Francesco De Sanctis

Francesco de Sanctis (March 28, 1817 – December 29, 1883) was an Italian literary critic, considered one of the most important scholars of Italian language and literature in the 19th century.

He was born at Morra Irpina (Campania) to a family of middle-class landowners. After the high school studies in Naples, from 1836 he was educated at the free institute of the Marchese Basilio Puoti.

Becoming a teacher in a private school of his own, he made a name as a profound student of literature; and after the troubles of 1848, when he held office under the revolutionary government and was imprisoned for three years at Naples, his reputation as a lecturer on Dante at Turin brought him the appointment of professor at ETH Zürich in 1856.

He returned to Naples as minister of public instruction in 1860, and filled the same post under the Italian monarchy in 1861, 1878 and 1879, having in 1861 become a deputy in the Italian chamber. In 1871 he was made professor of comparative literature at Naples University.

As a literary critic, De Sanctis took a very high place, notably with his Storia della letteratura italiana and with his critical studies, published in several volumes, some of them since his death at Naples in 1883.

De Sanctis had many faithful disciples, among whom Benedetto Croce was to achieve the most fame. His chief contribution as philosopher was to aesthetics; his influence upon Italian literary criticism remains strong up to the present time.

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