Francesco de Sanctis

Naples Benedetto Croce Italian literature
An 1890 portrait of Francesco De Sanctis by Francesco Saverio Altamura

Francesco de Sanctis (Morra Irpina, 28 March 1817 – Naples, 29 December 1883) was a leading Italian literary critic and scholar of Italian language and literature during the 19th century.


De Sanctis was born in the southern Italian town of Morra Irpina (renamed Morra De Sanctis in his honor in 1937) to a family of middle-class landowners. His father was a doctor in law and his two paternal uncles, one a priest and the other a medic, were exiled for having participated in the Carbonari Uprisings of 1820-1821. After completing his high school studies in nearby Naples, he was educated at the Italian language institute in Naples founded by Marquis Basilio Puoti (1782-1847).

De Sanctis later opened his own private school where he soon became recognized in academic circles for his profound knowledge of Italian literature. In 1848, he held office under the revolutionary government and was later imprisoned for three years in Naples. Following his release, de Sanctis' reputation as a lecturer in Turin, Italy, on such Italian authors as Dante (c. 1265-1321) led to his professorship in 1856 at the Zürich, Switzerland university of ETH Zürich.

De Sanctis 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.

De Sanctis was a supporter of Darwinism, and lectured on the subject.[1]

As a literary critic, De Sanctis was highly regarded, notably with his Storia della letteratura italiana and his critical studies. These were published in several volumes, some of them posthumously, in Naples in 1883.

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


Storia della letteratura italiana, volume 1, 1912 reprint (complete text)


  1. ^ Birx, H. James. (2006). Encyclopedia of Anthropology, Volume 1. Sage Publications. p. 686. ISBN 0-7619-3029-9