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Cappozzo (2012 Congress)

Valerio Cappozzo
(Department of Modern Languages, University of Mississippi)
“Editing the Somniale Danielis:  Vox Populi and Dream Culture in Medieval Italy”

Abstract of Paper Presented at the 47th International Medieval Congress (Kalamazoo, 2012)
Session on “Dream Books”
Co-sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and the Societas Magica
Organized by László Sándor Chardonnens
2012 Congress
[Published on our first website on 21 May 2012]

This study examines the ways in which the dream manual was materially bound together with collections of early Italian visionary literature, by focusing upon a significant case of the genre.  A widely circulated dream manual in the late Middle Ages, the Somniale Danielis (“Daniel’s Dream-Book or Dream-Manual”) was used to interpret not only the dreams experienced by actual individuals, but also the dream sequences and visionary passages found frequently in medieval literature.  As an important aid in the identification and description of traditional dream topoi, the multiple entries contained in dream-books represent the historical framework within which medieval visionary poetry developed its network of images and motifs.

This paper considers the literary uses of these dream manuals, by situating them in specific cultural contexts.  It analyzes previously unexamined connections between the popularity of dream-books as a quasi-scientific genre and medieval Italian poetry of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.  Although copies of the Somniale Danielis are commonly bound together with religious, astrological, and juridical works in miscellany manuscripts, the text also appears in literary manuscripts.  I have identified and transcribed eight instances of the Somniale Danielis found together with iconic examples of early Italian literature, such as the Vita Nova by Dante and the Decameron by Boccaccio, in six distinct and previously unrecognized Latin and Italian vernacular versions.

While these transcriptions were intended for different readerships, they all link the popular form of the dream-book — now coalesced into a manual — and the development of new philosophical poetics in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.  It cannot be mere coincidence that works by Brunetto Latini, Dante Alighieri, Guido Cavalcanti, Cecco D’Ascoli, Francesco Petrarca, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Antonio Pucci, among many others, are particularly well represented in these manuscripts.  The steady integration of the popular-scientific genre of the Somniale Danielis with these authors’ works can perhaps be explained by the particular intensity with which those authors both studied the second-century oneirocritic tradition of Artemidorus Daldianus and the Islamic dream sciences, and integrated them with mystical theories of the thirteenth century.