Massimo presented a paper on “Reading, Rewriting and Encoding Petrarca’s Rvf as Hypertext” at the Annual Conference of the MLA, in Philadelphia, PA, on January 5, 2017.
He insisted on what he cosiders the special feature of the OPOB: the creation of the conditions for deep reading and re-writing Petrarca’s Rvf within a hypertext approach to reading. For this purpose he designed two reading projects then implemented in two seminars on re-reading Petrarca’s Rvf in the digital era taught at the University of Oregon in 2011 and 2014 using the resources of the OPOB. The first seminar was directed toward re-writing Petrarca’s poem in tweet format, the second explored thematic encoding and close reading of Petrarca’s masterpiece.
“The Ancient Roots of a Non-Anthropocentric Humanism: A Pythagorean Perspective.” Paper presented at the Mellon Symposium on Environmental Posthumanities in the Anthropocene on Friday, Dec. 2nd 2016 .
This paper presents part of my research on the ancient and early modern sources of a non-anthropocentric humanism that I prefer to define “more than human” rather than “posthuman.” After a brief introduction on the philosophy of Pythagoras I discussed a productive example of revival of the Pythagorean notion of metempsychosis in the recent movie by Michelangelo Frammartino’s, Le Quattro volte (2010), and I reflected on its importance for contemporary environmental philosophy and the search for a sustainable human relationship to the environment.
The Letter to my land by Roberto Saviano is in some respects an important model of contemporary environmental short story, articulated into multimedia forms and aware of the impact that the environmental issue has on the culture and ethics of a civil nation. In my presentation I analyze the evolution of this letter-essay-short story from the written version to the television version entitled From Inferno to the Beauty that was a special of the television program Che tempo che fa, hosted by Saviano together with Fabio Fazio. Che tempo che fa is an ongoing television talk show hosted by the Italian television host Fabio Fazio since 2003. My thesis is that this development in the story gains in communication effectiveness, formal articulation and wise aesthetic elaboration, through the recovery of the essential forms and dynamics of popular oral narrative. The story is presented as Saviano’s report and witness to the devastating consequences of the degradation of the Mediterranean landscape around Castel Volturno, a town in the province of Caserta in the Campania region, about twenty miles northwest of Naples on the Volturno River. The presentation concludes with some reflections on the ethics of the landscape and the role of ecocriticism in the context of rethinking humanism in a direction “more than human”, which in other words takes into account the interdependence of human life with all the living universe.
I emphasize two aspects that emerge from the story he recounts in the Letter to my land and in the expanded television version of it. On the one hand, the hellish intersection of violence against human beings and violence against the environment; so it becomes clear that any project of real restoration and redevelopment of the area that would safeguard the respect and the fundamental value of the landscape would produce a very significant added value, by contributing to reduce the violence of the Camorra that continues to dominate and pillage this land. The other important aspect that emerges in Saviano’s account is the substantial role of ecocriticism in rethinking humanism in a direction “more than human”, which takes into serious consideration the interdependence of human life with all of living universe. Saviano tells us that the construction of the first eco-monsters of the Villaggio Coppola destroyed the pine forest and then creating windows not facing the sea but within the village prevented the recognition of the face of the landscape and the authentic beauty of the sea, marking a further step in the degradation of the environment no longer perceived as an integral part of culture and civic life.
The critical reflections triggered by Saviano’s letter bring to mind the words of Piero Calamandrei in 1944 in the face of environmental and human destruction caused by the War World II. In his famous discourse L’Italia ha ancora qualcosa da dire he wrote:
«Quello che più ci ha offeso è stato l’assassinio premeditato delle nostre città, dei nostri villaggi, delle nostre campagne, perfino del nostro paesaggio. Voi lo sapete che in Italia… ogni borgo, ogni svolto di strada, ogni collina ha un volto come quello di una persona viva…”
“What hurt us most was the premeditated assassination of our cities, our villages, our countryside, even our landscape. You know that in Italy … every village, every turn in the road, every hill has a face like that of a living person … ”
“Mai come in questi mesi in cui sui bollettini di guerra cominciavamo a leggere con un tremito i luoghi della Toscana, abbiamo sentito che questi paesi sono carne della nostra carne, e che per la sorte di un quadro o di una statua o di una cupola si può stare in pena come per la sorte del congiunto, o dell’amico più caro».
