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Dante and His Comedy

The Divine Comedy: Inferno - Purgatory - Paradise  by Dante Alighieri. 13 compact discs, the entire unabridged Comedy and a one disc biographical introduction to his life and work. (Naxos Audio Books) This is a wonderful performance of the entire Divine Comedy which one can listen to many times. The reader, Heathecoate Williams, must be some sort of an actor -- full throated furious at times, pale and poignant at others as he wends his way through it all, mimicking all the saints and sinners like a mockingbird. Each of the 100 cantos is prefaced by a short suggestion of period music for a breather and for atmosphere, which does not intrude or ham up the performance, as often happens with similar efforts.

Shameless drama of Williams' variety may be embarrassing to some, out of style to others. But it supplies an important element lacking to the rather dry academic fashion by which most are these days exposed to Dante. Nor is any accuracy of meaning sacrificed thereby. The three parts of the Comedy are all read from a prose translation by a man named Benedict Flynn. I am not aware that this translation is available anywhere in print, but having read several English translations of Dante, the word choice is familiar and sounds properly middle of the road. Truth be told, a dramatic flair does no disservice to this very personal poem at all, which was radical in its day for being written in common vernacular. For the hearer of our language, it places Dante in the ring where he belongs: with the fully engaged Shakespeare of the history plays, not with the closet dramas of a T.S. Eliot or a Robert Lowell.

The set is well worth the price, and the bonus disc lecture on Dante's life not only adds the academic dimension, but makes the price for the whole a steal. The liner note help with some of the chief references.

The Hollander's translation is akin to the restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and altar for English speaking lovers of Dante not yet able to read his works in Italian. A work of tremendous beauty has been made available - this after generations of only being able to experience a forbidding, darker version of the original.

This beautifully bound, cleanly translated Dante has the clearest, most teachable set of notes of any English edition. Hollander, who knows this vast territory as well as anyone, has a gift for presenting it in just the right detail. This is to be highly recommended for those teaching Dante as well as for those who are making their way into Dante's overwhelmingly complete, beautiful world. 

Inferno: English/Italian Translation by Dante Alighieri, translation and commentary & notes by Robert Hollander, Jean Hollander (Doubleday) (Paperback) Dante's immortal poem enters English in the clearest, most accurate, most readable translation in decades, accompanied by a commentary of unsurpassed scholarship.

The Inferno, the opening section of Dante Alighieri's epic theological poem La Divina Commedia, is one of the indispensable works of the Western literary canon. The modern concept of hell and damnation owes everything to this work, and it is the rock upon which vernacular Italian was built. Its influence is woven into the very fabric of Western imagination, and poets, painters, scholars, and translators return to it endlessly.

This new verse translation (with facing-page Italian text) by internationally famed scholar and master teacher Robert Hollander and his wife, poet Jean Hollander, is a unique collaboration that combines the virtues of maximum readability with complete fidelity to the original Italian-and to Dante's intentions and subtle shadings of meaning.  The book reflects Robert Hollander's faultless Dante scholarship and his nearly four decades' teaching experience at Princeton. The introduction, notes, and commentary on the poem cannot be matched for their depth of learning and usefulness for the lay reader. In addition, the book matches the English and Italian text on the Web site of the Princeton Dante Project, which also offers a voiced Italian reading, fuller-scale commentaries, and links to a database of some sixty Dante commentaries.

The Inferno opens the glories of Dante's epic wider for English speakers than any previous translation, and provides the interpretative apparatus for ever-deeper excursions into its endless layers of meaning and implication. It is truly a Dante for the new millennium. Now comes a fresh rendition of the Inferno from a husband-and-wife team. Robert Hollander, who has taught Dante for nearly four decades at Princeton, supplies the scholarly muscle, while his wife, poet Jean Hollander, attends to the verbal music.

How does their collaboration stack up? In his introduction, Robert Hollander is quick to acknowledge his debt to John D. Sinclair's prose trot of 1939, and to the version that Charles Singleton derived largely from his predecessor's in 1970. Yet the Hollanders have done us all a favor by throwing Sinclair's faux medievalisms overboard. And their predilection for direct, monosyllabic English sometimes brings them much closer to Dante's asperity and rhythmic urgency. One example will suffice. In the last line of Canto V, after listening to Francesca's adulterous aria, the poet faints: "E caddi come corpo morto cade." Sinclair's rendering---"I swooned as if in death and dropped like a dead body"--has a kind of conditional mushiness to it. Compare the punchier rendition from the Hollanders: "And down I fell as a dead body falls." It sounds like an actual line of English verse, which is the least we can do for the supreme poet of our beleaguered civilization.

Robert Hollander has also supplied an extensive and very welcome commentary. There are times, perhaps, when he might have broken ranks with his academic ancestors: why not deviate from Giorgio Petrocchi's 1967 edition of the Italian text when he thinks that the great scholar was barking up the wrong tree? In any case, the Hollanders' Inferno is a fine addition to the burgeoning bookshelf of Dante in English. It won't displace the relatively recent verse translations by Robert Pinsky or Allen Mandelbaum, and even John Ciardi's version, which sometimes substitutes breeziness for accuracy, can probably hold its own here. But when it comes to high fidelity and exegetical generosity, this Inferno burns brightly indeed.

