Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy has, despite its enormous popularity and importance, often stymied readers with its multitudinous characters, references, and themes. But until the publication in 2007 of Guy Raffa’s guide to the Inferno, students lacked a suitable resource to help them navigate Dante’s underworld. With this new guide to the entire Divine Comedy, Raffa provides readers—experts in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Dante neophytes, and everyone in between—with a map of the entire poem, from the lowest circle of Hell to the highest sphere of Paradise.
Based on Raffa’s original research and his many years of teaching the poem to undergraduates, The CompleteDanteworlds charts a simultaneously geographical and textual journey, canto by canto, region by region, adhering closely to the path taken by Dante himself through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. This invaluable reference also features study questions, illustrations of the realms, and regional summaries. Interpreting Dante’s poem and his sources, Raffa fashions detailed entries on each character encountered as well as on many significant historical, religious, and cultural allusions.
John Freccero enables us to see the Divine Comedy for the bold, poetic experiment that it is. Too many critics have domesticated Dante by separating his theology from his poetics. Freccero argues that to fail to see the convergence of the letter and the spirit, the pilgrim and the poet, is to fail to understand Dante’s poetics of conversion. For Dante, body and soul go together and there is no salvation that’s purely intellectual, no poetry that is simply literary.The essays that form this book were originally published between 1959 and 1984. They are arranged to follow the order of the Comedy, and they form the perfect companion for a reader of the poem. With these essays assembled for the first time, we can now see Freccero’s stature: he is the best contemporary critic of Dante. Freccero is that rare article, a critic of eclectic and not dogmatic persuasion. Throughout Freccero operates on the fundamental premise that there is always an intricate and crucial dialectic at work between Dante the poet and Dante the pilgrim, and that it is this dialectic that makes the work so profoundly dramatic, one of the great novels of the self.Thanks to Freccero we readers have the Comedy whole again. Freccero calls upon medieval philosophy, cosmology, science, theology, and poetics to enable us to traverse Dante’s moral landscape without losing our way in the confusions of minute exegeses. In a secular age Freccero enables us to see this poem as what it is, something wholly other than what we might believe or write. In doing so he shows us the most that language can achieve in any age, secular or not.
A Times Literary Supplement Book of the YearA Marginal Revolution Best Non-Fiction Book of the YearA Seminary Co-op Notable Book of the YearA Times Higher Education Book of the WeekA Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the YearMarco Santagata’s Dante: The Story of His Life illuminates one of the world’s supreme poets from many angles—writer, philosopher, father, courtier, political partisan. Santagata brings together a vast body of Italian scholarship on Dante’s medieval world, untangles a complex web of family and political relationships for English readers, and shows how the composition of the Commedia was influenced by local and regional politics.“Reading Marco Santagata’s fascinating new biography, the reader is soon forced to acknowledge that one of the cornerstones of Western literature [The Divine Comedy], a poem considered sublime and universal, is the product of vicious factionalism and packed with local scandal.”—Tim Parks, London Review of Books“This is a wonderful book. Even if you have not read Dante you will be gripped by its account of one of the most extraordinary figures in the history of literature, and one of the most dramatic periods of European history. If you are a Dantean, it will be your invaluable companion forever.”—A. N. Wilson, The Spectator
A richly detailed graveyard history of the Florentine poet whose dead body shaped Italy from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the Risorgimento, World War I, and Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship.Dante, whose Divine Comedy gave the world its most vividly imagined story of the afterlife, endured an extraordinary afterlife of his own. Exiled in death as in life, the Florentine poet has hardly rested in peace over the centuries. Like a saint’s relics, his bones have been stolen, recovered, reburied, exhumed, examined, and, above all, worshiped. Actors in this graveyard history range from Lorenzo de’ Medici, Michelangelo, and Pope Leo X to the Franciscan friar who hid the bones, the stone mason who accidentally discovered them, and the opportunistic sculptor who accomplished what princes, popes, and politicians could not: delivering to Florence a precious relic of the native son it had banished.In Dante’s Bones, Guy Raffa narrates for the first time the complete course of the poet’s hereafter, from his death and burial in Ravenna in 1321 to a computer-generated reconstruction of his face in 2006. Dante’s posthumous adventures are inextricably tied to major historical events in Italy and its relationship to the wider world. Dante grew in stature as the contested portion of his body diminished in size from skeleton to bones, fragments, and finally dust: During the Renaissance, a political and literary hero in Florence; in the nineteenth century, the ancestral father and prophet of Italy; a nationalist symbol under fascism and amid two world wars; and finally the global icon we know today.
