Saturday, September 26, 2009
The dialogue form
The backbone of the TWL is an explanation of the "Sphere" -- that is the basic notions of cosmography and astronomy along (more or less) the sequence defined by Sacrobosco's Tractatus de sphaera . Imposed on this structure there are many deviations, additions, changes of emphasis, of order, etc., that make the TWL an original composition. But the most interesting aspect is that it is written in a dialogue form, or, to be more precise, as a series of questions and answers. Dialogue was used in Europe to explain the Sphere, but not frequently. There is in Portugal a well known sixteenth century manuscript, «Tratado da esfera em perguntas e respostas», with such a dialogue, but it is an exception. Printed editions of the Sphere in dialogue form are very rare (one or two in Italy and one in Poland, I think -- in a universe of more than 250 editions of Sacobosco's Sphere that have already been traced). Also, as far as I can see, dialogue form was not very common in Jesuit texts or Jesuit pedagogy. So, I am inclined to suggest that the dialogue format is more a trace of the "chinese" content of the text (i.e. influence of and adaptation to Chinese intellectual background) than of its European heritage.
Posted by H. Leitão at 11:11 AM