- Lo Specchio della Fantasia: Retorica, Magia e Scrittura in Giordano Bruno
Maria Pia Ellero taught at the University of the Basilicata in Potenza during the period when she wrote this book. This is a point I will return to at the end of this review. Her academic field of interest is Italian literature and philosophy of the late sixteenth century. She has published various essays on Tommaso Campanella and Giordano Bruno, especially on Lo specchio della bestia trionfante, L'artificium perorandi, and Il candelaio. She has also written a textbook on the theory and history of rhetoric. These works inform her approach to the introduction, six chapters, and appendix on Bruno's works — mainly on his Italian dialogues — that we find in this book.
Lo specchio della fantasia is involved with the themes of beauty, art, and literature in Bruno's works, as well as with deep changes of sense that his philosophy of nature unearthed in the forms and ideas of representation. Ellero also deals with questions, such as the characteristics that become the Brunian notions of the diverse art of nature, which the Renaissance aesthetic expressed with the same linguistic formulations in quite different works by other authors.
In more detail, Ellero asks what are the parameters that define beauty in Bruno's infinite, nonhierarchical universe, in which the objectivity of forms ("in margine a un precetto di Aristotle" ) of beauty are not guaranteed by the possibility of submitting the forms to a universal consensus? The idea that the forms of different kinds of beauty are by themselves infinite and not commensurable with each other, and the idea that the same readers are subject to continuous changes of preferences and desiderata as they read each of the changing Italian texts in historical order, these somehow similar authorial ideas are mirrored in the writings of Bruno. They are mirrored in the choices of new rhetorical strategies that consent to the philosophy of building argumentative texts as literary texts (going, say, from the Cena de le ceneri to De la causa to Gli eroici furori within two or so brief years), and with the imitation of nature that intertwines with the former strategies, converges with them, and sometimes forms together with them in a tightly-knit tension as we finish Bruno's complete Italian works.
Ellero's study is complex and sometimes difficult to follow. Yet, hers is the voice of a new school of Italian literary criticism. If one reads the book with the [End Page 1282] goals of the University of Basilicata in mind, one realizes that her work is in line with this new school and its new scholarship. In this regard, this book is exciting to read and think about, and is worth perusing for a somewhat new approach to the way Giordano Bruno thought and saw his literary writing as it interacted with his post-Aristotelian philosophy and his philosophy of beauty and nature.