolgarizzamento is for the "unlettered"reading public, who would also like to know what in the world that poem means. That some of this audience would have been female is perfectly plausible. After all, the incomprehensible poem seems to be addressedto one of them. Dante,who also went on to compose difficult canzones with philosophical content, supplied his own vernacularcommentary on them as a kind of digest of philosophy for busy readers deprived of perfection of the soul (wisdom) because of family and public responsibilities ("la cura familiare e civile"; Convivio1.1.1-4). A primary justificationfor the text's being writtenin the vernacular is thatthis audience includes women: "The vernacular will
truly be of service to many [. . .] and these noble

persons are princes, barons, knights, and a lot of other noble folk, not just men but also women, many of whom (both male and female) are 'vulgar' and not literate" ("lo volgare servira veramente a
molti [...] e questi nobili sono principi, baroni,

cavalieri, e molt'altranobile gente, non solamente maschi ma femmine, che sono molti e molte in questa lingua, volgari e non litterati"; 1.9.5). The aim of vernacularizations in generalcan sometimes be describedas democratic,especially in republican Italiantowns where the new urbanclass involvedin commerceand governmentdemandedsome kind of

intermediate education.Danteprefersto call his use of the vernacular in the sense of generous "liberal," liberalitademi mosse al volgareanzi che a ("pronta lo latino"; 1.9.11). And his naming of princes, barons, knights, and other noble folk, masculine and feminine,as his intendedaudienceis decidedlyantirepublican.In the constraintsof the terminologyof the age, these members of the nobility who do not know Latinhave to be definedas volgari andilliterate. Dante disdains to call literate even those who learnto readLatinif they do so for the sake of gaining money or prestige ratherthan learning. At the same time, he says that the majority of those who have seeds of "true" nobility and are most likely to find his treatiseuseful are volgari in the strictlysocial sense that the princes, barons,knights, and ladies mentioned above are noble, even if illiterate ("Questa sentenza non possono non avere in uso quelli ne li quali vera nobilita e seminata per lo modo che si dira nel quartotrattato;e questi sono quasi tuttivolgari, si come sono quelli nobili che di sopra, in questo capitolo, sono nominati"; 1.9.8). As for his own relative nobility or vulgarity, he of the merely says he is a refugee from the "pasture vulgus"("fuggitode la pasturadel vulgo"; 1.1.9). The Conviviois obsessed with nobility,the redefinition of which constitutes virtually the whole of the fourthand final book, where Dante pretendsto take on the emperorby refuting FrederickII's alleged claim thatnobilityis based on lineage and ancient wealth (Ascoli 55). Nobility is instead the friend,Dante says, of philosophy(Convivio4.30.6). Since the purposeof the Conviviois to educate the unlettered,to inculcate knowledge and virtue ("inducereli uomini a scienza e a vertu"),and to put its readerson friendlytermswith philosophy,it aims in a sense to create a new nobility (1.9.7). Thatis, the "noble folk" indicated as his intended audience in the introductory passage can only attaintruenobility throughbecomingthe audienceof such a book. In the Conviviothe usefulness of the vernacular to these noble but vulgar and illiterate individuals is presentedas partof an apology for the lesser language. In anothertreatise, devoted to the question of how the vernacular can be made eloquent,Dante seems to contradict himself by simply notoriously Latin-that the mother asserting-in tongue is nobler ("nobilior est vulgaris"), in part because it is


in Late Medieval A LadyAsks: TheGender Italy of VulTgariation

naturalto everybody and requiresno special training (De vulgari eloquentia 1.1.4). The oxymoron

