Defining the corpus of Franco-Italian literary texts is a very complex undertaking. After several years of work, one of the most original results of creating this database probably consists precisely in the definition of a new corpus.
In order to overcome the initial roadblock (there was no agreed-upon inventory of Franco-Italian texts upon which researchers could rely), we began with the studies of those who preceded us, and in particular, from the catalogue of 65 texts fixed by Günter Holtus in 1998, who initially compiled the list merely as a bibliography of texts serving for the study of the vocabulary of the Entrée d’Espagne. However, it then demonstrated its limits when, in successive studies, it assumed the role of corpus for Franco-Italian literature. Holtus’s catalogue includes, in fact, reworkings or original creations by authors from northern Italy, but also Italian dialect texts.
Luca Morlino (2009) first revised that list. From the nucleus of texts suggested by Holtus, he removed the works that did not belong: the song En rima greuf a far dir e stravolger by the Trevisan Auliver; the lyric Eu ò la plu fina druderia; the Ambrosian fragment of Garin le Loherain, which had no Italian linguistic interference; the Franco-Venetian Glossary attached to the copy of Aldobrando da Siena’s Régime du corps in MS 2511 of the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in Paris; the Sermoni subalpini; the Vita di Santa Maria Egiziaca, which is the version of a French text in northern Italian vernacular.
Other texts that, in the past, had been considered Franco-Italian, in reality merely “gravitated around” the Franco-Italian corpus, in the sense that “it was a question of Venetian texts that present strong French influences in the lexicon and in the morphology due to the tradition of the work or a rough imitation, not due to the alternating use of two [linguistic] codes” (Renzi 1976, p. 575, translation Leslie Zarker Morgan): Rainaldo e Lensengrino in the Paduan version at Oxford and in the Trevisan one at Udine; the Paduan and Torinese Ugo d’Alvernia; the Bovo laurenziano. These texts, which belong to Italian literature, are nonetheless interesting, because they contribute to illuminating various aspects of the works more correctly called Franco-Italian.
Other titles were integrated into the Franco-Italian corpus. The new acquisitions came, on the one hand, from the corpus that Holtus himself, together with Peter Wunderli, edited for Franco-Italian epic poetry alone in the Grundriss des romanischen Literaturen des Mittelalters (the Roman d’Alexandre and the Histoire d’Atile en Ytaire, the Roman de Landomata, the Roman de Troie), and on the other hand, assembling the results of more recent studies. Thus were added the Amaestramens of Aristotle for Alexander, the vernacular version of the Consolatio philosophiae by Bonaventura da Demena, the vernacular version of Disticha Catonis by Macé de Troyes, and the Dits des sages, all transmitted in the same codex, Paris Bibliothèque Nationale de France fr. 821, where the just-mentioned Roman de Landomata is also found.
Among the additions stand out the so-called Six contes, that is, the partial French version of the Conti di antichi cavalieri edited by Bertoni in 1912; the Livre de l’eschiele Mahomet, French version of the Arab-Andalusian Kitāb al-Mi’rāģ completed by Bonaventura da Siena from a now-lost earlier Castilian version (Libro del subimiento), and other shorter witnesses such as the epitaph of Martinello da Rainone inscribed on a tombstone at the Basilica of Saints Felice and Fortunato in Vicenza, and a short little-known fragment of the Roman de Troie, all texts listed in Luca Morlino’s 2009 doctoral thesis.
Afterwards, the additions became many. In the corpus, for example, we have added also the French songs from the MS Florence Biblioteca Nazionale Strozzi-Magliabecchiano VII (1040), and in the future we will consider including the Dialogue du per et fils, Paris Bibliothèque Nationale de France fr. 726; copies of the French vernacular De regimine principum by Egidio Romano originating from Italy; the Franco-Italian version of Barlaam and Josephat in Paris Bibliothèque Nationale de France fr. 187; and other texts indicated in various sources, the appropriateness of which must be verified case by case.
The French of Italy
RIALFrI therefore tends to the broadest possible approach and takes account of all the Italian regions involved in the spread of French, to such an extent that it becomes more appropriate to speak of the “French of Italy” (the acronym RIALFrI would therefore not be understood as only Repertorio informatizzato dell’antica letteratura franco-italiana [Digital Repository of Old Franco-Italian Literature], but as Repertorio informatizzato dell’antica letteratura francese d’Italia [Digital Repository of the Old French Literature of Italy], since the term “Franco-Italian” traditionally has had a more restricted meaning, though the actual title for now remains the same). From a linguistic and cultural point of view, every French text produced in Italy can serve, in fact, to illuminate others. In addition to the Po valley, then, these other areas must be considered: the Piedmont, characterized by the prevalence of true and proper French and source of important works such as the Battaglia di Gamenario and the Chevalier errant by Tommaso di Saluzzo; the Tusco-Ligurian area, and in particular, Pisa, an active center for the reception and transmission of French Arthurian narrative material; and finally, at a second remove, the Neapolitan area, where French alternated with Latin as the language of the Angevin Chancellery, without, however, contesting the local vernacular.
Finally, there is another typology of texts (Morlino 2009) that includes French inserts or “stuffing” in Italian Latin texts, and then in Italian texts, as well as plurilingual compositions in which French also appears: the two lines contained in the Cronica Domini Ecelinide Romano by Gerardo Maurisio; the fragments scattered hither and yon in the Cronica by Salimbene de Adam; the short pieces in French in the Dittamondo by Fazio degli Uberti; the lines of the poem in terzine on Francesco Novello of Carrara and the reconquering of Padua; the descort Aï faux ris attributed to Dante; the trisyllables (ternari) by Matteo Correggiaio; the sonnet Se ’l tuo novo sonetto ben intendo by Francesco di Vannozzo; the bi- and trilingual exercises that appear in Antonio da Tempo and Gidino da Sommacampagna’s metrical treatises; and perhaps the Franco-Latin pastiche of the Historia troiana in the MS Vaticano Barberiniano lat. 3953, that could, however, be the product of one or more interpolations.
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Each of the works of an individual author have been considered separately (for example, Moamin and Ghaatrif by Daniele Deloc), just as the different versions of a single work (e.g., the Chanson de Roland, V4 and V7). On the other hand, the Geste Francor has been treated as a single work, even if, for ease of use [and following tradition], the subdivision into parts with the help of subtitles has been maintained.
To an initial elementary division of texts on the base of their form (prose/verse), is added Gaston Paris’s 1865 traditional tripartite division (copies of French texts made in Italy, recastings and reworkings of French works by Italian authors, original works written by Italian authors in French), with an awareness of the fact that this division of materials alone does not always work. In reality, no single system completely describes the Franco-Italian text types, but multiple systems can, again, using various possibilities of computational means, complement each other. One essential criterion that reflects a social and literary difference must naturally be the language (works written in French vs. works in Franco-Lombard, to repeat Renzi’s 1976 dichotomy), but that criterion can only be operable after thoroughly studying all the texts from a linguistic point of view.
Pages edited by Francesca Gambino. Last updated: September 9, 2022
Translations by Leslie Zarker Morgan