De Sanctis e l’Arcadia

Gennaro Savarese

De Sanctis’ relationship with Arcadia, and in particular with some men of letters who collaborated in various ways with the institution, from Metastasio to Vico to the dialectical poet Giovanni Meli, was much more dynamic and conflictual than hitherto retained. In fact, rereading famous and less-famous writings of De Sanctis, in order to verify to which degree and according to what he acquired his position among Arcadia detractors, new connections emerge, not only in terms of his critical and historical/literary choices but also in terms of his passionate political role in the Italy of the Risorgimento and post-Risorgimento. Making use of the Leopardian distinction between terms and words, one can in fact demonstrate that in De Sanctis’ critical language, analysed in its historical construction, the words arcade, arcadia, accademia, and their relative adjectives etc., are more about term when used to denote historical and real figures and events, and tend to become instead words when one adds to the denotative function a powerful aspect of moral judgment and educational pathos in relation to the Italian temper. To grasp the profound meaning of De Sanctis’ opposition to Arcadia it is therefore necessary to always keep in mind his whole history as a man and a writer, in the typical imple mentation, like systole and diastole, that literature and politics had therein.