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Franciscan Studies 60 (2002) 341 REVIEW ESSAY READ IT AT CHAPTER: FRANCIS OF ASSISI AND THE SCRITTI A group of Italian medievalists has published, in Latin with Italian translation and abundant commentary, the sources for early Franciscan history: Francesco d’Assisi. Scritti.1 The book’s singular and stimulating achievement lies in pushing the study of the early Franciscan writings beyond the point reached by Esser’s critical edition (1976). In its attention to detail, it renews the argument that sustained Esser’s work on these texts, first proposed in his 1949 study of the Testament. Esser promised new light on the early Franciscan years from a critical review and a close reading of each piece of the Writings. The title, the presentation of G. Miccoli, and the introductory article by R. Rusconi make clear that we are talking most definitely about “the writings of Brother Francis.” Even when talking about the Early Rule, Rusconi has Francis in mind more than the text itself. This has given a cast to the whole of the book that deserves discussion. What agency lay at the origins of Franciscan history? A brotherhood or an individual? Does this book result from interest in Francis rather than in the history of which he was a part? We can approach the whole question differently. Are the early writings Francis’ spiritual legacy? Or do they belong to a movement’s understandable and ongoing struggle for clarity? Why did Francis want his Testament read at chapter? I submit that the impossible disengagement of Francis from his brothers characterizes Italian scholarship on the early Franciscan years. I use the occasion of reviewing (and duly praising) Scritti to reflect on the book’s connection with one influential reading of Franciscan history. INTRODUCTION Before getting down to the individual pieces that belong to the Writings (Scritti), there are, as introduction, three essays. There is the essay by R. Rusconi, already mentioned (“Frate Francesco e i suoi Scritti,” 1-37). Rusconi dates many of the texts to the years following 1 Padova, 2002, 637pp. DAVID FLOOD 342 on Francis’ return from the Near East. With that in mind, he emphasizes the organizational challenges then facing the brothers and Francis first of all. I would emphasize the Early Rule and the key role of work in the early years. In the Early Rule, Francis and his brothers elaborated their common ways and fixed the language for talking about them. Francis was not as dominant in its formulations as in the messages of the 1220s. Moreover, in later years, he depended on the common interrogation of the Spirit of the Lord that gave rise to the Early Rule. I would also read the Message to the Penitents (the Commonitorium) as arising out of the understandable solidarity that arose between the brothers and those whom they encountered first of all at work. This results in a different context for looking at the later pieces among the Writings. It also refuses to go along with the role, uncritical and excessive to my mind, accorded Brother Leo. Brother Leo might be more involved in Francis’ late religious experience, but he does not seem to have much interest in the vita which took shape from 1209 on and to which Francis never ceased to urge fidelity. L. Pellegrini opens up his examination of the Writings’ journey from the Middle Ages down to our day (“La Trasmissione degli Scritti...,” 39-72) with a sound observation. He points out that, although Francis urged copying and distributing his texts, some of them hardly made it down to us. Then he mentions the wide variations in early copies of the writings. This leads him to propose we not forget, when discoursing on the Writings, just how conditioned by chance is the material with which we work.2 Turning to the particulars of history, Pellegrini introduces us to Assisi 338, the manuscript which plays such an important role in the history and the wording of the Writings. He has argued elsewhere the case for dating the collection to the late 1240s.3 Pellegrini notes that the texts have diacritical marks for public reading, not only for the rule and the Testament but as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 341-357
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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