Nicolò Crisafi read English at Cambridge for his BA before turning to Italian Literature for his MA in Scienze del Testo at Rome ‘La Sapienza’ and DPhil in Modern Languages at Oxford. His academic interests lie in the role of the reader(s), the relation between language and affectivity, and the intersection between narrative and worldviews. His doctoral thesis ‘Dante’s Masterplot and the Alternative Narrative Models in the Commedia’ investigated paradoxes, detours, and the future as alternatives to the dominant narrative of the Commedia: the teleological ‘masterplot’.

The thesis proposes that, alongside traditional notions of Dante’s plurilingualism and pluristylism, Dante’s narrative pluralism can and should play a key role in contemporary and future readings of the Commedia. The work shows Dante engaging with issues that are at the forefront of today’s debates: the uncertain boundaries between truth and fiction, the clashes between conflicting narratives, the thin red line separating authority and authoritarianism, and the fraught relationship between rhetoric, prejudice, and emotion.

Possibility and the Utopian Imagination
in the Poetic Practice of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio

ICI Project 2018-20

Peripheral but central, external but inner, between being and non-being—possibility has the multi-stable ontology of utopias and their creative and transformative power. Through possibility, writers, philosophers, and artists through the ages have been able to make a place out of a nowhere, and think, express, or experience something that was not there. Crisafi investigates the turning point of 14th-century Italy through the works of its most influential authors, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio.

In their literary writings, possibility constitutes a porous enclave where authors can negotiate, experiment with, and free themselves from the normative exigencies and teleologies of literary conventions, philosophical systems, and religious orthodoxies of their milieu. The ‘utopian imagination’ activated in the ‘space of possibility’ (Jameson, 2005) allows writers to explore alternatives to their own poetic practices, giving them the opportunity to fantasise, provoke, scandalise, and err.