“Never before like in recent months in which on the war bulletins we began to read with a quake the places of Tuscany, we felt that these countries are flesh of our flesh, and that for the fate of a painting or a statue or a dome one may be worried as for the fate of a spouse, or friend most dear. ”
The invitation of Calamandrei to recognize the face of the landscape was then translated into the Article 9 of the Italian Constitution, which states that the Republic “protects the landscape and the historical and artistic heritage of the nation.” In a different historical context, that nonetheless as the post-war period is characterized by the destruction of human beings, cultural heritage and environment, Roberto Saviano, as Piero Calamandrei 60 years before, invites the Italians to feel the landscape as flesh of their flesh and to continue to recognize the beauty of its radiant and marine face.
*Excepts from “Roberto Saviano’s Letter to My Land” a paper presented by Massimo Lollini at the Annual Conference of the PAMLA, Portland, Oregon, November 7, 2015.
Massimo Lollini presented a paper entitled “Sicilian Ruins from Vittorio De Seta’s Documentaries to Vincenzo Consolo’s Citiscapes” at the Common Knowledges Symposium 2014, Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Culture, the Environment and Labor on Wednesday May 14, 2014 at the University of California in San Diego.
De Seta shows how both the peasants of the land cultivating wheat and the fishermen – whom he calls “contadini del mare” (peasants of the sea) fishing for tuna or swordfish in the open sea – had found meaning and purpose in their life and sought their realization by means of manual labor. Their relationship to the sea and the land, partially mediated by rudimentary tools, was at the same time intensified by a corporeal and physical immersion in the natural element. Lollini complemented the brief analysis of three of these documentaries – Lu tempu di li pisci spada (Time of the Swordfish, 1954), I contadini del mare (Peasants of the Sea, 1955) and Parabola d’oro (Gold Parable, 1955) – with a reading of “Tuna fishing,” an essay by great Sicilian writer Vincenzo Consolo who recently died. In the second part of his talk Lollini discussed De Seta’s new documentary filmed for Italian Television in 1980, La Sicilia rivisitata (Sicily revisited). This documentary bears witness to the dramatic ecological and cultural consequences of the ruins of the peasants’ material culture. Lollini paralleled the filmic analysis with a reading of “The ruins of Siracusa,” an essay by Consolo, another great witness to contemporary Sicily in our globalized world. Finally, in his conclusion Lollini considered how De Seta’s documentaries and Consolo’s essays are relevant to contemporary environmental debates on humanism and the search for a sustainable human relationship to the environment.
Prof. Massimo Lollini presented a paper entitled “Natura parens from Bernardus Silvestris’ Cosmographia to Petrarch’s Canzoniere” at the conference of the Renaissance Society of America in New York City on March 29, 2014, in a panel in honor of Prof. Giuseppe Mazzotta.
The paper was well received and triggered a lively discussion on how early humanist philosophy and poetry was pervaded by the idea of creative power of Nature as complement of human and divine creation. Lollini showed in particular how Bernardus’s idea of natura parens becomes generative of elevating thoughts in Petrarch’s Canzoniere and instrumental in developing what Petrarch calls “more than human method.”
Lollini complemented the analysis of Petrarch’s poems with a reading of Petrarch’s letters and the analysis of some of the miniatures that illustrate the first printed version of Petrarch’s masterpiece published in Venice in 1470 (Inc. Queriniano G V 15). These miniatures are now available in the digital edition published by Lollini within the hypertext project Oregon Petrarch Open Book. In Lollini’s interpretation the miniatures suggest an uplifting reading of the Canzoniere that captures the fundamental role that nature plays in Petrarch’s masterpiece.
