Gilson, Simon A.
Gilson, Simon A.
Education: University of Leeds, B.A., 1991; University of Cambridge, Ph.D., 1995.
Office—Italian Department, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, England. E-mail—[email protected]
University of Leeds, Leeds, England, lecturer in Italian, 1998-99; University of Warwick, Coventry, England, associate professor of Italian, 1999—. Has also taught at the University of Oxford, University of Birmingham, both in England, and Keio University, Tokyo, Japan.
Medieval Optics and Theories of Light in the Works of Dante, E. Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 2000.
(Editor, with Pierpaolo Antonello) Science and Literature in Italian Culture from Dante to Calvino: A Festschrift for Patrick Boyde, Legenda (Oxford, England), 2004.
Simon A. Gilson graduated from the University of Leeds in 1991, having studied Italian and French, then went on to complete his studies at the University of Cambridge, where he earned his doctoral degree in Italian in 1995. He spent a year back at the University of Leeds as a lecturer in Italian before joining the faculty at the University of Warwick as an associate professor of Italian in 1999. Over the course of his career, he has also taught at the University of Oxford and the University of Birmingham, both in England, as well as Keio University, located in Tokyo, Japan. Gilson's primary areas of academic and research interest are the works and life of Dante; the relationship between science and literature; Renaissance Italy, with a particular focus on Florence in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; and the reception of Dante in Florence in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Gilson is the author of several books, including Medieval Optics and Theories of Light in the Works of Dante and Dante and Renaissance Florence, as well as the editor, with Pierpaolo Antonello, of Science and Literature in Italian Culture from Dante to Calvino: A Festschrift for Patrick Boyde.
Medieval Optics and Theories of Light in the Works of Dante addresses the question of how well Dante understood the various scientific subjects that appeared in his writings, including the images of astronomy, optics, and light. Dante's theories were medieval, but Gilson goes to great lengths to determine that they were based on the science of the day and that his theories were based on information that was accessible during his time. However, Dante most likely referred to very few sources to glean his information, much of which was actually common knowledge, and which served as a strong foundation for his further elaboration. Arielle Saiber, writing for Italian Culture, commented that "the book's clear and concise prose, ample footnotes, tight subchapter organization, and superb bibliography and indexes are boons to this highly learned study."
In Dante and Renaissance Florence, Gilson addresses the varied responses that Dante's work met in Florence during the Renaissance, focusing in particular on the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although this is a subject that has been visited frequently by a number of critics through the centuries, Gilson adds to the scholarship available on the topic by delving into areas that have received little attention overall, and also by comparing the available scholarship and opinions in fresh ways. He takes the critiques of various writers or groups of writers and compares them to older opinions in order to shed new light on interpretations. Ultimately, his analysis agrees with previously held convictions that the ideologies and interests of those providing the critique of Dante's work were very much reflected in the resulting opinions. Deborah Parker, in a review for the Renaissance Quarterly, found that the book "testifies eloquently to the richness of the subject of Dante's reception history."
Science and Literature in Italian Culture from Dante to Calvino offers readers a collection of essays that are unified loosely based on the understanding that literature and science together make a legitimate, singular discipline. Subjects covered over the course of the book include a split between Dante and Guido Cavalcanti and the rationale behind it, medieval meteorology by way of Aristotle's Meteorologica, and the ways in which various new scientific discoveries affect the traditional poetic myths about the moon, among others. J.R. Woodhouse, writing for the Modern Language Review, concluded that the book is "all things to all people. It does discuss literature and science, but its miscellany is all the more enjoyable for not being tightly constrained by a potentially dogmatic, even questionable, unifying theme."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Isis, March 1, 2002, William Egginton, review of Medieval Optics and Theories of Light in the Works of Dante, p. 108.
Italian Culture, December 22, 2002, Arielle Saiber, review of Medieval Optics and Theories of Light in the Works of Dante.
Medieval Review, June 1, 2006, John Najemy, review of Dante and Renaissance Florence.
Modern Language Review, July 1, 2005, J.R. Woodhouse, review of Science and Literature in Italian Culture from Dante to Calvino: A Festschrift for Patrick Boyde, p. 845.
Modern Philology, February 1, 2007, Francesco Bruni, review of Dante and Renaissance Florence, p. 430.
Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2004, review of Science and Literature in Italian Culture from Dante to Calvino, p. 230.
Renaissance Quarterly, March 22, 2006, Deborah Parker, review of Dante and Renaissance Florence, p. 131.
Sixteenth Century Journal, December 22, 2006, Alison C. Fleming, review of Dante and Renaissance Florence, p. 1111.
Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, January 1, 2008, George Damerson, review of Dante and Renaissance Florence, p. 198.
University of Warwick Web site,http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/ (May 22, 2008), faculty profile.