Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.09.17
Luigi Spina (ed.), La fine dell'inizio. Una riflessione e quattro studi su incipit ed explicit nella letteratura latina. Napoli: Francesco Giannini e Figli, 1999. Pp. 105.
Reviewed by James W. Halporn, Indiana / Harvard University
Word count: 300 words
Luigi Spina. "Quando 'poco resta da dire' (Considerazioni a margine)." and "Il tempo di una lettera. Incipit ed explicit nell'epistolario senecano."
Marisa Squillante. "Cominciare e ricominciare (Boeth. De Cons. Phil. I m e p I."
Paola Castronuovo. "Un inizio senza fine. L'incipit del l. VI della Iohannis di Corippo."
Bartolomeo D'Angelo. "Precettistica retorica e ideologia politica nel Proemio dell' 'Historia Sicula.'"
After Barbara Herrnstein Smith published her important study on poetic closure in 1968, students of other literatures have looked at the beginnings and ends of works in their fields.1 In classics, this approach has had indifferent success in essays that are concerned with this feature in works of Greek and Latin.2
The papers in this volume from the University of Naples Department of Classical Philology apply this approach to several prose works and one poetical text included within a prose work. They focus on an analysis of the textual structures of beginnings and ends, and on how these operate in varied literary genres in different social and cultural environments.
Following his brief introduction, Spina begins with an overview of Seneca's Letters that concludes with a useful bibliography of the subject of beginnings and ends, only slightly disfigured by typos and omitted bibliographical information. Squillante's paper looks at how Boethius distinguishes the beginnings and ends of his first metrical and prose passage of the Consolatio. Castronuovo treats the sixth book (of eight) of the Johannis, a historical poem by the sixth century epic poet Flavius Cresconius Corippus. D'Angelo deals with a work by Bartolomeo di Neocastro, a thirteenth century historian who wrote about the Sicilian Vespers (1282).
The monograph ends with a brief index of modern authors mentioned in the texts, which will be of service to those who wish to take up the subjects considered in further detail.
1. Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Poetic Closure: A Study of How Poems End, Chicago, 1968. Beginnings are treated by A. D. Nuttall, Openings: Narrative Beginnings from the Epic to the Novel, Oxford, 1992, a book which seems to be unknown to the Italian scholars.
2. E.g., Beginnings in Classical Literature, Yale Classical Studies 29 (1992); D. Fowler, "First Thoughts on Closure: Problems and Prospects," Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici 22.