June 16. I have been spending most days in the library. Now I am looking at a six volume printed copy of the Enciclopedia Dantesca that is so extensive it even explains one-lettered words like prepositions that are found in the Commedia. A lot of the language in the work was created by Dante since one of his projects was the 'vulgerization' of written work in Italy. For the Commedia in particular, it was necessary that ever lowly peasant or farmer understood how to avoid the eternal sufferings of Hell, and the consequences of not taking that advice.
Florence has really entered summer now. I have had to buy a monthly bus ticket because even though I'd normally walk half an hour on foot no problem, I am constanty struggling to stay hydrated under the blazing Italian sun. It sometimes make me too exhausted to concentrate in the library, especially since water bottles and any other source of nourishment, are completely forbidden. The library rules are unbelievably strict.
One of the challenges of this work, I have discovered, is that since a lot of the Renaissance publications and commentaries on the Commedia were written one or two hundred years after Dante (or sometimes even less), they all still have difficult language, difficult scripts (where the s's look like f's and all of the v's are printed as u's), and difficult explanations. I often feel, despite how great it is to look at primary sources, that, just like you need a commentary to understand Dante, you need a commentary to understand the commentary on Dante; sometimes even the commentary on the commentary on the commentary on Dante. This often brings me to present day works that have had centuries to develop. In this way, it's kind of hard to look at an original source that analyses the Commedia and judge it on its own without someone's input on why, when, where the commentator wrote and what he meant by most of what he said.
I am extremely excited, however, for the end of July. Roberto Benigni, the Italian comedian and actor, is returning to Florence like he has done for a couple years now to perform his recitation of the Commedia from memory. This year I think he's doing Canti 16-34 - some of the best! He's especially famous for his accent that supposedly captures perfectly the intonation and pronunciation of trecento Florence. I am definitely going; it'll be my 21st birthday present to myself!
For now, I am trying to work hard, despite the heat and the fact that the libraries here are closed on the weekends. I have discovered that there is definitely a different work ethic in Florence, especially during the summer months, and even among Florentine students (who I am living with right now!). But, I now think hard that work should always go rewarded with long lunch breaks and evening walks, despite the increasingly hotter Tuscan air. I am so happy to be here and working on this project!