|NUMBER 11||FALL 1992|
Initially we could not help deploring the trendy twang of «de-theologizing». Whether with or without its cute hyphen, the term evoked multicultural parallels, de-licing, derattizzazione: as though theology were a moldy parasitic growth on Dante's text. D'Éprémesnil's «de-Bourbonizing» comes to mind... a movement to guillotine Bro. Thomas? And we hear some old Dante hands huff: unknown to the detheologizers dell'ultim'ora, Benedetto Croce had thoroughly deratted Dante just about seventy years ago. His de-allegorizing, or rather de-four-folding, of the Comedy had endured forty or fifty years __ at least so in autochtonous readings. In short: we saluted the contents but shrank from the gaudy wrapping. Initially so, we were saying. Of course a corny tag is a must if an idea is to «make waves». At any rate, sooner than a detheologizer can get his or her Guggenheim, another Croce in octavo or another pocket Derrida will have started a counter-trend __ perhaps «de-theologizing» Dante...
«Homage» to Lectura Dantis (meaning the activity and, we hope, also the journal, futiliter resonans) by poet Joseph Tusiani: «Nonne gubernat amor quod vivit et undique splendet? / Nonne movet solem et cetera sidera amor? / Hoc Natura scit, hoc intellegit omne creatum, / hoc noscunt flores, hoc volucres repetunt. / Solum homines, quibus est (dicunt) sapientia rerum, / urgentur caeco terribilique odio. / Dive Poeta, tuus melos est mirabile versus, / sed tantum versus futiliter resonans».
At a recent scholarly conference («panel» on «Editing»), an eager young colleague confronted us with the query: Just how much «seed money» do you need if you plan to start a journal? Suppose the printing comes out of the hide of your «host institution», who pays for «editing help», proofreading, mailing __ down to such humble tasks as stuffing and addressing jiffybags? Surely, NEH or Fulbright or somebody must provide... The shrillness made us surface from the habitual activity of most of our waking hours: the editing or proofing of mss for LD... While the debate raged on, now about funds for computers and addressographs, we recalled a visit some ten years ago at the elegant house of Raffaele Spongano in Bologna, via Vallescura. We found the Professor in deep study, bent over his vast desk: slowly, carefully, copying something from a ledger, with his stilografica of ancient shape, onto long strips of brown paper. A glance sufficed to ascertain, but not to believe, that these rough brown things were in fact the fascette of addresses for Spongano's famed journal, well known to all scholars of Italian letters, SPCT. Later on, this emeritus of Bologna University also showed us how the strips were glued onto the prewrapped issues, going all over the world, of Studi e Problemi di Critica Testuale... «Ma, professore», we could not but interject, «from the Acknowledgments we know that the Cassa di Risparmio takes care of the printing... Could not the bank delegate this manual labor to one of its many fetch-it or go-fer employees? Isn't this a waste of your precious time?» «Waste of time?» asked in turn this Grande Vecchio of Italian Academe, carefully applying the glue onto another label, «spreco di tempo? Ma io godo, caro collega, io godo proprio».
«Vedi che non incresce a me e ardo». Guido's mugghiare is fitted out with an exclamation mark by most modern editors, __ uselessly, as Dante provided for the emphasis with a rare double hiatus, «a me | e | ardo». (Another Guido will hint at __ so to speak __ a lower, purgatorial, temperature by the single hiatus of his panted request, «rispondi a me che 'n sete e 'n foco | ardo».) The Comedy, we never tire to insist, was written for the live voice, for public recital; Dante's verse is the score, the running stage direction, precisely guiding the reciter's utterance. Hiatus is just one of the many prosodical devices (among them diaeresis, enjambment, the very rhyme) constituting a system of «italics». Double hiatus underscores, e.g., the Pilgrim's ecstatic reaction to the compieta in Ante-Purgatory, «che fece me | a me | uscir di mente». But even a single well-placed hiatus enhances resentful utterance, as Omberto's branding of Pride: «tutt'i miei consorti / ha | ella tratti seco nel malanno». Insistence is congenital to some expressions; thus the emphatic double conjunction «e... e...» is repeatedly underscored by hiatus (e.g., «e | al sì e | al no», more than once: Pg. 10.63, Pr. 13.114). Seldom is the hiatus semantically inert; so perhaps in cases of monosyllables «rescued» from vanishing (by elision), e.g., «e più e men che re | era in quel caso», and of direct quotes whose integrity is maintained by the hiatus, as in «Volsimi a loro e | "O gente sicura"...». Elision, in fact, is fusion; often spectacularly illustrative; see e.g. Bohemia's rivers rush into the Moldava and the Moldava rush into Elba, «che Molta^in Albia^e^Albia^in mar ne porta», or the delicate fusion of song and dance as the daisy-chain of the Sages begins to turn, «e moto^a moto^e canto^a canto colse...». Now, hiatus «denies» fusion __ precisely when the contrary effect (the staccato of detachment) is indicated: «malizia / non ti porìa menar da me | altrove». Elision negherebbe, e.g., the contrast in the image of the «fronda / in ramo, che sen va e altra vene». In fact a double hiatus intervenes to underscore: «sen va | e | altra...».
«Sexual Politics and Meat». Pardon me? No, not a joke, but the actual title of a paper presented, as a Vegetarian-Feminist literary theory, at a national scholarly conference. Our leisurely friends, seeing our delight, provided further entries to stuff into our MAW (Multicultural Awareness Workshop). The winner is «Selfhood and Lettuce», but photo-finish runner-ups were «Deconstructing Brown Rice» and «Male Bonding and Goat Cheese». We disqualified the naughty «Phallocentricity in Little Nell».
«How many people read the poetry of Virgil?» chuckles Professor Clayborne Carson of Stanford U. __ Lectorcule! will you deride us? Late at night, as it is; alone in our book room; hesitantly at first, more and more firmly then, we raise, high in the air, a hand.