chapter  1
10 Pages

Oral and Manuscript Cultures in Early Modern Italy

Recent publications on early modern Italy form part of the trend, including important studies of manuscript culture. Benedetto Croce argued that dialect literature supported the national spirit as early as the seventeenth century, while other scholars have explained writing in dialect in terms of political fragmentation, of liberation from the 'prison' of the literary language or of rebellion against 'la spessa soffocante supremazia della lingua letteraria'. Walter Ong's famous point about what he called 'oral residue' in printed texts, in other words a style of communication that was transferred from one medium to another, can be illustrated with ease from early modern Italy. The red thread through the labyrinth is the gradual process by which Tuscan became the standard both for writing and for the speech of upper-class or educated people, at the expense of Latin on one side and dialect on the other.