Sunday, 18 November 2012

Boccaccio Bologna Books

It has been the longest time since I last updated, and I’ve been the busiest little bee. The most important thing to have happened is that I’ve moved to York to take up a lectureship at the University. This has meant moving house, settling in to a new city, and settling in to a new department. It has been a very good move, though of course I miss Pembroke very much and my friends there. York is a beautiful medieval city with an imposing cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, called the Minster. It’s a gem, with extraordinary stained glass. So, the city is a great place to be a medievalist.

Another thing that has kept me busy was preparing for a conference in Bologna last week and that was enormous fun. It was held in the Sala dello Stabat Mater in the Archiginnasio. The programme was very full but enjoyable and it was wonderful to see friends, colleagues and maestri, old and new. The third day was held in Ravenna, which was where I gave my paper. During the lunch break we went around the corner to see the Arian Baptistry, with its rather wonderful mid-sixth century mosaic depicting the baptism of Christ. It is such an extraordinary thing to have these treasures on your doorstep, to be able to take ten paces from the office door and to be standing under this! During the conference, there was a delightful bookstall, where those giving papers could take what they wanted, for free. I began to silently hyperventilate when I realized this was the case, then proceeded to jump upon the table with my arms outstretched explaining how I needed them all. I know what you’re wondering now: what books did you get then? Well, Carlo Delcorno’s edition of Domenico Cavalca’s Vite dei santi padri for SISMEL was clearly the prize win, and I’m just delighted to have it. I also picked up a copy of Bodo Guthmüller, Mito e metamorfosi nella letteratura italiana, Fiorenzo Forti, Magnanimitade: studi su un tema dantesco. While in town, I took the opportunity for a little whizz around some of my old familiar bookshops, and found a copy of Azzurra B. Givens, La dottrina d’amore nel Boccaccio, and K. Esser, ed., Opuscula Sancti Patris Francisci Assisiensis. So delighted with those.

Some little while ago I blogged a photo  of the great Raimondi in his study and mentioned that his latest book, Le voci dei libri had just appeared with Il Mulino. While at the conference, I happened upon the the fact that in the bookshop Zanichelli, more or less downstairs from the Archiginnasio, they were giving away copies of Raimondi’s book. It was thus that I felt a moral obligation to read it, and did so on the journey home. It is a beautiful meditation on the books in his life, how they came into his life, who brought them. I found so moving his account of reading Being and Time in the ruins of a Bologna terribly scarred by the war, and his time at Johns Hopkins and encountering the work of Bakhtin (with a telling tiny comment on this first encounter being in the English translation of his Rabelais book, much enriched when some time later he came to read it in the far superior Italian translation [L’opera di Rabelais e la cultura popolare, Einaudi, 1979, something that is very obvious to anyone comparing both translations).

On the way home I also read the ‘Domenica’ section of Il Sole 24 Ore where Claudio Giunta talks about the teaching of Dante in schools, the new challenges for the teaching of medieval literature, how their engagement with new media, social networking, etc, affects the way that these texts are now read. I wonder what the next Raimondi will look like, and what story his or her version of Le voci dei libri will tell. 

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