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The Center for Italian Studies is pleased to host a lecture by Professor Ryan Pepin of the University of Notre Dame titled:
How Contini Worked: The Critic’s ‘Scartafacci’
One of the major literary controversies of the Italian 20th Century centered on whether the study of an author’s drafts and corrections could offer anything of value to literary criticism. The practice of studying authorial drafts, set going in the interwar but particularly in vogue in the immediate post-war, was vehemently attacked by Benedetto Croce. For Croce, the reconstruction of the creative process through an author’s ‘scartafacci’ (‘drafts’, ‘jottings’) was a doomed, spiritless endeavour. Gianfranco Contini’s role in founding the discipline of ‘authorial philology’ (the study of authorial drafts and variants) in his essays beginning from the ’40s on Ariosto, Petrarch, Proust and Leopardi, is well known, as is his later absorption of Croce’s criticism in the ’50s. Contini’s own creative process, however – which resulted in writings both consummate and demanding in their style – has rarely garnered scholars’ attention. In this talk, I propose to examine ‘come lavorava Contini’. I will reconstruct the surprising genesis of one of his most important pieces of criticism – an essay which Italo Calvino called ‘tutta allusiva [e] quasi intraducibile’, and which inspired Pasolini’s brief, if ill-fated, venture into dantismo in the 1960s.
Ryan Pepin studied at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, obtaining his PhD with a thesis on Dantean metricology in 2020. He has since held research fellowships in Austria and Italy, most recently at the Fondazione Ezio Franceschini in Florence, where he was Marco Praloran Fellow. He is working on two books: a book of translations of essays by the Italian critic and philologist Gianfranco Contini, and a book on ‘rhythmical figures’ in Dante.
The lecture is co-sponsored by the Medieval Institute at Notre Dame.