Beginnings up to the 13th Century (Duecento)

Beginnings under Provencal influence

Two reasons may have been decisive for the late start of Italian literature. B. was particularly cultivated in the monasteries of Bobbio and Montecassino. The proximity of Italian to Latin made it possible to satisfy intellectual needs; on the other hand, Italy was exposed to invasions for centuries, which prevented the development of a centralized social structure. Although this favored the emergence of the Italian city-states, it put the maintenance of a national literature at a considerable disadvantage. Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (* end of the 12th century, † beginning of the 13th century), who was one of the first of his guild members to entertain an Italian audience with his poems.

The preferred language of poets, however, was Provençal. The courtly culture of southern France, threatened in the Albigensian Wars and destroyed in the 13th century, was brought to Italy by the troubadours. Italian poets also used the Provencal language, according to Sordello. The poetry cultivated at the court of Emperor Frederick II was influenced by southern French, but found its own expression, for the first time in Italian literature, through the Sicilian School of Poetry. The Provencal themes and forms were translated into a Sicilian-Italian literary language and modified. The sonnet has its origin here, it was first used by Giacomo da Lentini, who together with Pier della Vigna is considered to be the main representative of the school. Early Italian literature also received important impulses from the laud poetry inspired by the Franciscan movement (the “Canticle of the Sun” by Francis of Assisi, written around 1224, the dialogical “Laude” by Iacopone da Todi, probably written after 1270). For more articles about Italy and Europe, please follow Ethnicityology.

The lyric of the Dolce style nuovo

With the end of the Hohenstaufen rule (1266), the centers of cultural life shifted to northern Italy. a. to Bologna and Florence. With the Dolce style nuovo, Italian literature broke away from its southern French model and developed the Tuscan dialect into a literary language. According to scholastic principles, the foundation of spiritual love was now seen in the spiritual view of the beautiful (including women). The main representatives of this highly artificial seal were, among others. Guittone d’Arezzo, Guido Guinizelli (* between 1230 and 1240, † around 1276), G. Cavalcanti, Cino da Pistoia, Dino Frescobaldi (* after 1271, † before 1316) and the young Dante who coined the term for the new direction. His contemporary C. Angiolieri turned the high tone of the Minnesian poetry into ridicule and satire. But the position of Italian as the language of literature and science was not yet assured. B. Latini wrote his lay encyclopedia “Li livres dou trésor” (created around 1265) in Old French, Rusticiano (also Rustichello) da Pisa (* second half of the 13th century, † beginning of the 14th century) wrote the travelogue in 1298/99 Marco Polos “Il milione” in French-Italian dialect, and in Northern Italy minstrels performed old French epics from the Carolingian cycle (Charles gesture), in which the aristocratic elements of the originals were adapted to a bourgeois world, in French-Italian mixed language (including “Berta da li pe grandi”, »Karleto«).

14th century (Trecento)

Dante’s work

This first evidence of literature in Italian was followed by Dante’s work immediately the culmination of Italian literature. His minne songs and sonnets (»La vita nuova«, created 1292–95), aimed at the ideal figure Beatrice, still follow the Dolce style nuovo, with the »Rime« created after 1300 he achieved his technical mastery. Entangled in the power struggles of his time, he laid down his political convictions (directed against papal claims) in the Latin work “De monarchia” (written between 1310 and 1315). His main work, the epic “Divina Commedia” (completed in 1321; German “The Divine Comedy”), one of the monuments of world literature, offers a comprehensive interpretation of the position of the individual and society, private passion and public engagement in the spiritual cosmos of the Middle Ages. In the treatise “De vulgari eloquentia” (written after 1305, Dante are the constituents of a high-level literary language, whose dignity and power, with appropriate treatment, can also achieve the dialectically most suitable form of the vernacular, for Dante Tuscan.

Petrarch and Boccaccio

Although this also provided a secure theoretical basis for the use of the vernacular in literature, a new interest in ancient poetry awoke at the beginning of the 14th century, followed by efforts to revive Latin poetry (e.g. in Padua A. Mussato). Paduan humanism found its continuation in the work of the two most important poets of the 14th century alongside Dante , F. Petrarca and G. Boccaccio. Although both were still in many ways attached to medieval thinking, they ushered in a new era: the Renaissance. F. Petrarch created the basis for a philological study of antiquity. He systematically collected ancient manuscripts and made copies to ensure their distribution. He shared his enthusiasm for antiquity with a large European circle of friends in numerous Latin prose letters and metrical epistles. His fame with posterity is based on v. a. on his love poem in Italian, canzons and sonnets to the ideal lover Laura (summarized in “Il canzoniere”, published 1470). F. Petrarchcombined the spirituality of the Dolce style nuovo and the traditions of the Provencal minstrel (he lived in Avignon for a long time) with personal, passionate feelings. In doing so, he shaped Italian and also European poetry in the following centuries. The third of the outstanding representatives of the Italian literature of the Trecento is G. Boccaccio. He too was one of the early humanists. A large part of his work is written in Latin, for example the learned handbook of ancient mythology “De genealogiis deorum gentilium” (created 1347-60) and a geographic-historical realism (“De montibus, silvis, fontibus …”) about 1360-62). However, his main work, the “Decamerone” (created 1348–53), which is based on the tradition of didactic, exemplary and burlesque short narratives from the Latin and vernacular European Middle Ages, depicts the diversity of human relationships in their social contexts through the individual novellas and their framework Contexts and conquered in a style similar to Cicero the simple narrative public areas that had previously been open to theological-didactic or lyrical-casuistic reflections only. The “Decamerone” paved the way for the novella not only in Italy, but also in all other Western European literatures, for which it also became an inexhaustible reservoir of material.

The rest of the literature of the 14th century was influenced in poetry and allegorical poetry by Dante, later by F. Petrarca. In the foreground stood the didactic poetry (Fazio degli Uberti [* around 1307, † around 1368 ]). Historiography began withD. Compagnis Chronik von Florenz and the Weltchronik by Giovanni Villani (* 1280, † 1343). The novel poetry of F. Sacchetti was under the influence of Boccaccio. Meanwhile, the Charles and Arthurian epics, which were widespread in northern Italy in mixed Franco-Italian language, were translated into Tuscan, partly in prose, partly in Ottave rime. In addition to courtly minne poetry, satirical bourgeois poetry (A. Pucci et al.) Became increasingly popular.

Beginnings up to the 13th Century (Duecento)