Le “chiavi tematiche bibliche” nel contesto della tradizione retorica e letteraria europea: un capitolo di poetica storica
The article deals with the case of the so-called “biblical thematic clue” (a definition introduced by R. Picchio), that is a rhetorical device allegedly widely spread in the medieval Church Slavonic literary code. Despite a large number of studies, appeared in the last decades and mostly inspired by Picchio’s theory, scholars have failed so far to produce a wide theoretical outline of this issue, moreover checking it on the basis of a narrow circle of texts (mostly in the field of hagiography and homiletics). Consequently, several methodological questions remain to a large extent unexplored. For instance: What actually is a ‘thematic clue’ and at which point of the expositio a biblical reference is expected to be found in order to be considered as a ‘thematic clue’? What degree of adherence to a previous model a ‘thematic clue’ must have in order to be recognized as such? To what extent was a medieval man of letters aware in using this rhetorical device? And apart from this, shall the ‘thematic clue’ always be interpreted as a case of ‘intertextuality’, i.e. as result of an intentional quotation of a well-defined literary model, or may it sometimes be explained also as a phenomenon of ‘interdiscoursiveness’, i.e. a unintentional quotation drawn not from a definite biblical or patristic model (‘parole’), yet from a biblical-liturgical ‘langue’?) Besides these and other issues, still open remains the question whether it is acceptable to consider the ‘thematic clue’ as an exclusive feature of the Old Church Slavonic literature, or rather a rhetorical device known even to other traditions? In this regard, the author offers a brief survey illustrating how different literary systems, over more than two thousand years, have made use of quotations from authoritative models in the introductory lines of a text or even in incipit. Examples of such a rhetorical strategy are pointed out in ancient Greek and Latin poetry, where is to be found the typical use of the so-called ‘motto’, i.e. an allusive quotation from a well-known model (primarily Homer) in the first verse of a poem, functioning as ‘self-nscription’ by the poet in a literary canon (see e.g. Callimacus, Horace, Catullus quoting Homer or Alcaeus, etc.). In more recent times, the ancient use of ‘motto’ gains strenght inside all Christian traditions, where the main source for quotations becomes the Holy Bible: for example, in Middle Latin liturgical poetry (see e.g. Paulinus of Nola, Notker Balbulus), in the Goliardic poetry (see the Archpoet of Cologne, etc.), as well as in Slavic and Byzantine hymnography. An interesting typological parallel to the Slavonic ‘thematic clues’ is to be found in Western paraliturgical practice of the so-called ‘thematic verse’, customarily in use in medieval Franciscan and Dominican homiletics. Typologically and functionally related to the ancient ‘motto’ and to medieval Greek/Latin/Slavonic ‘thematic clues’ are also several quotations from (biblical) authoritative texts in vernacular literary traditions: besides the Divine Comedy, that begins with the first verse of the Hezekiah’s Song of Thanksgiving (a text well-known to every reader in the Middle Ages, thanks to its inclusion in the Liturgy of the Hours), significant parallels can be cited from Old German and Provencal vernacular poetry (e.g. Marcabru, Jaufre Rudel, Raimbaut d’Aurenga, etc.). Quotations of authoritative models in incipit are also common, for instance, in the late medieval and renaissaince music, especially in the sacred vocal polyphony, where in the overture and, subsequently, in each section composing the mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) it is customary to quote a passage from a previous model in order to draw the attention of churchgoers, stressing a specific liturgical and/or theological meaning. The few examples discussed in the article clearly show that the so-called ‘thematic clues’ in Church Slavonic literary tradition must be considered as a local variant of a widespread rhetorical strategy, going back to Antiquity and then independently developed in several forms. The further task of the studies should be to distinguish functions, application modes and ways of reception of this rhetorical device over more than two thousand years, and to deal with this topic within a perspective of historical poetics.
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