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Flaming heck!

Posted by Lewis on January 12, 2004

In Reply to: Dante's Inferno posted by Smokey Stover on January 12, 2004

: In discussing the phrase "killing floor" someone, I believe Anders, posted a synopsis of the Inferno that I thought was an extremely well-done job, clear, succinct yet pretty comprehensive, in unexceptionable English. It appears to have been used in Bill Stephany's English 122 class in 2002. Can Anders confirm that, and possibly even tell me if Stephany himself was the author of the symopsis? I would additionally comment only that Dante's Commedia is a large part of the reason that serious Italian authors adopted the Tuscan dialect from the 14th century on. The fact that Petrarch, the next great Italian author in the vernacular (14th c.) also used the Tuscan dialect just hammered home the new norm. After World War II, RAI, the Italian state radio, broadcast to every part of Italy using the Tuscan dialect, thus reinforcing the notion of one Italy, unified by the Italian language. Even in the Italian Tirol, where they speak a sort of German, everyone knows Tuscan Italian, from school and the TV.

That was a neat post! I've only been to Tuscany ('Chiantishire') and the Veneto/Dolomites, but I didn't notice a difference in the general sound of Italian. I understand that further North, Italy has Germanic/Swiss influence and in the North West perhaps a little French - but I had always rather assumed that the pre-unification states were somewhat alike in language. Obviously the very south would be expected to have a more 'latin' approach than the north, which is more 'European'. The culture and food of Italy does mirror the city-state background and most of us have heard of Tuscan, Roman, Genoan/Genovese, Neapolitan, Venetian, Bolognese and Milanese as descriptions.

It is interesting to read the history of those City states - often they had an importance in political and military terms entirely disproportionate to their size - based upon wealth from trade. As so much of the military side of their power was from foreign mercenaries - it was odd to hear of the French hiring Italian crossbowmen (from Genoa, I think) during the Hundred Years War - a case of 'taking coals to Newcastle', one would have thought. Churches have memorials to some of the foremost foreign mercenaries - many English. It is odd to see such English names gracing Renaissance marble in Italy.

There are a number of memorials to Dante in Florence/Firenze, but it is still surprising that Dante surpasses so many others to be thought to have made Tuscan-Italian the common tongue.