Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

California Italian Studies

California Italian Studies banner

Temporalità liriche. Ripetizione e incompiutezza tra Dante e Caproni, Montale e Sanguineti


Looking at lyric poetry from the perspective of temporality, this paper intends to address a crucial and often overlooked issue for a theoretical approach to the lyric: how the crystallized moment of the single poem encapsulates iteration. One side of this issue is at the centre of Jonathan Culler’s Theory of the Lyric (2015): the lyric poem as a script to be actualized as event in the ‘now’ of each act of reading. I want to focus instead on the other side of the issue, namely on the strategies by which the poem itself singularizes what it presents as a recurrent event. This ancient phenomenon can be traced back, for instance, to Sappho’s fragment 31 and its famous translation, Catullus’ carmen 51, but the point of departure here will be a much clearer case: Dante’s sonnet “Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare”. Indeed, it is Dante himself who makes these dynamics clear in the narrative prose that precedes the poem and provides its scene of enunciation. Moving to the twentieth century, I will discuss first an evident case of retrieval of Dante’s and Cavalcanti’s poetics by focusing on one of the poems that Giorgio Caproni collects in the section “Versi livornesi” of his 1959 book Il seme del piangere. Then I will expand the analysis to other poems by poets as different as Montale and Sanguineti. The discussion will address also issues of open referentiality, the re-enactment of lyric gestures, and the trans-historical dimension of the lyric in the context of Giorgio Agamben’s notion of poetica dell’inoperosità as a potential critique of teleology.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View