Critical Philology and Dante’s Commedia. Two thoughts on the role of interpretation and a few new textual readings

When and Where

Thursday, November 26, 2020 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Online via Zoom - see event description for further information.


Paolo Trovato (Ferrara)


Not only literary students, but also several well known scholars share the idea that the reconstruction of a text is a routine job which leaves little room to creativity. After some 40 years in which I have edited or prepared the edition of works of Machiavelli (Discorso intorno alla nostra lingua), Pietro Aretino (Cortegiana), Torquato Tasso (Aminta)  and 17 years devoted to the textual transmission and the text of Dante’s Commedia I think that, except for most of the first phases of the job, textual editing requires almost constant critical thought and interpretation. I shall present a little series of examples, mostly from Dante’s Commedia, with cases ranging from decisions in the realm of accidentals – e.g. about the linguistic level of the work (foreign words such as adulterio or chaos vs. strongly integrated words such as  avoltero and caosso) - , to rather complicated choices among competing substantial readings, to the risky enterprise of emendation against all the witnesses of the work. While these examples can give an idea of the novelty of some solutions of my forthcoming edition (the introduction and Inferno will appear in the first months of 2021), IMHO, they should confirm the opinion of the great classical philologist Giorgio Pasquali, according to whom textual criticism isn’t mechanic, it is methodic.

Paolo Trovato is a scholarly editor in the field of medieval and Renaissance Italian literature. Professor of the history of the Italian language  at Ferrara, he was a Fellow at the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies (VIT) and at the Newberry Library,  Chicago, and is Honorary Member of the Dante Society of America. His books include Storia della lingua italiana. Il primo Cinquecento (reprint: Padua,, 2012), Everything you Always Wanted to Know About Lachmann’s Method (Revised Edition: Padua,, 2017) and Torquato Tasso, Aminta, a cura di Davide Colussi e Paolo Trovato (Turin, Einaudi, forthcoming). Since 2002 he has been leading a small team on a critical edition of Dante’s Commedia.

To attend this lecture, please RSVP to with your name, lecture date, and lecture title .  You will receive an email one day before the event containing access information to the lecture and other event details.

All times stated in Eastern Time.

Contact Information


Emilio Goggio Chair in Italian Studies - University of Toronto