Whose Aristotle? Latinate Knowledge and Vernacular Translation in Medieval Italy
Lecture by Eugenio Refini
Given at the Medieval Institute of the University of Notre Dame, on April 21, 2022
Abstract: A famous tale from the Novellino (one of the most prominent collections of novelle before Boccaccio’s Decameron) ridicules a philosopher who endeavors to translate science and philosophy into the vernacular. By staging the anxieties connected with the vulgarization of knowledge, the novella seizes upon a phenomenon—vernacular—whose significance to Medieval and Renaissance culture can hardly be overstated. While the “philosopher” in the story is unnamed, his fate resonates with the dynamics that informed the vernacular reception of the “Philosopher” par excellence: Aristotle. By exploring the ways in which the “Master of those who know” was appropriated by vernacular translators and their readers between the age of Dante and the dawn of Humanism, this talk argues that translation offered a productive—yet not uncontested—space of interaction for competing linguistic traditions and cultural agendas.
Eugenio Refini is an Associate Professor of Italian Studies at New York University. His work focuses on classical reception, translation, early modern drama and the intersections of music and literature. His recent publications include The Vernacular Aristotle: Translation as Reception in Medieval and Renaissance Italy. Click here to view Eugenio’s Academia.edu page.
Top Image: Aristotle depicted in British Library Additional 47680 f. 10