Framing the Lyric Subject Matter: Prose Headings in Italian Books of Poetry (c.1450-c.1650)


£49,000 (56,700 euros)

Partners and collaborators

Host institution: Freie Universität Berlin


Funded by Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung (Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers)

The project aims to provide the first extensive study devoted to an overlooked component of the Renaissance paratext, namely prose headings included in books of poetry. It will do so by focusing on:

  • a significant corpus of single-authored lyric collections and multi-authored miscellanies
  • either manuscript or printed
  • produced in Italy
  • from the mid-fifteenth to the early-seventeenth century.

The synchronic and diachronic analysis of the corpus will illuminate the forms and functions of prose headings and their connections with similar paratextual devices employed in manuscripts or prints in which lyric texts are accompanied by exegetical materials, such as commentaries and lectures on Petrarch’s Canzoniere.

As headings constitute both a material threshold through which the lyric text is accessed and a conceptual frame by means of which the subject matter of the lyric text itself is singled out, a close investigation of these unexplored materials will provide rich evidence to support a more rigorous understanding of Renaissance approaches to the subject matter of lyric poetry.

A comparison between the notions of subject matter attested to by headings and the theoretical definitions of subject matter proposed in mid- and late-sixteenth-century Italian treatises and lectures on lyric poetry will identify the continuities and discontinuities between practices and theories of the lyric.