Philology: interpretatio

A pure conservation of the documents of the past in their textual integrity is not sufficient to address all the problems involved in the preservation of the memory of our humanist culture. That approach would miss the great opportunity that digital humanists have to re-think the very notion of humanism from the point of view of a new technology and the new questions we are facing in our time.  From this opportunity comes the need to associate the preservation and restorative activity to a –as much as possible distinct– interpretative one that would address the differences that the texts from the past represent, helping us to rediscover what we have lost in our engagement with the world that gave life meaning.

 Philology runs the risk of dying if it remains confined within the page, forgetting the vital dialogue that the text entertains with the world, especially the natural one. This is particularly true for the Rvf that feature a poet in deep dialogue with a sympathetic and enchanted nature and is intensely implicated in different forms of natural forces and metamorphoses, that impinge on the poet himself, triggering metaphysical reflections on the salvific power of love. Pace modernist and subjectivist readings of the Rvf, the poet who writes them still conceives the boundary between the self and those natural forces as somewhat porous, as Charles Taylor would put it (113). The OPOB is developing a textual analysis and interpretation that emphasizes this porous character of the Rvf.

 While we are committed to preserve in our archive as many witnesses and documents of the Petrarchan tradition as possible, our interpretative effort is concentrated at the moment on the importance of the early reception of Petrarch'sRvf, in particular the late fourteenth and fifteenth century one. The introductions to Cod. Queriniano D II 21 andIncunabulum Queriniano G V 15 present the codicological and historical information necessary to understand the position of these key documents in the technological and textual evolution of the Rvf from manuscript to early print culture. Philology is the master key of the OPOB; we are aware that the emergence of a distinct humanist philology did not start with digital technology and actually is principally linked to the inception of book technology in the thirteenth century. However, our project addresses a fundamental pitfall of humanist philology developed after Petrarch: the tendency to limit the philological operation to a dialogue between authors, setting aside the link between philology and philosophy that was fundamental in Petrarch’s idea of humanitas.



University of Oregon

National Endowment for the Humanities logo