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Leopardi and the Theory of Poetry

Leopardi and the Theory of Poetry

G. SINGH
Copyright Date: 1964
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130hw37
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  • Book Info
    Leopardi and the Theory of Poetry
    Book Description:

    In this first detailed and comprehensive account of Leopardi's theory of poetry, G. Singh assesses both the literary and critical attainments of a poet whose eminence ranks him with Dante and Petrarch. Singh's analysis, which employs extensive reference to Leopardi's work in order to illustrate the author's own comments, sets forth Leopardi's views on the larger questions of tradition, inspiration, and the imagination in poetry. Later chapters are concerned with the more specific matters of the poetic image, style, and language.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6460-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    G. Singh
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Leopardi’s Critical Method and Principles
    (pp. 1-20)

    No poet in the history of Italian literature occupied himself with the theory of poetry so much as Leopardi; and, indeed, “few men have given so much hard thought to the matter.”¹ As a poetic theorist, he not only compares well with Goethe, Wordsworth, and Coleridge on the one hand, and Edgar Allan Poe and Baudelaire on the other, but in virtue of his classical learning and philological scholarship, which he brought to bear on certain aspects of the literary and poetic theory, especially the linguistic and stylistic aspects, he easily surpasses them all. Moreover, the range of the literary...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Attack upon the Romantics: Leopardi’s Early Theory
    (pp. 21-39)

    Leopardi’s essay “Discorso di un Italiano intorno alia Poesia Romantica,” written in 1818, and published for the first time in 1906 inScritti Vari Inediti, was a critical response, couched in deliberately polemical terms, to Cavaliere Lodovico Di Breme’sOsservazioni sulla Poesia Moderna, published inSpettatore italiano, 1-15 January 1818. As regards the nature of its genesis and the spirit of enlightened zeal mingled with critical sanity and argumentative power which Leopardi manifested in the defence as well as the exposition of the cause not so much of classical poetry as of poetry in general, this essay bears no insignificant...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Myth of Antiquity in Leopardi’s Theory of Poetry
    (pp. 40-63)

    The contrast between the ancient and the modem that serves as a cornerstone to much of Leopardi’s thinking on the nature and meaning of poetry originates from Leopardi’s conviction regarding not only the indisputable supremacy of ancient poetry, especially that of Homer, over modem poetry, but also the ideal character of the historic conditions under which ancient poetry was written—conditions which cannot be repeated. Almost invariably did Leopardi judge and compare modem poetry with ancient poetry, and with Homer—the “prince of poetry,” “the father and the perpetual prince of all the poets of the world”—and found it,...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Role of Melancholy and the Concept of Poetic Inspiration
    (pp. 64-86)

    In so far as modern poetry is concerned, Leopardi, like so many poets before and after him, considered melancholy as something more congenial to poetic sentiment than cheerfulness. And it is not only more congenial to poetic sentiment, but also more conducive to the discovery of truth, and hence more useful to philosophers, than cheerfulness. At one point, and that through the creative philosophical value of melancholy, the antagonism, or what Leopardi himself calls the “unsurmountable barrier, a mortal enmity,”¹ between philosophical or scientific truth and poetic illusion, is broken down and a common ground is found where both can...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Creative Use of Memory, Imagination, and Imitation
    (pp. 87-113)

    The world is born with everyone who is born in the world,”¹ said Pascoli, who shared with poets like Blake, Wordsworth, and Leopardi the vision of childhood as being the happiest period not only in man’s life, but, in a certain important and incomparable way, also, in the poet’s. Leopardi himself, as we have already seen, regarded a child’s imagination to be the only authentically Homeric type of imagination—an imagination that abounds in that quality of “the aery and the beautiful” which, according to him, constitutes one of the most essential characteristics of the poetic sentiment. Now, though the...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Poetic Sensibility and Illusion
    (pp. 114-139)

    Each object seen in its double form—that is to say, as the object is in itself and as it appears to our imagination—is almost invariably colored by our sensibility, which gives that object, or to our reaction to that object, an emotional touch. By poetic sensibility is generally meant one’s capacity to respond emotionally to things presented by imagination just as readily as one responds to objects, as they are in themselves, through one’s sense perceptions. The more poetic this sensibility, the more powerfully and more spontaneously it reacts to the imaginative version of things, and the less...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN The Poetic Image
    (pp. 140-153)

    It is through a poetic image that the poet best can convey the sense of the vague and indefinite, of something that is at once finite and infinite, particular and universal. A poetic image enables him to transcend and transform the more or less definite significance one normally attaches to words as words. An image, however simple and unitary it might be, evokes not one, but several ideas in the reader’s mind, precisely because it expresses, better than could have been done in any other way, the poet’s perception and meaning of something, which is itself complex, multiple, and vague....

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT The Concept of Poetic Style
    (pp. 154-180)

    To pass on to posterity one’s own language, more highly developed, more refined, and more precise than it was before one wrote it, that is the highest possible achievement of the poet as poet,” says T. S. Eliot in connection with Dante.¹ After Dante the one Italian poet who may be said to have done so—and done so, at least so far as the poetic use of that language is concerned, even far more than Manzoni—is Leopardi. As the recreator of the Italian lyric, which had considerably lost its force and originality in the hands of the imitators...

  12. CHAPTER NINE The Language of Poetry
    (pp. 181-231)

    The question of style is inseparably bound up with the question of language—a question which in Leopardi’s theory looms much larger than any other. And this is not merely because of his philological interest, but also because of his conviction that in the last analysis it is what the poet does with words, how he transforms them in order to make them express what no other words or what the same words in no other context or as used by no one else would have expressed, that determines and that indeed makes one aware of ultimate value of art....

  13. CHAPTER TEN Leopardi and Ourselves
    (pp. 232-260)

    Apart from his influence as a poet—and no poet, with the exception of Dante, has wielded a more powerful influence on the development of modem Italian poetry—Leopardi’s influence as a poetic theorist on twentieth century poetic theory (in Italy) has also been of the utmost importance. In fact his influence as a poet and his influence as a poetic theorist are almost inseparable as were, indeed, his own experiences as a poet and as a theorist. Leopardi developed his ideas about poetry and noted them down in hisZibaldone(begun in July 1817, terminated in December 1832) at...

  14. APPENDIX A Further Observations on Poetry and Other Subjects
    (pp. 261-276)
  15. APPENDIX B Some Remarks on the Nature of Beauty
    (pp. 277-284)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 285-342)
  17. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 343-360)
  18. Index
    (pp. 361-366)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 367-369)