This paper is part of a broader research on the notion of a “more-than-human-humanism” that Lollini has been developing in recent years.
Il 13 aprile 2013 presso l’Università dell’ Oregon in Eugene si è svolto il trentatresimo convegno annuale dell’American Association of Italian Studies. Franco Cassano era in quell’occasione uno degli oratori delle sessioni plenarie ed è stato al centro di una tavola rotonda attorno al suo pensiero che ha avuto come protagonisti alcuni studiosi particolarmente impegnati nelle problematiche storiche, filosofiche e politiche del pensiero Mediterraneo: gli italianisti Norma Bouchard, Alessandro Carrera, Roberto Dainotto, Valerio Ferme, Claudio Fogu e il filosofo latino-americano Alejandro Vallega. I due eventi, considerati insieme, costituiscono un’interessante e produttiva conversazione con Franco Cassano, un’efficace messa a punto della sua visione del Sud d’Italia e dei Sud del mondo, in rapporto ai temi e valori fondamentali della cultura Mediterranea.
La tavola è stata filmata, trascritta e pubblicata su California Italian Studies, 4(2) a cura di Massimo Lollini che nella sua breve introduzione presenta i protagonisti di questo dialogo e i principali temi emersi nel dibattito, sottolineando al tempo stesso quello che a suo giudizio costituisce l’elemento più proficuo e passibile di auspicabili sviluppi positivi del pensiero meridiano sul piano culturale e politico. Si tratta dell’idea che il metro di valutazione del grado di sviluppo delle forme di civiltà non può essere determinato semplicemente dal grado di espansione economica e delle forze produttive; per questa ragione il pensiero mediterraneo di Franco Cassano consente e incoraggia la considerazione di altri elementi, come l’incidenza del clima e dei fattori naturali, che solitamente rimangono esclusi dall’attenzione delle scienze sociali e soprattutto dell’intervento politico-economico. È all’altezza di queste riflessioni che il pensiero meridiano si pone oggi come punto di riferimento essenziale per un approccio interdisciplinare volto a recuperare e sviluppare un nuovo umanesimo che abbia al suo centro non l’onnipotenza del soggetto sovrano, ma la relazione e il dialogo con la natura, non più considerata con oggetto di sfruttamento e trasformazione illimitata, ma come un organismo vivente capace non solo di rispondere alle sollecitazioni umane, ma anche di indirizzarle e condizionarle.
L’introduzione di Lollini, i video dei vari interventi e la loro trascrizione sono disponibili al seguente link:
Questa pubblicazione include un inedito di Franco Cassano intitolato “La prima volta” da cui è presa questa epigrafe:
“Ogni tanto, molto spesso solo per caso, ci accade di ricordarci che al mondo non ci siamo
solo noi. E allora, per un attimo, riusciamo a guardarci attorno e rimaniamo storditi e
sommersi dallo spettacolo del fiume infinito delle prime volte, dalla loro immensa
successione, a partire dalla prima di tutte, dal venire al mondo del mondo. Nessuno del
resto può sottrarsi alla prima volta: atomo, molecola, pianeta o stella, albero, cavallo o
Franco Cassano, La prima volta (2013).
Poetic geography and more than human humanism
In my recent research I have introduced the ideas of poetic geography and “more than human” humanism as they emerge in the philosophy of Giambattista Vico. I have insisted on a new understanding of Vico’s humanism in contrast with the exclusive and reductive attention given by most scholars, including Erich Auerbach and Edward Said, to Vico’s synthetic epistemology, the verum ipsum factum principle, that leads them to neglect important analytical and genealogical dimensions of Vico’s philology, losing the productive interplay between philology and philosophy so characteristic of Vico’s thought. In their interpretation, Vico’s philosophy is reduced to a pervasive historicism and perspectivism. They maintain that Vico identifies history and human nature and conceives human nature as a function of history. Auerbach even suggests that the word natura in some crucial paragraphs of Vico’s Scienza nuova, such as 346 and 347, should be translated as “historical development” (“Vico and Aesthetic Historicism” 118).
