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The introduction discusses the interrelated notions of translation and reception and introduces the main topic of the book: namely, the ways in which vernacular readers appropriated the legacy of Aristotle in Italy between 1250 and 1500. Given the deep-rooted and widespread presence of Aristotle in medieval and Renaissance culture, the vernacular reception of the philosopher’s works offers a productive lens through which to reconsider the proactive role of translation in the construction and refinement of communicative tools able to disseminate the philosophical tradition among wider communities of readers. As such, the introduction reflects on the cultural implications of the theory and practice of vernacular translation in the period, arguing that its function is better understood when considered as part of a wide-ranging reception process involving not only the translators, but also their readers, who, in various ways, contribute actively to the process itself.
Chapter 2 moves from Dante Alighieri’s contribution to the establishment of the vernacular as a language of knowledge and his critique of contemporary vernacular translation, which offer yet another perspective on the multifaceted process through which vernacular culture appropriated and, in a sense, tamed Aristotle’s authority. The chapter situates Dante’s portrayal of Aristotle within the poet’s broader reflection on language. Taking the appearance of Aristotle in the Divine Comedy as a starting point, I show that Dante’s notion of language cannot be understood without looking at his discussion of the relations between Latin and the vernacular, particularly in the Convivio. From this point of view, Dante’s harsh criticism of Taddeo Alderotti’s Italian translation of the Summa Alexandrinorum invites us to reconsider the failure of the Convivio itself, a project which did not foster the cultural revolution that Dante sought. By exploring the textual transmission of Taddeo’s translation between 1300 and 1500, the final section of the chapter enlightens its relevance to the vernacular reading communities that found forms of cultural and social legitimation in works of this kind.
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