The intrusive "I" in translations of Italian librettos

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Copyright © 2017. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. The modern aesthetic-linguistic code that governs translations of Italian opera librettos is fundamentally rooted in Romanticism. This code clashes to some extent with the code governing the source texts, where Romantic guiding principles fuse over a solid Petrarchan and Arcadian substratum indebted to the Dolce Stil Novo poetry of the late Middle Ages. This substratum is eroded in many translations, principally through a reinforcement of the first person ("I") at the expense of things (in general) and feelings and vital organs (in particular), which, in the original libretto, are endowed with the capacity to act as independent agents. Accompanying this different epistemic approach to reality and the individual are noteworthy discrepancies in the use of rhetorical devices, marked by: (a) a lesser propensity in translations for circumlocution, personification, and synecdoche; (b) a higher degree of flexibility in Italian in the use of ellipsis; and (c) variatio in original librettos in contrast to uniformity and parallelism in translations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-666
JournalComparative Literature Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Contrastive rhetoric
  • Italian literary tradition
  • Modernity
  • Opera librettos
  • Romanticism


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