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Title: Domenico Cavalca and the Liber Vitaspatrum: Vernacular Hagiography in Late Medieval and Early Modern Italy
Authors: Radhakrishnan, Manu
Advisors: Jordan, William C
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Cavalca
Subjects: Medieval history
Religious history
European history
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation analyses the <italic>Vita dei Santi Padri</italic>, the most important collection of medieval vernacular Italian hagiography. This translation of the Latin <italic>Liber Vitaspatrum</italic> collection of monastic hagiographies from Late Antique Egypt was completed before 1333 by Domenico Cavalca (d. 1341), a Pisan friar known for his translations and vernacular devotional treatises all written for a lay audience. The VSP has long been called a free translation but so far no one has revealed Cavalca's <italic>methodus interpretandi</italic> nor related his methods of translation to the enormous success of the work both in comparison to other hagiographical works translated into Italian and also to the other European translations of the <italic>Vitaspatrum</italic>. This dissertation overcomes the methodological hurdles posed by the absence of the Latin manuscripts Cavalca used, the autograph manuscript of the translation into Pisano-Lucchese as well as the overwhelmingly Florentine reception by examining the textual tradition of the Latin sources and an important fourteenth-century Pisano-Lucchese manuscript. An analysis of the prologues to his four translations shows that Cavalca developed a new "pastoral translation," which ensured that lay audiences could understand and respond to unfamiliar monastic texts. Cavalca broke sharply with medieval traditions of faithful translation and produced a work suited to laity. In the chapter on the Life of Marina, the transvestite saint, by comparing the Latin to the Pisano-Lucchese, I show that the differences are intelligible. I also compare at every step Cavalca's translation to the Life of Marina in Middle High German, Middle Dutch, various medieval French translations, Middle English, and Old Castilian. I show that these were for the most part faithful translations which, paradoxically, condemned them to failure among the laity. The key to lay reception of vernacular hagiography was therefore less a matter of language and more of cultural capital. In the third chapter I show that the cult of the hermit saint Onuphrius, long thought to have arrived in Italy at the time of the crusades, was flourishing in the Byzantine south in the 10th century and identify an unnoticed vernacular translation by Cavalca, which bears the characteristic marks of the pastoral translation.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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