Giacomo Leopardi's Zibaldone as a Digital Research Platform

Project Introduction

The project of building a Digital Research Platform for Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone of Thoughts aims to create a computational model for the semantic organization of this voluminous collection of research fragments and to design an interface that would allow users to explore the relationality of its networked textuality, engage in its performative interpretation through semantic queries, dynamic visualizations and remix, augment the authorial semantic annotations via participatory modules, share research in machine-readable format, and contribute to the editorial apparatus. The project is premised on the hypothesis that Leopardi's various semantic pointers—marginal additions, cross-referencing, thematic indexing, intertextual references—would gain discursive articulation in the digital medium, and that their computational processing would give insight into his epistemology. The editorial approach of remediating the Zibaldone as a digital research platform responds, on the one hand, to the reader's task of reconstructing the semantic framework of the fragments and, on the other, corresponds to the function the Zibaldone had for its author, namely a personal knowledge base whose paper manuscript technology was inadequate for mediating his phenomenological research methods into interpretative discourse. The Zibaldone project thus fundamentally explores qualitative methods of employing digital technology to support the process of interpretation and reflects on the ethical, aesthetic and mediatic criteria for constructing scholarly discourse.

Platform Development. The Digital Research Platform aims to address the limitations of existing remediations of the Zibaldone, i.e. print editions, digital transcription, CD-ROM, wiki page, to confront the manuscript’s distributed semantics, by taking advantage of XML and RDF technologies which allow to critically address the Zibaldone from the perspective of its modular and relational textuality. Our editorial efforts have been dedicated to document analysis and encoding of the manuscript’s semantic annotations in XML; reconstructing the Zibaldone’s intertextual networks based on quotations and bibliographic references; and providing basic tools to query, extract, and align the text’s semantic layers. The Platform's current functions include: settings which give users the option to display or hide specific layers of authorial and editorial markup according to their individual research objectives; hyperlinking the intratextual cross-references and the references of the Indexes to the text; several navigation menus; a search menu; a paragraph information window aggregating all directly referenced passages (outgoing, incoming and reciprocal) along with the themes from the 1827 Index and the PNR Index which reference the given paragraph; extracting the text of the passages referenced under an index theme and visualizing their thematic cross-references as a network graph.

For a detailed background of the project's research objectives and the technologies employed, see the project Publications

Participants and Support

The Digital Zibaldone project was developed by Silvia Stoyanova (PhD in Italian Literature, Columbia University) and Ben Johnston (Senior Educational Technologist, Princeton University). The project has received support from Princeton University and from Trier University, and has benefited from the consultant assistance of Dr. Clifford Wulfman (Firestone Library, Princeton University) and Prof. Christian Wildberg (Classics, Princeton University), and from the editorial assistance of Stephen Blair, Emilio Capettini, Michael Hanley, Kathleen Galeano, Monica Gordillo, Gigi Stoyanova, Matthias Schneider, Mariona Coll Ardanuy, Guoqian Xi. Editorial work on the project was facilitated by the staff at the Manuscripts and Rare Books Department at the National Library in Naples – Emilia Ambra, Vincenzo Boni, Maria Rascaglia, Gabriella Mansi. The editor is thankful for the feedback received from Prof. Laura Melosi (University of Macerata) and the students enrolled in her Italian Literature course in the Fall of 2016.

Feedback / Volunteer

If you have comments, suggestions, or would like to volunteer on the project as editor or developer, please email Silvia Stoyanova (sms116 [at] caa [dot] columbia [dot] edu).


Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone as a digital research platform: a methodological proposal for its semantic reconstruction and discursive mediation. Silvia Stoyanova. In Semicerchio: rivista di poesia comparata, LIII, 02/2016, pp. 98-106, Ed. Francesco Stella.

Remediating Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone: Hypertextual Semantic Networks in the Scholarly Archive. Silvia Stoyanova and Ben Johnston. In Proceedings of AIUCD ‘14, Bologna, Italy, ACM (08/2015). Ed. Francesca Tomasi et al. Alternative access.

"The Zibaldone Hypertext Research Platform". Silvia Stoyanova and Ben Johnston. In Authoring Software/Narrabase (07/2014), Ed. Judy Malloy

"Fragmentary Narrative and the Formation of Pre-Digital Scholarly Hypertextuality: G. Leopardi’s Zibaldone and its hypertext rendition". Silvia Stoyanova. In Proceedings of Hypertext 2013, ACM (05/2013)

“Lo Zibaldone di pensieri di Leopardi: progetto di una piattaforma di ricerca ipertestuale”. (“Leopardi’s Zibaldone of thoughts: a project for a hypertext research platform”) Silvia Stoyanova. In Lo «Zibaldone» di Leopardi come ipertesto, Atti del Convegno internazionale (Barcellona, 26-27 ottobre 2012). Ed. María de las Nieves Muñiz Muñiz, Florence, Leo Olschki, 2013, pp.333-342.