This essay traces the interrelationship between Italian literary canon formation and constructions of national identity in the literary histories of Girolamo Tiraboschi and Francesco De Sanctis. It examines both the ruptures and the continuities between eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literary historiography, analyzing the political, teleological agenda of De Sanctis’s Storia della letteratura italiana (1870–71) while revealing the equally powerful theoretical underpinnings of Tiraboschi’s vision of the Italian canon. Tiraboschi’s own Storia della letteratura italiana (1772–82; rev. and exp. 1789–94), because of its precise geographic grounding of literary phenomena, its conceptual proximity to what is now considered cultural studies, and its attention to minority writers, represents a more compelling model for contemporary Italian literary historiography than De Sanctis’s, which was developed for and in a different nationalist context.

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