of noble vulgarity and vulgar nobility has become axiomatic. In this treatise the volgare is defined in terms of women and children;it is the speech that infantslearn from those who take care of them, the one we acquire without rules by imitating our nurses ("vulgaremlocutionemappellamuseam qua infantes assuefiunt ab assistentibus cum primitus distinguere voces incipiunt; vel, quod brevius dici potest, vulgarem locutionem asserimus quam sine omni regula nutricem imitantes accipimus"). The artof vulgareloquence, Dante says, is necessaryto everyone, and men, women, and even children aspire to it insofar as nature permits ("cum ad eam non tantumviri sed etiam muliereset parvulinitantur"; 1.1.1-2). The Commedia is of course the supreme demonstration of the vernacular's elofulfills the promise of the quence, and it apparently Vita nuova, which ends with Dante ceasing to speak of Beatriceuntil he can say of her thatwhich has never been said of any other woman. On one level the Commedia vulgarizes in encyclopedic fashion the science and theology of its day. On another it suggests that the modern lyric genre can not just containbut also surpassLatinculture.Beatrice takes over from Vergilin the end. Dante was criticized for having written such a workin the vulgartongue,the speechof the street.In a learnedtenzonecarriedout not in rhymingsonnets but in pseudoclassical Latineclogues, a contemporaryclassicist, who called himself Giovannidel Virgilio, accused Dante of throwing his pearls before swine, bringingthe ignorant("gens ydiota")before the gates of hell andinto the secretsof heavenwhile leaving the learned("clerus"), pale from study("nos pallentes"), who disdain popular song ("carmine [.. .] laico"),withouta poet of theirtimes (654-56). In his response Dante portraysthe accusation as a criticism of his choice of humble words ("comica verba") that resound tritely on the lips of women (not ladies): "tumquia femineo resonantut tritalabello" (Le egloghe 44). A later and more famous classicist, Francesco Petrarca,would also claim to pity (not envy) thatpoet of his father's generation, whose writings are lacerated and corruptedby the horrendous pronunciation of "idiots" (the unlettered) in tavernsand squares-the worst injuryany

poet could suffer("quidin hoc nostrointerydiotasin taberniset in foro posse putasaccidere?[... E]t qua nulla poete presertim gravior iniuria, scripta eius lacerantatquecorrumpunt"; 21.15). pronuntiando Petrarch'srefusal to write prose in the vernacular (even as he polished the most copied collection of vernacular lyric verse ever written)changed,for a while, the course of literary history by reviving Latin literacy, marginalizing vernacularizations, and fostering what Croce termed the "century withoutpoetry"("secolo senza poesia";Poesia popolare 209). Under the influence of Petrarch,Boccaccio abandoned his early career as a translator and writer of wildly popular vernacular prose works, most notably the Decameron, which professes explicitly to be a consolationto women (and implicitly to be their seducer-a Galeotto). Petrarch'sonly translationwork that we know is his Latin renditionof the final tale of the Decameron, the sole part of that vulgar work for which he seemed to find any use. Even before a modern monarch, he insisted on delivering an oration in Latin, feigning ignoranceof the Gallic tongue and reminding the king (should the king's Latin have been good enough for him to comprehend the remark) that the Roman emperorswere accustomed to hearing everything in Latin-which was, however, their native tongue (Godi; Dionisotti 119). It would be a further irony that this great promoter and imitatorof Latin cultureand professed enemy of the vernacularwould in the end wield his most pervasiveand longest-lastinginfluencethroughhis so-called scatteredfragmentsof vernacularsongs and sonnets.To returnto the theme of the feminine natureof the vernacular,it was throughthe example of the Canzoniere, endlessly imitable, that women poets would make their first mass appearance on the European literary scene, in the sixteenth century. Petrarch's crystallization of the genre, invented in Provence and filtered through the boot of Italy from toe to thigh, a genre that always claimed to be for and about women, made it ultimately the genre chosen by women when they became fashionable poets in their own right. Perhaps more has been writtenaboutthe "subversion" of Petrarchan conventionby women poets-and by whose any poet originality anyone wants to defend-than aboutthe conducivenessof the genre to

Alison Cornish


all kinds of poets and poetasters,men and women, with access to a pen or printingpress.6 Vernacularizationis inescapably feminine because it makes high culture accessible to and imitable by women on a larger scale. Women already played a role in the production as well as the conby soliciting workfrom men. sumptionof literature Joan Ferrantethinks that texts composed at the request of a woman shouldbe considereda collaboration between patron and artist (39). Examples of such coauthorship go at least as far back as Jerome, who claimed he was grateful to women for posing difficult questions (Ferrante49). In the period of vulgarizations, a great deal of religious literature was producedat the requestor on behalf of women, because of theirbeing cut off fromLatin.CarloDelcorno has noted the importanceof early-fourteenthcentury women copyists in preserving the first vernacularsermons ever written down, in some of which the Dominican preacher Giordano da Pisa acknowledges his women hearersand even recommends "little books" for them to read (Delcorno, Giordano80; Giordano310). In examiningthis sort of collaborative,solicited, or spontaneouslyoffered literature for women's consumption,KatherineGill calls special attention to volgarizzazione, which, she says, is the "mostprofoundlydetermined by interactionsbetween translators and their audiences" (64). In the avalancheof Europeanvulgarizations, more surprisingperhapsthan spiritualworks written for women is the significantfemale patronage of all kinds of texts, including,of all things, astronomical literature, at least one example of which begins "Mostnoble lady"(Shore 305). The collaboration between a man and a woman in the productionof vernacular literatureforms the fictionaldramaat the startof one of the many long didactic poems of the trecento. Francesco da Barberino reports in his Reggimento e costumi di donna, a book of comportment for women of all ages, that the idea for the book was not his; rather, it came to his lady at the request of many other ladies ("a preghiera di molte altre donne"). Her problem is that neither she nor any of the female personifications with whom she regularly converses (Onestade, Cortesia, Industria,Eloquenzia) and who are eager to help knows how to write ("ma non e alcuna che sapia di loro scrivere in li-

