Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The 18th Century

The 18th century

The Enlightenment On the whole the 1700s were less interested in poetry or literarure though than philosophy and politics. The flamboyant baroque that dominated the preceding century turns into a simplified decoration mainly used for decoration: the Rococo.

As the century progresses, sobriety becomes the canon. Science breaks new ground and becomes the center of interest in the name of pragmatism and progress. Philosophy is still used with the meaning of "love of knowledge", but the knowledge coming from the exact sciences, as maths and physics. 

Literature is no longer a leader, but becomes a means to an end, it is made to serve causes as campaigns for democracy or social justice and scientific articles are sometimes put into verse. Science seems divorced from the realm of humanities and poetry which can only be ancillary to more important causes. 

Literature as a conduit for science High-brow literature is scientific in the modern sense of the world. For the first times economics, sociology, history, architecture, physics, biology, medicine, agriculture and even the arts and crafts are grouped by the philosophes in collective efforts, as encyclopedic dictionaries (the Encyclopédie sparks a cultural revolution and even attracts the interest of monarchs and princes. 

Les lumières, or the Enlightenment was a sort of pre-positivism mostly inspired by the intellectual environment of late 17th century England and the so-called libertines or free-thinkers and blooms in France in the 18th. From there it spread to most European countries, even touching Prussia and Russia. 

Lombard Philosophes say no to the Crusca Inspired by France and England, many countries start liberal reforms inspired to the principles of tolerance, equality and fiscal justice, though rusults vary depending on the state we are looking at. Alessandro and Pietro Verri even founded Il Caffé (1764-1766), a magazine about contemporary culture where they advocated the cause for Italy's unification and the enlightened ideas of the philosophes. 

Many Italian states were foreign dominions: some, like Lombardia and Veneto (then forming one state), had been annexed to the Austrian Empire. It is only natural that the Verri and many more intellectuals looked to France's culture as a model, and praised French, regarded as a modern language as opposed to the Italian, considered immature because it was still anchored to Bembo's literary canon. 

It is with such ideas in mind that Alessandro Verri published in the Caffé his Rinunzia davanti al notaio al Vocabolario della Crusca ('Refusal of the Crusca Dictionary before a notary').in 1764. To this environment belonged Beccaria, and the younger Manzoni. 

The prestige of France may explain to some extent why the literary debate about the italian language stalls and the French language penetrates so widely in the grammar and lexicon. There seems to be no consensus about what Italian should sound like, whether and how it should be reformed and by whom., says Migliorini. Florence declines as a cultural hub, and a new school founded in 1690 in Rome, the Arcadia, go as far as mocking the Florentines, accusing the Crusca of sticking to an old-fashioned language that has lost its grasp with the present. 

Italy divided over the Crusca The Romans despised Florentine for being full of gross and vulgar words, labeling it unfit to play a pivotal role on the linguistic scene. The conservative North and the South insisted on maintaining the old Florentine diction of the 14th century based on Petrarch, Dante, and Boccaccio (volgare illustre) without proposing those much-needed reforms or changes to update a language that is growing old-fashioned. 

One happy exception is Milan, where the Verris and other readers of the Caffé were were more inclined to experiment. French as the perfect linguistic model But the prestige of French meant that even many of the inherent qualities of the Italian language were regarded as defects.

There were many loan words and expressions from France, and at this point the Italian language seems to be influenced by the stricter word order of the French phrase (more similar to the English), against the traditional Italian model which reflects the looser word-order of Latin embraced by Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. Milan's intellectuals were generally against tradition and much attracted by the turn of phrase of the scientific literature that came from France or Britain. 

The fact that French texts were widely read and esteemed generated such words as Madama [fr. Madame, en. madam], madamosella [fr. mademoiselle, en. young lady], bidè [fr. bidet], baionetta [fr.baïonnette], mitraglia [mitrailleuse, en. machine-gun], bloccare [fr. bloquer, en. block], picchetto [fr. piquet, en.picket], marionetta [fr. marionette, [en. puppet], rondò [rondeau], minuetto [minuet], oboe [hautbois], cretino [crétin], abile [fr.habile, en.able], autorizzare [fr.authoriser], concorrenza [fr.concurrance, en. competition], guadagnare [al gioco: gagner, en. win], interessante [fr. intéressant, en. interesting], intraprendente [fr. entreprenant, en. enterprising], intrapresa [fr. entreprise, en. enterprise], liquore [fr. liqueur], manifattura [fr.manufacture], pubblico [fr. public], rapporto [fr. rapport, en. relationship], toccante [fr. touchant, en. touching], travaglio [fr. travail, en. work]. Or expressions as bel mondo [fr. beau monde, en. high society], colpo d'occhio [fr. coup d'œïl, en. look], presenza di spirito [fr. présence d'ésprit, en. presence of spirit], sangue freddo [fr. sang-froid, en. courage], far la corte [faire la cour, en. seek after], dar carta bianca [donner carte blanche, en. give carte blanche], a misura che [fr. à mesure que, en. by, the more...], toilette or toletta. 

Changes in syntax are not just apparent in the re-arrangement of the sentence after the French word-order (Mario non fa che lavorare [Mario ne fait que travailler, en. Mario only works], though the native 'Mario lavora soltanto' is not discarded). They affect phrases in the excessive use of the partitive (as in più di amicizia [< fr. plus d'amitié, en. more friendship] or troppo di generosità [trop de générosité, en. too much generosity]. 

Such phrases were used quite often, but this was a timely fashion: they were scrapped in the following century when the prestige of France declined in the eyes of the intellectuals. If a lesser attention to the classics and literature implied less control, it also meant there could be room for the long-banned imports from Italian dialects that had so far despised by the purists. 

Since most dialects are morphologically and phonetically compatible with Florentine, introducing non-Florentine or popular Tuscan words words allowed for more technical words and colloquialisms to enter the Italian language. The French Revolution and the Empire The enlightened ideals from France and Italy would soon provide the fuel for the American, and a few years later, the French Revolutions, and from there the new spirit of freedom would spread to the rest of the world. 

But when the French Revolution turned into imperialism and French troops under Napoleon conquered Italy, the disillusionment about France caused a rejection of the French language, which in the minds of many could be no longer associated with freedom and democracy. 

Such reaction seemed to suggest that national sentiment had been re-awakened in Italy, though it is fair to say that Napoleon's tyranny stirred mixed feelings among the people who met his armies: corvés and feudal injustice were abolished by the French, and goods could circulate freely: no more taxes to cross bridges or get in or out of the city. 

These were freedoms that the Italians experimented to their advantage, and welcomed. Butit was not the freedom that they had been promised, So, not even when the old foreign powers were re-enstated in the old continent following the Congress of Vienna (1815) could the march towards unification be stopped: consequently, the Italian language continued to make headway as the language of one Italy, though amongst impediments. 

Most Italians were still raised in their local dialect and many of those who could go to school were usually raised with French. But they were more and more determined in learning the national language. Such was the case of a new talented Lombard who became the author of the first great novel ever written in Italian: I promessi sposi (The Betrothed) by Alessandro Manzoni was the book that helped many to learn the language, while pleading for the cause of Italian unification.

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