THE GENIUS OF ITALY by Leonardo Olschki


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A scholarly study of Italian civilization, with the focus on the period from the 11th century on, and a birdseye view of the background to that point, written by a research associate in the department of oriental languages at the University of California. His works on Galileo, Machiavelli, Dante, on Italian art, science, and poetry will prepare an audience for this study of The Genius of Italy, its manifestations in differing forms. He views the general background of the melting pot of races and cultures, constantly added to by conquest and immigration of the centuries, which gave Italy a cosmopolitan aspect and her culture a universality due to the influence of the Catholic Church. Until comparatively modern times there has been in Italy no political unity; the land and the people are poverty striken and suffer from the lack of the resources necessary for self-sufficiency industrially speaking. These two factors are shown as playing a part in Italy's peculiar genius. He then goes on to study the forms it has taken in more specific terms, linking their development with historical events, -first the building up of a new society and political institutions from the 11th to the 13th centuries; then the flowering of poetry in the age of Dante and Petrarch, and this in turn superseded by the figurative arts of the 15th century, followed in turn by growing interest in science and philosophy. The release of creative energy came through music when the counter reformation restricted secular thought and expression, and with the 19th century, there came the sharply nationalistic expressions. This gives the reader seeking a better understanding of Italian civilization what he needs as basis for insight into Italy's present needs and possible future directions. A competent job, but the market will be primarily college libraries, and student reference shelves.

Pub Date: May 12th, 1949
Publisher: Oxford