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Dolce Stil Novo (Italian for "sweet new style", modern Italian dolce stile nuove), or stilnovismo, is the name given to the most important literary movement of 13th century in Italy. Influenced by both Sicilian and Tuscan poetry, its main theme is Love (Amore). Gentilezza (Noblemindedness) and Amore are indeed topoi in the major works of the period.


The name Dolce Stil Novo was used for the first time by Dante Alighieri (Canto 24, Purgatorio), in fact when he arrives in the Purgatory he met Bonagiunta Orbicciani, an 13th century Italian poet, who tells Dante that Dante himself, Guinizzelli and Cavalcanti had been able to create a new genre: a stil novo. Precursors to the dolce stil novo are found in the Provençal works of the troubadours, such as the Genoese Lanfranc Cigala. The artists of the stil novo are called stilnovisti.

Compared to its precursors, the poetry we find in the Dolce Stil Novo is superior in quality and more intellectual: a more refined poetry with regular use of metaphors and symbolism, as well as subtle double meanings. The adoration of the female beauty is explicitly portrayed by the Dolce Stil Novo poet, who frequently delves into deep introspection. In fact it has been argued by many literary critics that introspection in Italian literary works was first introduced by the Stil Novo poets, and later developed by Francesco Petrarca.

Poetry from this school is also full of vivid descriptions of female beauty, frequently comparing the desired woman to a creature from paradise. The woman is described as an 'angel' or as 'a bridge to God'. Rather than being material in nature, the 'Love' of the Dolce Stil Novo is a sort of 'Divine Love'.

The two main concepts (introspection and love) are thus brought together as the poet enters his interior world to express his most inner feelings which are caused by an excessively divine female beauty.

The first expression of this style of writing is credited to Guido Guinizzelli and his poem Al cor gentil rempaira sempre amore, whereas the major exponent of this school of poetry was Dante Alighieri, who is most famous for his Divina Commedia.

The importance of the Dolce Stil Novo lies in the fact that apart from being the manifestation of the first true literary tradition in Italy, it ennobled the Tuscan vernacular, which was soon destined to become the Italian national language.

The Stilnovisti influenced the later Catalan poet Melchior de Gualbes.

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