"As a Leaf on a Branch ... ": Dante's Neologisms

Research areas:
Year:
2010
Type of Publication:
Article
Authors:
  • Luzzi, J.
Journal:
Pmla-Publications of the Modern Language Association of America
Volume:
125
Number:
2
Pages:
322-+
BibTex:
Note:
Luzzi, Joseph
Abstract:
This essay begin.; by showing how the criticisms of neologism that Dante inherited from ancient and medieval rhetoric, especially those that decry the supposed barbarity of invented words, provide counterintuitive insight into the motives behind Dante's lexical experimentalism in the Commedia. It then turns to the metaphoric link between Horace's defense of neologisms in the Ars poetica (The Art of Poetry [18 BCE]) and Adam's speech on the origin of language in Paradiso 26, a relation whose Homeric and Vergilian resonances in Dante's understanding of linguistic cycles. I argue that Dante's rewriting through Horace of the infernal, Vergilian simile of the falling leaves establishes a poetics of regeneration in Paradiso that joins the process of word creation to the miracle of the Resurrection and to the time-bound, cyclic nature of what Adam calls the linguistic "uso d'i mortali" 'usage of mortals' (JL)