Italian literature, like all other great modern literatures, has its first origin in that mighty rebirth of human spiritual energies, which in the first centuries of the second Christian millennium renews the essence and aspect of all life. The reaction against the regime that had previously ruled the world with an overbearing landed aristocracy and a cleric who imprinted the whole of society began then with ever-increasing vigor, and a whirlwind of great events did not take long to upset the civil consortium. With agriculture reinvigorated, industries and businesses resurrected and organized, the bourgeoisie was formed, a new ruling class, fervent with political passion and squeezed into powerful financial corporations, whereby the municipal state was established with an ever more vigorous and imperious spirit of autonomy. Religious sentiment becomes more intimate and serene and profound, and an ardor for reform for the restoration of apostolic life is kindled in the old monastic orders and generates new ones; from Italy the loving breath of the Franciscan religion blows over the world. In the philosophical and theological schools of France, metaphysical and dogmatic questions are fiercely disputed, a sign of the reborn religious spirit and at the same time of the growing demands of reason. The struggle for investitures breaks out, which is the struggle of the political and economic Roman times against the Germanic empire. Numerous heresies teem, inspired by that same religious fervor that arms monastic orders against them and stimulates ecclesiastical reforms. The crusades, mighty explosion of an irrepressible collective impetus, squeezing people of every country into the unity of the Christian conscience and taking them away from the confines of monasteries, from the small contests and turbulence of everyday life, from the misery of the exhausted and maldivisi patrimonies, launching them to action , to adventure, to luck. And in the ferment of these great social, economic, political, religious, military events, in the wars of the Christian kings of Spain against the Moors, of the Capetians with the kings of England, of the Italian municipalities with the Swabian emperors, the awareness of differentiated national units matures and emerges, into which medieval universalism splits up.
In Italy, the formation of this new unitary spiritual world proceeds slower and more tiring than beyond the Alps, perhaps because the vigorous activity that establishes it, here takes place in very different ways due to the profoundly varied trends in the history of the regions and cities, and because it lacks the disciplining and unifying force of a monarchy and powerful lords. Of course, already in the second half of the century. XII in the educated and ruling classes there is a sense of an “Italian” spiritual unity, which is opposed to other similar transalpine units and is an ideal bond between the populations; but another century will pass before that new unified world has a full and adequate expression in literature. In France the first flowers of Provençal lyric bloom and the first blasts of epic resound in the northern lands between the end of the first and the beginning of the second century of the new millennium; in Italy only in the second half of the century. XIII the “Italian” spirit asserts itself as an art in literature with the school that Dante said of the “new stil”.
The vulgar Italians in which spoken Latin was resolved had already existed for many centuries, and no one can think that intentions and artistic implementations took so long to manifest themselves, if the spontaneous and autonomous speaking is itself a work of art. In fact, there is a whole literature, at least intentional, which precedes the school of the new stil, and which as an expression of regional or universal spirits or of foreign import, or as a technical experiment prepares the first flourishing of a truly Italian literature.