Imitation in literary theory and practice in Italy, 1400-1530
The standard works on Renaissance literary criticism in Italy devote little space to the period before 1530; and though they recognise the importance of the imitation of literary models in Quattrocento literature, they concentrate on the statements on imitation by Petrarch and Poliziano, and consider only theory. This thesis challenges that traditional view by examining the substantial contributions to imitation theory made by humanists between Petrarch and Poliziano and by adopting a comprehensive approach which embraces both theory and practice, both Latin and vernacular works. The main objective of this research is to demonstrate that imitation is the key to literary theory and practice in the period, and to suggest that literary criticism in the Quattrocento is worthy of more detailed attention. After an initial chapter on the Trecento, Chapters Two to Four consider the role of imitation in the first half of the Quattrocento, examining the works of Bruni; the contributions of educators such as Vergerio, Barzizza, Antonio da Rho (whose De Imitationibus Eloquentie is studied here for the first time in its full version) and Guarino; and the polemic between Poggio and Valla, which marks a crucial stage in the development of Ciceronianism. Chapters Five and Six are devoted to the rise of vernacular humanism between 1430 and 1480, dealing with imitation in the works of Alberti and Landino, who outline a programme of development for the volgare based on the imitation of both the content and the stylistic techniques of Latin authors. Chapters Seven to Nine study the three major literary disputes between 1480 and 1530, showing that the two polemics on imitation between Poliziano and Cortese and between G.F.Pico and Bembo are linked with the quarrel between Barbaro and G.Pico on eloquence and philosophy. An analysis of each dispute both in relation to the other polemics and in the context of the other works of each participant permits a modification of the received view of Cortese as the first Ciceronian; illustrates the proximity rather than the divergence of the views of Pico and Barbaro; and by examining a little-known letter of G.F.Pico demonstrates that his views on imitation are developed about a decade before his exchange with Bembo. Finally, after illustrating Bembo's application of Ciceronianism to his vernacular works and to his Historia Veneta, the thesis concludes by suggesting that with Bembo one stage of the imitation debate comes to a close.