Home / Fellows / Sonia Gentili


Sonia Gentili

Sapienza Università di Roma - (FIAS Program)
For a History of the Idea of Poetry. Poetry and contingency in the Italian Middle Ages
01 September 2021 -
30 June 2022

Sonia Gentili is a Professor of Italian Literature (Sapienza Università di Roma) and a multi-awarded writer. Her scholarship focuses on Medieval Italian Literature (Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, Early Lyric, Aristotelian vernacularisation, Homer in the Greek and Latin Middle Ages, Classics in Middle Ages) and on XIX-XX centuries Italian Literature (Leopardi, Foscolo, Pascoli, Brancati, Morante, Pasolini, Bassani, P. Levi, Biblical Sources in XX century Italian Literature, Literature and XX century politics). 

Related interests include the relationship between Literature and Philosophy, History of Ideas, reception Studies. Currently, she is working on Poetry as an epistemic issue through the Ages in order to trace a “longue durée” history of this concept.

In September 2021, she joined the Paris IAS as part of the French Institutes for Advanced Study fellowship program - FIAS - co-funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 945408. Her fellowship also benefits from the support of the RFIEA+ LABEX, with a national funding (Grant ANR-11-LABX-0027-01).

Research interests

Italian Literature (Middle Ages, XIX-XX centuries), History of Ideas, Classics

For a History of the Idea of Poetry. Poetry and contingency in the Italian Middle Ages

Is it possible to write a history of ideas that deals with poetry? This project aims to respond to this question, while focusing on the Italian domain. It will reconstruct the medieval birth and evolution of perennial and nonetheless conflicting ideas on poetry.

In our times, these ideas are still at the heart of a debate that is nourished by the tension between the idea of poetry as truth (divine, philosophic, or simply abstract) on the one hand and, on the other hand, poetry as a mirror of reality’s multiple manifestations. This tension had its origins in the Platonic tradition that was transmitted from late Antiquity down to the Middle Ages.

Thus, medieval poetry brought to its heir, Neolatin literature, conflicting appreciations of poetry: first, poetry is associated with the contingent, the realm of appearances, falsehood and instability; second, theological or philosophical poetry is identified with universal truth but its valorisation is troubled by the idea that the poetical image is rooted in sensory perception.

This project aims at writing a monograph that offers an in-depth and comprehensive reconstruction of the two thematic frameworks (first, the relationship between poetry and contingency; second, the relationship between poetry and concept) bringing to light the roots of long-standing ideas on poetry still alive today.

It conceives of literary culture as a crossroads of multiple discourses (philosophy, science, literature), based on the hypothesis that it is exactly on this crossroads that literature develops its specific epistemic trajectories within society.

Key publications

Gentili Sonia, L'uomo aristotelico alle origini della letteratura italiana, Carocci editore, 2005, 288 p.

Gentili Sonia, Novecento scritturale. La letteratura italiana e la Bibbia, Carocci editore, 2016, 264 p. (Le Frecce ; 207)

Gentili Sonia, « Poesia e immagine : storia di un’idea da Boezio a Boccaccio », in Letteratura & Arte, n°16, 2018, p. 159-174.

Latest publication

Gentili Sonia, « Poesia e filosofia a Firenze tra Santa Croce e Santa Maria Novella », in J. Bartushat, E. Brilli, D. Carron, (eds.), The Dominicans and the making of Florentine Cultural Identity (13th-14th Centuries) / I Domenicani e la costruzione dell’identità culturale fiorentina (XIII-XIV secolo), Firenze University Press, 2020, p. 225-241. http://doi.org/10.36253/978-88-5518-046-7.14 

Interdisciplinary workshop and roundtable organized by Sonia Gentili, 2021-2022 Paris IAS Research Fellow, with the support of the Paris IAS and the University of Rome La Sapienza
12 Apr 2022 15:00 -
13 Apr 2022 18:00,
Paris :
Defining poetry: instruments, methods, visions
29 Mar 2022 10:00 -
29 Mar 2022 13:00,
For a History of the Idea of Poetry. Poetry and Contingency in the Italian Middle Ages
Keynote by Sonia Gentili, Roma - La Sapienza- 2021-2022 Paris IAS fellow, as part of the “Gentile” Antiquity. The Reception of Antiquity in Modern Italian Jewish Culture colloquium
18 Mar 2022 14:00 -
18 Mar 2022 15:30,
Paris :
Archeologia, origine, futuro, memoria: aporie dell'ebraismo nell'Italia del dopoguerra.

Middle ages
Western Europe