Remediating Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone: Harvesting Semantic Networks in the Fragmentary Research Notebook

The proposed paper will discuss the remediation of the Zibaldone (“commonplace book”) – the voluminous research notebook of the 19th century Italian author Giacomo Leopardi, into a hypertext research platform, and will suggest it as a paradigm for mediating the fragmentary research notebook genre, to which belong the Notebooks of Colerigde, of Joubert, of Valéry, etc.

The argument for remediation is posed by the nature of the text, which is written in fragments, marked by their date of composition and connected by thousands of references, establishing overlapping semantic networks. Since the Zibaldone evolves from the tradition of commonplace books into the modern typology of the intellectual diary, it also presents with a significant network of references to other works, with which the author critically engages. With the intention of translating his notebook into publications on a range of subjects, Leopardi furnished it with a thematic index making references to over 10,000 paragraphs.

The TEI encoding of the hypertextual features of the text, namely the references and the index tags; the structural divisions, such as pages, paragraphs, dates, marginal and interlinear annotations, quotations, bibliographic references; the content elements, such as person and place names, allows to exploit the relational dimensions of the text and to harvest its inter- and intra-textual semantic networks as histograms, network visualizations, statistical charts, etc.

In its larger scope, the research platform aspires to become a collaborative space, where users would be able to add and share their own annotations to the text and also contribute to expanding the site’s apparatus, such as a database of its critical bibliography.

The project’s future trajectory is to extend the computational methods adopted for the Zibladone in order to investigate the fragmentary notebook genre from the perspective of its phenomenological approach and the potential of digital technology to qualitatively mediate its fragmentariness.