Scott Millspaugh

Dissertation Fellow
Image of Scott Millspaugh.

Scott Millspaugh’s research examines the nationalist, Romantic notions of the origins of Italian literature that have gone largely unchallenged since the decade after Italian unification. His dissertation in Italian Studies, “Sermo absentium: Rhetoric, Epistolarity and the Emergence of Italian Literary Culture,” proposes that early Italian poetry developed not from a native upwelling of poetic creativity, but from the rhetoricization of troubadour lyric in a particular socio-political context that demands the thematization of absence. For this reason, Mr. Millspaugh argues, Italian courtly love poetry developed along epistolary lines as both a product of rhetorical instruction and an effect of the exile imposed on many Italian poets in the latter half of the thirteenth century. Interrogating the influence of the rhetorical tradition from Aristotle and Quintillian to St. Augustine and Boethius inherited by medieval men of letters, Mr. Millspaugh claims that this emphasis on letters and letter-writing foregrounds the exilic condition of much early Italian poetic production and places its development firmly within the specific socio-political context of late medieval Italy.