Cesare Segre (Verzuolo [Cuneo] 1928 – Milano 2014) was an Italian semiologist, linguist and Romance philologist. He lived and studied in Torino, where he graduated in 1950 as a pupil of Benvenuto Terracini and Santorre Debenedetti. He taught at the Universities of Trieste and Pavia, where in the 1960s he became full professor of Romance philology. He was Visiting Professor in Manchester, Rio de Janeiro, Harvard, Princeton, Berkeley, and a member of the Italian Accademia della Crusca.

His theoretical contribution to the field of textual criticism is remarkable: he is one of the most outstanding scholars who applied the structuralist method to ecdotics, admirably integrating it with the approach of the Italian historical school; he coined terms such as 'diasystem' which contributed to a reshaping of the notion of  “error". Paul Zumthor in his Introduction to the 1992 English translation of Essai de poétique médiévale (transl. by Ph. Bennett) claims that Segre’s books “filtered twenty years of formalism, decanting the result through a delicate re-elaboration of the material.” (p. xv).

He was also very active as an editor of mediaeval texts: his critical edition of La Chanson de Roland (1971) remains a masterpiece of methodology in textual criticism. Giving new life to a text that Bédier (1921) had edited on the sole basis of the Oxford manuscript, Segre opens it up to a diachronic dimension, both in the direction of a witty rehabilitation of the reconstructive process, and simultaneously by representing the after-life of the text itself. Furthermore, he edited Ludovico Ariosto’s Satire (1984), Il libro de' Vizî e delle virtudi by Bono Giamboni (1968) and the Orlando Furioso (with Santorre Debenedetti, 1960).

He was editor and co-editor of various scholarly journals, among which Strumenti critici (with Maria Corti, D’Arco Silvio Avalle, Dante Isella) and Medioevo romanzo, as well as scientific series like Critica e filologia (Einaudi). In 1999 Segre published a book titled Per curiosità. Una specie di autobiografia, in which he recalled the main steps of his intellectual history.

By Segre


– Debenedetti, Santorre, and Cesare Segre, eds. 1960. Orlando Furioso. Bologna: Commissione per i testi di lingua.
– Segre, Cesare, ed. 1968. Il libro de' Vizî e delle virtudi e il Trattato di virtù e di vizi. Torino: Einaudi.
– ———, ed. 1971. La Chanson de Roland. Milano: Ricciardi.

Textual and literary criticism  (a selection)

– Segre, Cesare. 1969. I segni e la critica: Fra strutturalismo e semiologia. Torino: Einaudi; with a new introduction, Torino: Einaudi 2008.
– ———. 1974. La tradizione della “Chanson de Roland”. Milano-Napoli: Ricciardi.
– ———. 1977. Semiotica, Storia e Cultura. Padova: Liviana.
– ———. 1979. Semiotica filologica: Testo e modelli culturali. Torino: Einaudi.
– ———, ed. 1983. Intorno alla linguistica. Milano: Feltrinelli.
– ———. 1984. Difendo l'Ariosto: Sulle correzioni autografe delle “Satire”. Pisa: Giardini.
– ———. 1991. Due lezioni di ecdotica. Pisa: Scuola normale superiore.
– ———. 1998. Ecdotica e comparatistica romanze. Milano: Ricciardi.
– ———. 1999.  Le varianti e la storia: il «Canzoniere» di Francesco Petrarca: Lezione Sapegno 1999. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri.
– ———. 1999. Per curiosità: Una specie di autobiografia. Torino: Einaudi.
– ———. 1999. Ritorno alla critica. Torino: Einaudi.
– ———. 2008. Dai metodi ai testi: Varianti, personaggi, narrazioni. Torino: Aragno.
– ———. 2012. Critica e critici. Torino: Einaudi.

On Segre

– ConteAlberto, and Andrea Mirabile, eds. 2014. Cesare Segre. Opera critica. With an introductory essay by Gian Luigi Beccaria. Milano: Mondadori.


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