Francesco Filelfo's 'Consolatio ad Iacobum Antonium Marcellum de obitu Valerii filii' and the Rhetoric of early modern Consolation Literature.
When on the first of January 1461 Jacopo Antonio Marcello’s eight-year-old son Valerio died, prominent humanists produced consoling essays and poems for the boy’s father. The most important of these writings was Francesco Filelfo’s “Consolatio ad Iacobum Antonium Marcellum de obitu Valerii filii” (“Consolation of J.A. Marcello on the death of his son Valerio”), a consolation of more than 30,000 words, which combines portraits of and panegyrics on the boy and his father with a philosophical exposition on the immortality of the soul. In an innovative blending of various literary and spiritual traditions, it displays an ambitious synthesis of Greek, Roman, and Christian consolatory themes, clearly aiming at a wider audience than the dedicatee alone. Until now, Filelfo’s text could only be read in twenty fifteenth-century manuscripts and seven editions from the same century.
My dissertation therefore presents an annotated critical edition and a comprehensive study of Filelfo’s “Consolatio”. The critical edition of the “Consolatio” consists of the Latin text, preceded by an introduction that discusses the text’s genesis and transmission and sets forth the editorial criteria. The analysis of the “Consolatio” consists of four chapters. The first chapter contains a historical contextualization of the work. In the second chapter, the place of Filelfo’s “Consolatio” in the genre of consolation is investigated. The third and fourth chapters zoom in on two main features of consolatory literature that Filelfo’s “Consolatio” reflects, namely, its philosophical and rhetorical dimensions. My doctoral research has thus yielded a general assessment of the importance of this fifteenth-century, humanist work in both Filelfo’s own oeuvre and the history of the genre.