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  • Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Lachmann’s Method: A Non-Standard Handbook of Genealogical Textual Criticism in the Age of Post-Structuralism, Cladistics, and Copy-Text by Paolo Trovato
  • Nicola Morato
Paolo Trovato, Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Lachmann’s Method: A Non-Standard Handbook of Genealogical Textual Criticism in the Age of Post-Structuralism, Cladistics, and Copy-Text. Foreword by Michael D. Reeve. Translation by Federico Poole. (Storie et linguaggi.) Padua:, 2014. 360 pp., ill.

In his Foreword, Michael D. Reeve concisely points out the principal aim of this book: to ‘acquaint English-speaking scholars with the work of such figures as Michele Barbi, Gianfranco Contini, Cesare Segre, Alfredo Stussi, and Alberto Varvaro’, and indeed Paolo Trovato ‘sternly warns against the inaccurate and outdated accounts of genealogical methods often given by scholars impatient with them’ (p. 11). The book is divided into two parts, ‘Theories’ and ‘Practical Applications’, followed by a Conclusion. The first part introduces us to four main interwoven strands: the definition of the core concepts of textual criticism; the methods and practices on which the study of the textual tradition and the preparation of a (good) scientific edition are grounded; the historical genesis of those concepts, methods, and practices; and their present and future. In the second part, Trovato analyses three textual traditions of increasing richness and intricacy: Tractatus de locis et statu sancte terre jerosolimitane; Jean Renart’s Lai de l’ombre; and Dante’s Commedia. The structure and history of textual traditions are investigated in a thorough way: the concept of archetype; the relation between the extant witnesses and what must have been the real manuscript production; the lack of symmetry in stemmata; the (plausible) historical reason for their prevalent two-branch articulation; the genesis and diffusion of vulgate texts. These themes are all of key interest for the comprehension of the history and even the aesthetics of medieval texts: as textual traditions, the structure and dynamics of these texts can be regarded as the fabric of the medieval literary system and cultural space. While the book focuses on textual criticism applied to romance texts in general, it can be recommended also to specialists in French literature as it deals with the textual tradition of a number of medieval French classics (the Chanson de Roland, Chrétien de Troyes, and, more extensively, the Lai de l’ombre) and some decisive moments of French medieval studies (for example, the works of Gaston Paris, Joseph Bédier, and Félix Lecoy). Trovato’s book is thus useful and innovative, and it is to be hoped that its Italian publisher will succeed in the task of securing a wider, Englishspeaking audience. The ‘non-standard’ element, signposted by the title, might cause some perplexity. This volume is a didactic tool and at the same time a passionate and combative pamphlet; it speaks to students and colleagues at the same time and with the same stance; it alternates more accessible sections, dedicated to classic case studies, with in-depth research on texts that may be unfamiliar to students of Romance languages and literatures outside of continental Europe; it offers a general presentation of the whole discipline but also condensed versions of some of Trovato’s works and projects, giving a central position to the author’s personal scholarly itinerary. Trovato’s work is at the same time exemplary and sui generis in the framework of Italian neo-Lachmannism, and without a doubt deserves attention and active consideration abroad. [End Page 375]

Nicola Morato
Université de Liège


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