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By Matteo Soranzo

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Additional resources for Conjecture and inspiration: Astrology, prophecy and poetry in Quattrocento Naples

Sample text

It must be conceded that Pontano used comparisons as instruments for understanding otherwise obscure connections of events by means of plausible conjectures. Pontano, however, framed these associations within the rhetorical concept of convenience {convenientia) and elegance (concinnitas). 29 Pontano envisioned conjectures, in other words, as heuristic fictions. " 29 De Rebus Coelestibus lib. IX sig. P vi r- vii v : "Quando signa humana: et quae in signifero collocata sunt: et quae extra signiferum per coeli reliquum sparsa figurae ipsi: hominumque corporaturae multum etiam conferunt.

The prestige of this endeavor is confirmed by the history of the book, which circulated as an elegant presentation copy directly sent to Urbino, which susequentially started circulating in the form of a well crafted incunable. The situation drastically changed at the time of Pontano's De Rebus Coelestibus, the fourteen-book-long treatise that sums up the author's views on astrology at the end of his career. Pontano left this work unrevised and unpublished during his life. The few intended interlocutors were only a part of the members of the author's intellectual community in Naples.

The polemical target of this discussion is Lorenzo Valla's pedantry. This text presents itself as a tribute to Antonio Panormita, who was Pontano's master and predecessor in the leadership of his intellectual community in Naples. By staging a discussion about Virgil's Aeneid, the dialogue defines a critical approach that combines rhetorical expertise, natural philosophical learning and an undefined sympathy with the author's writing. 67: 25-30) and thus excludes the grammarians' approach. Grammarians are constantly described as rabid dogs animated by an exaggerated polemicism.

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