Nota in margine al Foscolo del De Sanctis
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Foscolo has a strong presence in De Sanctis’s human and intellectual story; an ever-growing presence, starting from the far article on the Gervinus to the lessons of the first and second school, to the almost simultaneous writing of the pages for the “Nuova Antologia” and for the Storia. De Sanctis begins with a stern judgment on Ortis, seen as the novel of discomfort and despair, poor in invention, fake in form and characters, immediately expressing full consent to Sepolcri, the “highest” example of authentic civil poetry . But it is thanks to Ortis that the critic matures a more serene evaluation of Foscolo by diminishing the initial reserves, thinking the novel more than relevant in the overall design of the work. Now, De Sanctis arranges the pieces of the great mosaic of Storia, rewriting, adapting, and often summarizing materials that had already been developed: it was to place authors and works in the great frame of ‘new men’; those men obsessed with and inspired by history. Thus, Foscolo enters the Storia with a new force. De Sanctis draws his parabola by exemplifying some central moments in the development of his work: from the youthful passion demonstrated by the ode “To Bonaparte Liberator”, to the disillusionment, magnificently exemplified by Ortis, to the “healing” represented by the wonderful neoclassic odes, till the full maturation of Sepolcri, which constituted for him the affirmation of a new consciousness, the “new man’s consciousness”, example of a poetry returned to its civilian mandate. In the meanwhile, De Sanctis reconfirmed the strongly reductive judgment on the Grazie, denying its poetic value. A persistent judgment in the Risorgimento, which had a long life in the history of criticism of Foscolo; the Grazie will be rehabilitated, starting with Croce, only in the twentieth century. But it is in the judgment of Ortis, present in the Storia, and in the more articulate reading of the work of Foscolo, that some kind of unconscious identification can be read. Indeed, Foscolo, and above all the Foscolo exile, represents for De Sanctis almost an alter ego, Jacopo’s tragedy is seen as the tragedy of modernity; Ortis, as an expression of suffering, of a spiritual individual and historical illness, well represents for him the sense of loss, the discomfort of modern consciousness dealing with the frustrations of history. De Sanctis’s attitude to establish a kind of dialogue with his authors, searching for subtle autobiographical convergences, became a fundamental lesson for the young Debenedetti, inclined to exalt that osmotic relationship between criticism and autobiography that will be the core of his critic method.