Exotic Goods Travelling Westwards: The Frame and the Figure of the Popular Narrator Referring to a Letter of Basile in Cunto de li cunti

Elena Massi


One of the most precious goods we have gained from the East is the literary frame. Certain of its functions are observable from its early history, in the Middle Ages.

In Eastern countries, ”the frame” was a communicative tool to express judgement and opinions in public according to different social conditions. In Western countries, it is still used as an   to express judgement, but only in the literary world. Eric Auerbach in Zur Technik der Fruhrenaissancenovelle in Italien und Frankreich says that from Dante to Boccaccio, the literary frame becomes the story's atmosphere and its barycentre because it offers writers the possibility to organize the relationship between text and context. In my hypothesis, Auerbach's words can work to introduce a narratological function to the literary frame.

We notice other two functions: an anthropological one explained by Tzvetan Todorov in La conquête de l'Amérique and a psychological one showed by Andrè Jolles in De Decameron van Boccaccio. According to Tzvetan Todorov, in the seventeenth century, missionaries used literary frames to communicate with native Americans: in Historia general de las cosas de la Nueva España by Bernardino de Sahagún, a literary frame is used to organize different cultural knowledges. Andrè Jolles metaphorically says that thanks to literary frames, we are still able to listen to the voices of popular narrators because the literary frame reproduces cognitive structures typical of children.

I propose to show these functions in the Cunto de li cunti by Basile. In this way, we can observe the modernity of Basile. The Neapolitan author not only founded the fairytale genre in Europe. He also contributed to spread a universal communicative form we can observe from three points of view: narratological, anthropological, and psychological.


Literary frame; Fairytale; Narrator; Orality; Childhood; Short Story

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/279

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-17547

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