While I concede that Vico’s philosophy tends to blur the distinction between “original nature” and “human institutions,” I nevertheless disagree with Auerbach when he states that such distinction is “meaningless” for Vico (“Vico and Aesthetic Historicism” 116). Auerbach’s and Said’s readings pay attention exclusively to the creation of human institutions, whereas Vico considers how the relation to nature also plays a role in the formation of human beings and human culture, as part of the complexity and interconnectivity of life, resisting acritical historicization and reduction to purely human paradigms. The theoretical implications of my approach to Vico’s humanism and making of history lead to a new understanding of Auerbach’s idea that “our philological home is the earth” (“Philology and Weltliteratur” 17), one in which philology and philosophy in a genuinely Vichian fashion return to interrogate not only the historical institutions but also their relationships to earth, sea, and the natural environment as a significant part in the formation of humanity. Thus, in my essay, I use Vico’s idea of “places of humanity” as the driving force of a new humanism, one that is “more than human,” and has larger implications for the study of literature and the ways in which we read texts that are usually centered on the human subject conceived as the only driving force of literary production.
The expression “more than human,” in ecocritical and eco-philosophical studies, was introduced by David Abram in The Spell of the Sensuous (1996) where he argues that “we are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human” (The Spell ix). The notion of a “more than human” humanism has been also developed by Serenella Iovino in her volume Ecologia letteraria (67-70) and in an essay entitled “Ecocriticism and a Non-Anthropocentric Humanism” (47-50). In this article she makes the case for a new humanism, an “ecological humanism,” one that rejects the dualism of humanity and nature conveyed by traditional and historical notions of humanism. In the same perspective, Louise Westling speaks of a “green humanism” as a new form of intersubjective humanism (3). Drawing on my previous essay on “Vico’s more than human humanism” (2011), the present article enters into a productive dialogue with Abram’s and Iovino’s theorizations by showing how Vico’s idea of poetic geography may nurture and reinforce a relational idea of humanism that is so important in environmental philosophy and ecocriticism. Vico’s philology is not limited to the culture of the book or to the world of nations but starts literally in the forests and includes an obscure time, the fabulous beginnings, in which humanity is not completely formed and is exposed to and deeply conditioned by the natural environment that encompasses all living forms (Vico, New Science 202, 361).
There is a significant convergence between Vico’s idea on the origin of language and that of the French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Abram in The Spell of the Sensuous suggested, in passing, the originality of Vico’s idea of language as an anticipation of Merleau-Ponty’s (76). Like Vico, Merleau-Ponty radically distinguishes his ideas from those of Descartes. For both Vico and Merleau-Ponty Descartes’s philosophy—as summarized in the famous “Je pense, donc je suis” (IV)—has detached the conscious subject from the world that is given in experience, and created the illusion that humans completely make the nature that is given to them (Merleau-Ponty, Phénoménologie x). By refusing what he calls the “conceit of scholars” (New Science 124; 126) and pointing to an originary, pre-cultural, and unspoken element about the relation of humans to nature, Vico anticipated Merleau-Ponty’s idea of the intercorporeality originating human relations with nature (Merleau-Ponty, Nature 216-26). Vico’s poetic language and Merleau-Ponty’s idea of perception do not refer to a process by which human consciousness knows nature and the “external world” as neutral, separated, or as “objects” essentially distinct from a “subject.” Poetic language and perception, on the contrary, are behaviors affected by the body, not as an observer but as a living and active corporeal entity, participating in the life of nature. In this way, humanity emerges not as a substance, and essence, “an imposition of a for-itself on a body in-itself,” but as an interbeing, as an event in which the body is interposed in the circuit of the world (208-09).