One of the greatest works of world literature, Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy has, despite its enormous popularity and importance, often stymied readers with its multitudinous characters, references, and themes. But until now, students of the Inferno have lacked a suitable resource to guide their reading.
Welcome to Danteworlds, the first substantial guide to the Inferno in English. Guy P. Raffa takes readers on a geographic journey through Dante’s underworld circle by circle—from the Dark Wood down to the ninth circle of Hell—in much the same way Dante and Virgil proceed in their infernal descent. Each chapter—or “region”—of the book begins with a summary of the action, followed by detailed entries, significant verses, and useful study questions. The entries, based on a close examination of the poet’s biblical, classical, and medieval sources, help locate the characters and creatures Dante encounters and assist in decoding the poem’s vast array of references to religion, philosophy, history, politics, and other works of literature.
Written by an established Dante scholar and tested in the fire of extensive classroom experience, Danteworlds will be heralded by readers at all levels of expertise, from students and general readers to teachers and scholars.
La Vita Nuova (1292–94) has many aspects. Dante’s libello, or “little book,” is most obviously a book about love. In a sequence of thirty-one poems, the author recounts his love of Beatrice from his first sight of her (when he was nine and she eight), through unrequited love and chance encounters, to his profound grief sixteen years later at her sudden and unexpected death. Linked with Dante’s verse are commentaries on the individual poems—their form and meaning—as well as the events and feelings from which they originate. Through these commentaries the poet comes to see romantic love as the first step in a spiritual journey that leads to salvation and the capacity for divine love. He aims to reside with Beatrice among the stars.David Slavitt gives us a readable and appealing translation of one of the early, defining masterpieces of European literature, animating its verse and prose with a fluid, lively, and engaging idiom and rhythm. His translation makes this first major book of Dante’s stand out as a powerful work of art in its own regard, independent of its “junior” status to La Commedia. In an Introduction, Seth Lerer considers Dante as a poet of civic life. “Beatrice,” he reminds us, “lives as much on city streets and open congregations as she does in bedroom fantasies and dreams.”
In The Revelation of Imagination, William Franke attempts to focus on what is enduring and perennial rather than on what is accommodated to the agenda of the moment. Franke’s book offers re-actualized readings of representative texts from the Bible, Homer, and Virgil to Augustine and Dante. The selections are linked together in such a way as to propose a general interpretation of knowledge. They emphasize, moreover, a way of articulating the connection of humanities knowledge with what may, in various senses, be called divine revelation. This includes the sort of inspiration to which poets since Homer have typically laid claim, as well as that proper to the biblical tradition of revealed religion. The Revelation of Imagination invigorates the ongoing discussion about the value of humanities as a source of enduring knowledge.
Receipient, 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship
Dante’s Vita Nova (circa 1292–1295) depicts the joys and sorrows, the discoveries and conflicts of Dante’s early love for Beatrice—who would achieve later and even greater fame in Commedia—starting with his first sighting of her and culminating in his prevision of Beatrice among the beatified in heaven. Award-winning translator and poet Andrew Frisardi channels the vigor and nuance of Dante’s first masterpiece for a modern audience.
The “little book,” as Dante calls it, consists of thirty-one lyric poems—mostly sonnets—embedded in a prose narrative, which both recounts an apparently autobiographical set of events also evoked in the poems and offers analysis of the poems’ construction in the medieval critical tradition of divisio textus, or division of the text. Dante selected poetry he had written before age twenty-eight or so and wrote the prose to shape it into a story. The poems anthologize Dante’s growth as a poet, from the influence of his earliest mentors to the stylistic and thematic breakthroughs of his poetic coming-of-age.
The interplay of poetry and prose in Vita Nova, along with the further distinction in the latter between autobiography and critical divisioni, presents a particular challenge for any translator. Frisardi faithfully voices the complex meter and rhyme schemes of the poetry while capturing the tone of each of the prose styles. His introduction and in-depth annotations provide additional context for the twenty-first-century reader.
Words Unbound draws on Milton Burke’s thirty years of teaching experience to help educators bring Inferno alive for today’s young reader. In a conversational, “colleague-to-colleague” style, Burke shares the interpretations, questions, and exercises he found effective in his high-school classroom, emphasizing group discussion to help students, no matter their religious or philosophical moorings, engage meaningfully with the notoriously difficult text.
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