The Pleasures of Reading in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
Lina Bolzoni is Professor of Italian Literature at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and Global Distinguished Professor at the New York University. She is a member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and a fellow of the British Academy. Among her publications, La stanza della memoria. Modelli letterari e figurativi nell’età della stampa (Torino: Einaudi, 1995); La rete delle immagini. Predicazione in volgare dalle origini a Bernardino da Siena, (Torino: Einaudi, 2002); Il cuore di cristallo. Ragionamenti d’amore, poesia e ritratto nel Rinascimento, (Torino : Einaudi, 2010) ; Il lettore creativo. Percorsi cinquecenteschi fra memoria, gioco, scrittura, (Napoli : Guida, 2012) ; L’”Orlando Furioso” nello specchio delle immagini, (Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia Treccani, 2014).
I am writing a book based on my Berenson Lectures on The Rites and Pleasures of Reading in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
We are at present engaged in a technical revolution that questions the traditional world of books and reading. It was this that gave me the idea of revisiting the great Renaissance myths constructed around the act of reading, the most famous of them being Machiavelli’s letter to Vettori: “I enter the antique courts of ancient men, […] where I am not ashamed to speak with them, and to ask them the reasons for their actions; and in their humanity, they answer me”. From Petrarch to Montaigne, up to Tasso, it is possible to revisit the theme of reading in terms of a personal encounter, a dialogue with the authors. Reading becomes also an instrument in the acquisition of knowledge and the construction of the self: a mirror image of the author, with whom, as Erasmus claimed, the self recognizes a secret affinity. In this way, reading and writing, imitation and creation, interact. The book becomes a body, a person; the portraits of the authors help to enact a kind of magic spell capable of defying death itself, of creating links of friendship that destroy the barriers of time, until the moment when Tasso denounces the dangers of the imagination.