Angus Fletcher in his A New Theory for American Poetry: Democracy, the Environment, and the Future of Imagination recognizes the importance of Vico’s idea of poetic creation of the human world as a continuous dialogue and confrontation with the natural environment. While Vico speaks of “poetic geography,” Fletcher introduces the idea of the “environment-poem” that “bridges the gap between the opaque thingness of nature lying ‘out-there,’ and the philosophical and scientific access we gain by developing terms, formulas, explanations, and theories of the order and meaning hidden within that opaque nature” (12). Fletcher even suggests that we can understand what Whitman means when he writes that “The United States are the greatest poem” only if we know Vico (97). Whitman seems to share Vico’s idea of a general poetics by which civilization comes into being. Whitman follows the new idea of truth implied in Vico’s verum factum principle, that we know only what we have made (150, 172), in a way that is inclusive of and gives voice to the natural environment. “This verum factum principle governs the making and exfoliating of Leaves of Grass as an evolving body of accumulating text” (172) that functions only as (and in) process, precisely because it expresses the complex network of natural and social relationships of a porous poetic voice.
Vico’s “poetic geography” can be fruitfully associated with contemporary ideas such as Fletcher’s “environment-poem” and Barry Lopez’s fundamental statement of the relation of mind and place; a relationship where the interior landscape of the human mind is influenced if not shaped by the exterior landscape constituted by the specific region inhabited (Lopez 64-65). Moreover, Abram’s idea of language as not exclusively human product articulated in his recent Becoming Animal (2010) finds an exemplar antecedent in Vico’s philosophy and philology. Abram’s ask, “What if the very language we now speak arose first in response to an animate, expressive world—as shuttering reply not just to other of our species but to an enigmatic cosmos that already spoke to us in a myriad of tongues?” (Becoming 4). Vico develops a similar argument in his New Science. For him the language of the first human beings was neither self-contained and original nor self-determined but it emerged out of imaginative reactions to external stimuli triggered by the natural environment which is given to humans and in which humans participate (444). Finally, in Vico’s philosophy there is no trace of that epistemological hubris that according to Bateson is at the origin of the ecological crisis of our time, one in which human beings rule as autocrats over the environment neglecting the mutual dependence of mind and nature and leading to the degradation of the entire supreme cybernetic system (Steps to an Ecology of Mind 478-487).
The essay “Sardinia: the “Greatest Poem” and its Maritime Face” that I have published in Ecozon@ (Vol.4, No2) shows how Vico’s important and neglected notion of a relational, non-exclusively human humanism based on a deep listening of and response to the natural environment is still alive in the works of Grazia Deledda and Salvatore Satta, the founding writers of Sardinian poetic geography. In his essay I focus on how these writers perceive Sardinia and the Mediterranean as constitutive of a sense of identity in which land and sea, history and nature intersect in inextricable circles. The Sardinian writers of younger generations, such as Alberto Capitta, Giulia Clarkson, Marcello Fois, and Giulio Angioni, are also considered in “Sardinia: the “Greatest Poem” and its Maritime Face” as a further level of Sardinian poetic geography, one that faces the flattening, homogenizing forces of contemporary capitalist globalization.
I close this brief synthesis introducing the notion of “face” included in the title of this essay. I do not consider the “face” only in “humanist” or intrahuman terms as it happens in Levinas’ idea of “face-to-face” encounter with the Other. On the one hand, I have in mind Vico’s metaphysical idea of conatus that sees the presence of a divine drive toward infinity not only on the face of the other and/or in human institutions but also on the “face” of the sky, and more in general the places of humanity and the natural environment. On the other hand, I utilize the immanentist notions of “visage” (face) and “visagéité” (faciality) developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari as correlative of “paysage” (landscape) and paysageté (landscapity) (A Thousand Plateaus 167-192).
The complete essay can be read at the following link: http://www.ecozona.eu/index.php/journal/article/viewFile/364/759
This essay considers how in Vico the alterity of nature plays an important role in the formation of humanity, as part of the complexity and interconnectivity of life, resisting acritical historicization and reduction to purely human paradigms. Unlike Machiavelli’s, Vico’s idea of humanity and human institutions is not based simply on Roman history. He perceived the need to consider and investigate the “empty spaces” of history to understand the deepest layers deposited by history in the human mind, including the pre-alphabetic culture.