bro si che si leggesse per umano intelletto"). The lady offers the services of her lover, Francesco, born in the wood of Barberino,who is very rough, she admits,but faithful("e molto grosso, ma molto ee fedele"). The man's lack of intellectual refinement is of no importance("a lui non bisogna sottigliezza"), the ladies decide, because they will inform him so well that he will need not to think but just to write ("che nulla briga arae di pensare, ma sol della penna volger sulla carta";2). In this clearly facetious staging of literaryproduction,the man is needed only for his instrumentand his caand pacity to wield it over paper.He will transcribe translatetheir exalted but unletteredteaching into the vernacularlanguage so that their wisdom can be understood,especially by female intellects. As we have seen, the mentalityof translationinformseven the most refinedpoetic production of the duecento,notjust its degradedsuccessorsin the trecento (such as the Reggimento).If prose is the concern of the early Italian translators, who rarely imitatedthe Frenchmode of enromancier into verse, some of the poetryof this formativeperiodin Italian literature nonetheless reflects the contemporary project of vulgarization.Cavalcanti'spoem can be classed as a volgarizzamento insofar as it moves doctrineinto the formandconwritten,authoritative cerns of a love song. The donna of "Donna me prega"is a markerof genre, the genre of vernacular love lyric thatwas new and autonomousfromLatin clerical culture.It was this early amorousand difficultpoetrythatEzraPoundthoughtcouldbe a model in efforts to liberate modernEnglish-languagepoetry from stultifying classicism and to "make it new,"advice he followed himself when he incorporatedhis translationof "Donname prega"into his Cantos.The sign of translation in Cavalcanti's poem is a lady's requestthatprovidesthe fictionalmotivation for talkingphilosophy in vernacularlyric. The real motivation,however,can hardlybe to popularize learning(since even those learnedin Latinletters will requirea crib) but is to show off the vernacular form. Like the lady, who by definition is mature, knowledgeable,andfrom a good family,in lyric poetry the volgare can compete with Latin and even, perhaps,outclass it. The nobility of a female audience turnsvernacularization aroundfrom popularization to rarefaction and refinement: a virtuoso


in Late Medieval A LadyAsks: TheGender Italy of Vulzgariation

demonstration of the power andbeautyof the native languagewithrespectto the old imperialone. There are, in fact, an ethics and a theology of translation, as well as a politics. In the thirteenth century several local ecclesiastical authorities made translationof Holy Scriptureillegal, whereas in the fourteenth century translatorshad to worry how to vulgarize it well (Leonardi 172-73). In the early trecentoGiordanoda Pisa triedto make theological and philosophical concepts understandable in his sermonsin the Florentinepiazzas. A generation later anotherDominican preacher,Domenico Cavalca, would censure colleagues who preached the subtleties of vain philosophy to the crowd (Coletti 70-71), yet he would in his own translating bravethe blame of the literatifor the sake of utility to the simple (Cavalca 1). Dante, who broughtthe projectof vulgarizationin learnedlove poetryto its artistictriumph,makes stem judgmentsof some of his vernacularizing predecessors. He scorns the translation of Aristotle'sEthics by the greatFlorentine doctor Taddeo Alderotti (Convivio 1.10.10). More subtle is Andre Pezard's famous notion that BrunettoLatini's defamationfor sodomy in the Inferno is actually punishment for "blasphemy againstthe mothertongue,"because Latinichose to write a popularizingencyclopedia in Frenchrather thanhis native language(94). Cavalcanti'simputeddamnationamong Dante's heretics has also been explained by a linguistic choice: his disdain for Vergil's Latin hexameters and preferencefor modem Florentinerhymes (Malato 79)-a proposal that seems less far-fetched when we recall the strong association of heresy with the vernacular.Yet because what Dante defines as heresy is the refusal to believe in the immortalityof the soul, one suspects that the implied verdict on Cavalcanti has something to do with content as well as form. "Donna me prega" may entail, after all, a denial of individual immortality in its apparentadherenceto the condemned Averroistic doctrineof the "possibleintellect." Guido Guinizelli fares betterin the filing cabinet of the Commedia as he expiates lust in Purgatory ArnautDaniel, alongside the Provencaltroubadour the "bestsmithof maternal speech"("migliorfabbro del parlarmaterno"; Purgatorio26.117). Dantehonors Arnautby leaving his fictional Provencal dis-

