Bureaucratic discourse, signature and authorship in John Tzetzes: A comparative perspective

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Taking its cue from the work of John Tzetzes (1110-1185 ca), this paper offers a preliminary survey of the role played by bureaucratic and legal training in defining autography and authorship in 12th century Byzantium. By comparing archival practices and authorial signatures, it demonstrates that features belonging to the legal discourse could be exploited by intellectuals to reinforce and re-center their voices as well as to overcome social constraints and, at time, marginality. The paper also takes a comparative perspective, by looking at the developments of vernacular poetry in Bologna, Tuscany and Sicily between 13th and 14th century, with a focus on the work of Francesco da Barberino. The comparative stance aims to prove that entanglements between legal/bureaucratic and literary writing are a cross-cultural constant emerging due to similar educational and scribal practices, thus showing that the case of the Italian pre-humanist intellectuals is the rule than the exception.
Original languageEnglish
JournalACME – Annali della Facoltà di Studi Umanistici dell’Università degli Studi di Milano
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)43-67
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Tzetzes
  • Francesco di Barberino
  • Autography
  • Authorship
  • Comparative literature

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