Jaspreet Singh Boparai
From Politian to Poliziano: Giosué Carducci and the Creation of an Italian Poet
2016 - 2017 (January-June)
Jaspreet Singh Boparai trained initially as a classicist, and was the final student of the late Professor Philip Ford; his was the last-ever PhD awarded in the Department of neo-Latin at Cambridge. He was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford; the Courtauld Institute of Art; the Warburg Institute; the École normale supérieure in Paris; and Clare College, Cambridge, where he completed a dissertation on the history of classical scholarship. His research interests are divided between Latin literature and the history of art, and focus on the classical tradition in Italy and France between 1300 and 1700.
This project examines Giosuè Carducci’s 863 edition of Politian’s Italian poetry. Carducci’s commentary transformed Politian into a national literary figure in the wake of Italian reunification; it was a radical reconstruction, not a gentle rebalancing.
Politian (1454-94), the most formidable talent in Lorenzo de’ Medici’s circle, was an innovator both as a scholar and a writer; the range of his abilities is difficult to take in all at once. In the centuries after his death he was known mainly as an innovative philologist.
In the 18th century the jurist Friedrich Otto Mencke (1708-54) wrote the only full-length intellectual biography of Politian. The influence of this study killed Politian’s reputation as a poet for over a century, the enthusiasm of Lorenzo’s biographer William Roscoe (1753-1831) notwithstanding.
The first champion of Politian’s (or “Poliziano’s”) Italian verse was Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907), who saw (or created) in Politian a kindred spirit, a fiercely anticlerical artist-rebel sober only in his exemplary philological method. He does not quite make him into a proto-Garibaldian; but his ‘rediscovery’ of Politian as a sensuously pagan vernacular poet has a certain political element in the context of 1860s Italy. Carducci’s accomplices in recovering an Italian ‘Poliziano’ were Isidoro Del Lungo (1841-1927) and Gasparo Barbèra (1818-1883), also outspokenly Republican, atheist aesthetes.
My project will focus on Carducci’s 1863 edition with commentary on Politian’s Stanze, Orfeo e rime, as well as Del Lungo’s 1867 Prose volgari inedite e poesie latine e greche edite e inedite di Angelo Poliziano.