Rebuilding post-Revolutionary Italy

BookRebuilding post-Revolutionary Italy

Rebuilding post-Revolutionary Italy

Leopardi and Vico's 'New Science'

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2018:04


April 30th, 2018

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Co-Winner of the Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Italian Studies, 2018.
The rediscovery of the thought of Giambattista Vico (1668-1774) – especially his New science – is a post-Revolutionary phenomenon. Stressing the elements that keep society together by promoting a sense of belonging, Vico’s philosophy helped shape a new Italian identity and intellectual class. Poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) responded perceptively to the spreading and manipulation of Vico’s ideas, but to what extent can he be considered Vico’s heir?
Through examining the reasons behind the success of the New science in early nineteenth-century Italy, Martina Piperno uncovers the cultural trends, debates, and obsessions fostered by Vico’s work. She reconstructs the penetration of Vico-related discourses in circles and environments frequented by Leopardi, and establishes and analyses a latent Vico-Leopardi relationship. Her highly original reading sees Leopardi reacting to the tensions of his time, receiving Vico’s message indirectly without a need to draw directly from the source. By exploring the oblique influence of Vico’s thought on Leopardi, Martina Piperno highlights the unique character of Italian modernity and its tendency to renegotiate tradition and innovation, past and future.

'Piperno’s study is extremely wide-ranging; yet, along the many routes explored (from the Homeric question and the rise of modern philology, to political and religious appropriations), the objective is always clear: one must rethink the plethora of discourses shaping the reception of an author. […] As we reach the conclusion, Piperno brings together this variety of responses within a steady methodological framework, making a fundamental contribution to today’s scholarship.'
Daniela Cerimonia, Modern Language Review

Author Information

Martina Piperno is an FWO Senior Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Leuven, Belgium, in the MDRN Research Lab. She was awarded her PhD in Italian studies at Warwick University in 2016, and after that she was a visiting fellow in the Department of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London, an Alberto Institute Visiting Fellow at Seton Hall University, and a Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow in the Italian Department at University College Cork.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
Table of contents8
Note on conventions14
i. Vico’s legacy, Vico’s ‘heir’16
ii. Diffraction30
iii. The structure of this work37
1. Forms of Italian modernity42
i. The power of the origins42
ii. Belief51
2. Principium62
i. The pride, the origins and the destiny of the nation65
ii. Epics, poetry, creation and nation-building72
3. Fictio84
i. Redefining fiction85
ii. Translating and mediating the ancient world89
iii. Was Vico Classicist or Romantic?93
iv. Fiction and/as belief104
4. Mythos114
i. Mytho-logein: Vico and Leopardi as mythologists114
ii. Towards ‘Alla Primavera’: Leopardi’s itineraries in myth (1815-1818)125
iii. ‘Alla Primavera’: about (un)poetic logic143
5. Philology and epos158
i. Florence 1827-1828: refoundation, recovery, reconstruction162
ii. Zibaldone 4311-4417: Leopardi inside Homer’s system185
6. Recourse198
i. Rereading Vico in post-Revolutionary Naples: history, progress, perfectibility199
ii. ‘Cantare la religione civile’: Vico’s ideas in poetry216
iii. Regress, disbelief and fable in Leopardi’s last works222