George T. Peck “The Fool of God – Jacopone da Todi”. The University of Alabama Press, 1980.

my connecting phrases in italics, Peck’s text in normal font

The opinion of Italian scholars

«… The understanding of Jacopone’s work in Italy has been hindered by a curious critical phenomenon: the separation of mysticism and poetry. Benedetto Croce wrote: “Religion, if it is religion, is not and cannot become poetry, just as criticism and morality cannot either … The reason for excluding it is entirely in its didactic, pedagogical and practical goal … Poetry, however, by its nature … is skeptical of all faiths and incentives to action, because it is fixed, victorious and serene in the drama of the soul, in the suffering and joyful life of the cosmos, with which it is identified”. 

This preposterous notion was put forth by one of the most profound thinkers of the XX century and so received and still receives careful consideration… Unfortunately Croce’s exclusion of mysticism from poetry bars from the canon of Italian literature not only the Paradiso of Dante but also all of Jacopone. It has marred the work of a substantial student of Jacopone, Natalino Sapegno, whose attempt to apply Crocean aestethics to Jacopone has been described as a “desperate labor with an absurd goal”.

A short comment

Allow me to provide some further explanation for a situation that might seem absurd. But it is almost a normal situation in the academic world, in which generations of disciples adhere to the opinion of a recognized Maestro. Some sincerely believe that the great Maestro is always right; others do not believe this but they accept his opinions in order not to impede their careers. 

In our case, what George Peck defines as “the preposterous idea” of Croce has spread in the Italian academy and has conditioned generations of ‘teachers’ of Italian literature in the schools. I myself have witnessed it as a student of the ‘Jacopone da Todi’ high school, in the city of Todi!

Cordial greetings, Claudio

Italiano (Italian)