The theoretical implications of this approach to Vico’s humanism and making of history lead to a new understanding of Auerbach’s idea that “our philological home is the earth,” one in which philology and philosophy in a genuinely Vichian fashion return to interrogate not only the historical institutions but also their relationships to earth and the natural environment as a significant part in the formation of humanity. Thus, this essay proposes Vico’s idea of “places of humanity” as the driving force of a new humanism, one that is “more than human,” and finally pays attention to what has been excluded or not valorized from purely historicist interpretations of his philosophy.
The essay was publish in the Annali d’Italianistica in 2011 with the title
Prof. Massimo Lollini and his collaborators completed the project “Petrarch Early Manuscripts and Incunabula in the Oregon Petrarch Open Book” in September 2013.
In 2012 Lollini received an ACLS Digital innovation grant for the project “Petrarch’s Early Manuscripts and Incunabula in the Oregon Petrarch Open Book,” an open source, open access initiative designed for students, scholars, teachers, and translators to read and investigate selected manuscripts and early printed editions of Petrarch’s magnum opus that have been instrumental to its interpretation from its first release in 1362 until today.
Working from transcriptions generated using T-PEN a web-based tool for working with images of manuscripts developed at Saint Louis University, the collaborators of the project have digitized and encoded in TEI P5 three key copies of Petrarch’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (Canzoniere): the late 14th-century manuscript copy from the Queriniana Library in Brescia, D II 21; the Queriniana Library’s copy of the first printed edition (editio princeps) of the Rvf published in Venice in 1470 (Inc. Queriniano G V 15), and Alessandro Vellutello’s Renaissance commentary of the Rvf, which helped to foster the birth of French Petrarchism. During the ACLS grant, the images in the Incunabulum were also described in basic format and TEI encoding, providing the foundation for exploring visual and textual relationships that Lollini plans to further develop in next grant proposal.
The dissemination of this project started in Spring 2012 when it was still in the very early stages. Lollini announced the project in a paper entitled “Oregon Petrarch Open Book Project” at the Symposium on Textualities in the Digital Age held at the University of Oregon on April 14, 2012. In Spring 2013 Lollini published an article entitled “Petrarch’s Early Manuscripts and Incunabula in the Oregon Petrarch Open Book” in Humanist Studies & the Digital Age, a peer- reviewed e-journal devoted to the reformulation of received philological and philosophical ideas of writing and reading literary works, motivated by the advent of electronic texts.
Lollini presented this project in a paper entitled “Petrarch’s Open Book from the Editio Princeps (Inc. Queriniano G V 15) to Digital Culture” at the International Conference on Petrarch and His Legacies held at the University of Wisconsin, March 4-5, 2013; and in a paper entitled “Encoding Text and Images in the Oregon Petrarch Open Book” presented at the American Association of Italian Studies conference held in Eugene, Oregon, April 11-13, 2013. Jelena Todorovic and Ernesto Livorni will publish Lollini’s paper in the proceedings of the International Conference on Petrarch and His Legacies forthcoming in 2014 in the ACMRS (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies). Lastly, Lollini refers to this project in two papers: the first one entitled “Philology and Sensemaking in the OPOB” presented at the Symposium on Digital French and Italian held on October 31 at Dartmouth College; he will present the second one entitled “Natura parens from Bernardus Silvestris’ Cosmographia to Petrarch’s Canzoniere” at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, New York Hilton Midtown, 27–29 March 2014.
Since the publication of these new digital assets, the Oregon Petrarch Open Book being developed in the last ten years at the University of Oregon, allows scholars and students from all over the world to appreciate both the importance of the material support and the evolution of the text of this masterpiece of Italian and world literature, as well as its metamorphoses moving from manuscript culture to early print and digital culture.
This achievement represent the best incarnation of Lollini’s passion for literature and the central idea of his research and teaching: the classics from the past, like Petrarch, are contemporary to the future, they help us understand not only the present age, but also and above all, the difference that they represent, the appreciation of their not yet fully developed and understood meaning.