course untranslatedinto the Italian in which even Vergil is made to express himself throughoutthe Florentine poem. As for Guinizelli,Dantepraiseshis verses for making"deartheirvery ink so long as the modernuse shall last"("Li dolci detti vostri, / che, l'uso moderno,/ farannocari ancorai quantodurera loro incostri";26.112-14). The vernacular, like ink that fades, is mortal. It is in this canto, just after a medical digression on the origins of the immortal soul (25.37-75), that Dante calls attention to the blood andjoints of his protagonist ("col sanguesuo e con le sue giunture"),who is traveling among so many immortal souls sporting only a "fictional 26.12, 26.55-57). The poet is body"("corpofittizio"; I the believe, juxtaposing, mortalityandcorporeality of the physical organism(blood andjoints) with the ("so long as the modern mortalityof the vernacular use shall last") and the corporealityof textual artifacts (making"deartheirvery ink").This combination is an expressionof theology throughphilology thatis quintessentially Dantean.Guinizelli,"father" of the best of vernacularpoets, is pointedly placed amongthe heterosexualhalf of the lustfulpenitents, in contrast,perhaps,to BrunettoLatini,volgarizzatore chargedwith unnatural vice. Such mightbe the as well as stakes of vulgarization. sexual, spiritual, Translationinto the vernacularfeminizes Latin discourse, explicitly or implicitly, therebycomplicating the hierarchyof linguistic class with that of gender.The mentality,or ratheranxiety,of vulgarization manifests itself in ecclesiastical prohibition of translation as well as in the apologies of translators, popularizers, and encyclopedists for having vulgarized their venerable, noble, or sacred originals. Yet when Latin learning and terminology work their way into vernacularart forms, it is not always clear that the nobler has invadedthe lesser. Dante makes an axiom of an oxymoron:the vulgar is nobler. The mother tongue is superior to the tongue learned in school. The lady is better than the old male authority. This hierarchicalreversalis not unlike the fictional exaltation of the secondclass gender in vernacularfiction and poetry. The linguistic inversionmay not reflectany real subversion of old and ingrainedhierarchies,but it may be propheticof a culturalshift.

Alison Cornisb


'Coletti notes Bernardof Clairvaux'sequation of the heretic ac sine littewith "a rustic and one withoutletters"("rusticanus are mine. ris";35). Unless noted otherwise,all translations editions:Libello 2Some examples of these nineteenth-century per conservarela sanita, con una ricetta ineditadi maestroTaddeo da Firenze volgarizzato nel buon secolo della lingua [ ..] (Florence: Tipografiadel Vocabolario, 1863), Il libro delle segrete delle donne. Scritturadel buon secolo della lingua [...], ed. G. Manuzzi (Florence: Tipografiadel Vocabolario, 1863), Opuscoli di Cicerone volgarizzatinel buon secolo della lingua toscana, ed. F. Zambriniand F. Lanzani(Imola: Galeati, 1850), Le paradosse di Marco Tullio Cicerone volgarizzate nel buon secolo di nostra lingua [...], ed. G. Spezi (Rome: Tipografia delle Scienze Matematichee Fisiche, 1867). 3"I volgarizzamenti" 49: "Volgarizzamentoe, nella nostra prima letteratura,situazione mentale prima ancora che attivita specifica. Le formule di Guido Fava, le lettere di Guittone, il trattatodi Bono Giamboni, possono sembrarein piu punti foggiati su un modello latino che non esistette mai." 4Suchobservationson the Sicilian style can be found in Antonelli and Bianchini; Antonelli; Folena, "Cultura" and Volgarizzare; Bruni3-35; Brugnolo;and Russell. For descriptionsof the literaryenvironmentat FrederickII's court, see, among others, Haskins;Kleinhenz. 50n the medieval dialectic of teaching and domination between a male masterand a female figure, see Solterer. 6Bradenhas written about the conduciveness of the Petrarchan mode for women writers.

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