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  • Favole, metafore, storie: Seminario su Giordano Bruno
  • Dario Tessicini
Olivia Catanorchi and Diego Pirillo , eds. Favole, metafore, storie: Seminario su Giordano Bruno. Seminari e Convegni 10. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2007. xxx + 732 pp. index. illus. tbls €30. ISBN: 978-88-7642-228-7.

This large collection of essays originates from a seminar on Giordano Bruno's Spaccio della bestia trionfante (Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, London 1584) held at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa in 2005-06. Introduced by M. Ciliberto, the volume is divided in three parts: the first one hosts contributions dealing directly with the topics of Bruno's Spaccio; the second one focuses on sources and concepts of Bruno's philosophy, including other works, such as the Cena de le ceneri (Ash Wednesday Supper) and the Eroici furori (Heroic Frenzies); the third and shortest one counts as a coda on philosophical historiography of Bruno and it presents contributions on Bayle, Hegel, and Giovanni Gentile. In the introduction, Ciliberto provides both an interpretative framework of Bruno's Italian dialogues —one that Bruno's scholars might already be acquainted with through the author's many publications on the field —and a presentation of some of the ideas brought forward by the essays contained in the book. The first of three moral dialogues published in London between 1584 and 1585, the Spaccio is a complex intellectual effort based on a simple narrative idea: a council of the gods is summoned by Jupiter to reform the ancient, but discredited religion of the Greeks. Key to the reform is the substitution of the forty-eight celestial constellations, whose original meanings have changed into vices and errors, with moral and intellectual virtues: Ursa is replaced by Truth, Draco by Wisdom, Cepheus by Knowledge, and so on. The moral allegory is promptly explained in the Explicatory Letter to Philip Sidney, where it is pointed out that the subject of the reform is the human soul ("Jupiter" ) seeking to expel the "beast" of its vices. Yet this simple scheme is immediately outdone by Bruno's invitation to find other layers of meaning to the work according to the individual's intellectual ability. Moreover, the dialogue itself develops multiple discourses on philosophical, political, and religious issues that were pressing at the time, and whose focal point is the role of religion for and within a pacified society. Several essays are dedicated to [End Page 1340] the relations between politics and religion. S. Ricci explores the opening metaphor of the Spaccio (Sidney as the sun, but also the sun as political symbol for either church or king) as part of Bruno's program of the individual's moral reform, while A. Musci, S. Miglietti, and D. Pirillo focus on sources and/or on intertextual dialogues between Bruno's Spaccio and sixteenth-century political thought and moral literature, from Machiavelli to Luther and Melanchthon, from Leon Battista Alberti to George Buchanan and Alberico Gentili. The remaining contributions of the first part, with the only exception of L. Boschetti's essay on the Spaccio and Bruno's trial, deal with historical, literary, or philosophical problems, ranging from R. Camerlingo's reception study of the Spaccio in Elizabethan London, to R. Sturlese's exploration of the quadratura circuli, highlighting Bruno's differentiation from Nicholas of Cusa, to Matteoli's identification of mnemotechnical themes in the Spaccio.

The second and third parts of the book provide a variety of contributions on Bruno's philosophy and its reception. Religion still has the lion's share, the main focus being theological issues such as Bruno's doubts on the dogma of trinitarism (E. Fanteschi, and D. Ragazzoni), and the use of biblical sources (E. Bordello). Other contributions focus on concepts such as "peace" (S. Bassi) and "wisdom" (G. Oskian), or sources such as Virgil (B. Santorelli) and Ibn Gabirol (P. Terracciano). A mention on its own deserves the article by Neil Harris, whose informative and wide-ranging investigation on the cancellans (i.e., a replacement sheet, or portion of a sheet, for a defective printed text) brings new arguments in favor of the hypothesis that the current vulgate of the Cena, based on the evidence from two copies of...


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