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Textual Authority and the History of Dante’s ‘Vita Nova:’ Revisiting Editorial Objectivity in the Era of ‘Fake News’

February 3, 2020 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

image of the frontispiece for Dante's book "Vita Nova"
Image courtesy of Jelena Todorović. Alighieri, Dante. “Vita Nvova di Dante Alighieri, con XV Canzoni del medesimo. E la vita di esso Dante scritta da Giovanni Boccaccio.” Firenze, Stamperia di Bartolomeo Sermartelli, 1576. Copy held at the Lilly Library, Indiana University Bloomington.

Monday Seminar:

Jelena Todorović

Resident Fellow (2019-2020)

Vilas Associate Professor of Italian, French and Italian, UW-Madison


When we read an edition of a medieval text as it was printed in the 16th or the 20th century, what is it that we read? Whose work are we reading? Where rests the authority for a text, if no autograph manuscript survives? To what extent can we, as scholars, trust the scientific and “authoritative” sources of the 18th and 19th centuries? This interdisciplinary diachronic presentation engages with and offers new tools to scholars in other fields as they pursue the ongoing work of evaluating their own sources, especially sources dating from times when “objective truth” was often tied to “authority.” In focusing on issues of textual authority and authoritative text, my project informs and illuminates current debates in the public sphere over “truth” and different forms of “authority”—as, across a wide socio-political spectrum, we now live the Internet meme “we’re drowning in information while starving for wisdom.”

Jelena Todorović received her B.A. in Italian from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Italian from Indiana University in Bloomington. Currently, she serves as Associate Professor of Italian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research and teaching interests span from medieval Latin, Old Occitan, and Italian poetry, to material philology, textual criticism, history of the book. Her essays were published or are forthcoming in Studi danteschiDante StudiesHeliotropiaBoccaccio in AmericaLectura Boccaccii, Medioevo letterario d’Italia, etc. She authored a monograph titled Dante and the Dynamics of Textual Exchange: Authorship, Manuscript Culture, and the Making of the ‘Vita Nova’ (Fordham University Press, 2016) and has co-edited with Ernesto Livorni the volume titled Petrarch and His Legacies (forthcoming with the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently finishing her book manuscript tentatively titled Dante’s Vita Nova in Print Culture: Balancing Boccaccian Authority and the Critical Method Through Five Centuries of Editorial Practice.


February 3, 2020
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States