A Clear Eye on Life: Renaissance Style in Primo Levi’s Writing
From the beginnings of the Italian Renaissance, important Italian writers have studied life with the alert eye of a committed scientist, fascinated by what they observe through the microscope whether their perceptions amuse, lift the spirits, or repulse. A forerunner from the Middle Ages, Dante’s clear, calculated study of Florentine history and politics in the Commedia followed his embrace of the daily language of common Italian people (as opposed to the more formal, intellectual, religious Latin of the Church) in De Vulgari Eloquentia, which I loosely translate as The Eloquence of Ordinary People. That essay, a landmark in the history of Western literary poetics, essentially laid the groundwork for the progressive liberalization of language, content, and form in world literature, a liberalization continued in the works, for example, of Flaubert, Whitman, Twain, Hemingway, Joyce, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and, starting with the 1960s, contemporary musical lyrics.
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