The opening canzone of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy has appeared in almost every imaginable variety of English translation: prose, blank verse and iambic pentameter; unrhymed or in terza rima; with and without the original Italian; with commentary ranging from a few notes to a full separate volume. The translations have been produced by poets, scholars and poet-scholars. In the past six years alone, six new translations of the Inferno have appeared (including Robert Pinsky's 1994 rendition for FSG) and at least 10 others remain in print, including Allen Mandelbaum's celebrated 1980 translation (Univ. of Calif. Press and Bantam) and the extensively annotated editions of Charles Singleton (Princeton Univ. Press) and Mark Musa (Univ. of Indiana Press), the latter two unlikely to be surpassed soon in terms of extensiveness of commentary. Dante scholar Robert Hollander and the poet Jean Hollander bring to this crowded market a new translation of the Inferno that, remarkably, is by no means redundant and will for many be the definitive edition for the foreseeable future. The heart of the Hollanders' edition is the translation itself, which nicely balances the precision required for a much-interpreted allegory and the poetic qualities that draw most readers to the work. The result is a terse, lean Dante with its own kind of beauty. While Mandelbaum's translation begins "When I had journeyed half of our life's way,/ I found myself within a shadowed forest,/ for I had lost the path that does not stray," the Hollanders' rendition reads: "Midway in the journey of our life/ I came to myself in a dark wood,/ for the straight way was lost." While there will be debate about the relative poetic merit of this new translation in comparison to the accomplishments of Mandelbaum, Pinsky, Zappulla and others, the Hollanders' lines will satisfy both the poetry lover and scholar; they are at once literary, accessible and possessed of the seeming transparence that often characterizes great translations. The Italian text is included on the facing page for easy reference, along with notes drawing on some 60 Dante scholars, several indexes, a list of works cited and an introduction by Robert Hollander. General readers, students and scholars will all find their favorite circles within this layered text.
Purgatorio: English /Italian Translation by Dante Alighieri, translation and commentary & notes by Robert Hollander, Jean Hollander (Doubleday) (Paperback) "In the years of my reading Dante, after the first overwhelming, reverberating spell of the Inferno, which I think never leaves one afterward, it was the Purgatorio that I had found myself returning to with a different, deepening attachment, until I reached a point when it was never far from me . . . Of the three sections of [The Divine Comedy], only Purgatory happens on the earth, as our lives do, with our feet on the ground, crossing a beach, climbing a mountain. All three parts of the poem are images of our lives, but there is an intimacy peculiar to the Purgatorio. Here the times of day recur with all the sensations and associations that the hours bring with them, the hours of the world we are living in as we read the poem." 

Paradiso: English/Italian Translation by Dante Alighieri, translation and commentary & notes by Robert Hollander, Jean Hollander (Doubleday) (Paperback)  Given our modern sensibilities the part of the Divine Comedy that is most likely to be read by students of the humanities and readily appreciated is the Inferno. Hollander himself makes a case for why the purgatory of deserves close reading because much like middle Earth it joins the twin the arcs of paternity as everlasting duration and pre-created perfection. Personally I have grown into a deep appreciation of the Paradise, its language and its selection of images to attempt to show us what is beyond all visionary appreciation. The book has often been called the most exalted and impossible work of poetry in any language.  One schooled in the platonic reach of the true meaning of this work will find many great subtleties of metaphysics buried in the simple and straightforward language.  As with the previous two volumes, the notes and commentary judicious and ample enough to satisfy most readers that they have a gist sense of the poem.

Robert and Jean Hollander's verse translation of PARADISO with facing-page Italian offers the dual virtues of maximum fidelity to give the English reader a sense of the work's poetic greatness in Italian. And since Robert Hollander's achievements as a Dante scholar are unsurpassed in the English-speaking world, the commentaries that accompany each canto offer superb guidance in comprehension and interpretation. This translation is the text of the Princeton Dante Project Web site, an ambitious online project that offers a multimedia version of the Divine Comedy and links to other Dante Web sites. On every count, then, this edition of Paradiso is likely to be a touchstone for generations to come, and it completes one of the great enterprises of literary translation and scholarship of our time.

Robert Hollander is Professor of European Literature Emeritus at Princeton and the founding director of both the Dartmouth Dante Project and the Princeton Dante Project. He taught Dante's Divine Comedy for forty-two years and us the author of a dozen books on Dante and Boccaccio, and of some ninety articles on them and other writers. He was received many awards, including the gold medal of the city of Florence and the gold florin of the Dante Society of America, in recognition of his work on Dante.

His collaborator and wife, Jean Hollander, is the director of the Writer's Conference at the College of New Jersey. Her third book of poems is about to be published. Each bring their own remarkable gifts to this truly phenomenal rendering of the Divine Comedy—Robert, his deep passion for understanding the text in the context of its interpretive and critical history, and Jean, her inspired phrasings that lend beauty and clarity to its reading.

The publication of Paradiso marks the final installment of your translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. How does it feel to be finished with it?

Bob: First of all, I in particular felt a tremendous sense of relief just to have completed the task (see the next answer for why). We had finished the penultimate version of the translation and so the only remaining major task (and it is the most difficult task confronting any Dantist -- which may explain why so few attempt it) was for me to write the commentary. This one is much longer than the notes to Inferno and considerably longer than those to Purgatorio. There is more in Paradiso that requires explanation.

Jean: While I also felt relief when we finally completed our work after ten years and I could get back to my own poetry without interruption, I also felt sadness. Despite some heated moments of disagreement (especially over the Inferno, where we were learning how to translate Dante and how to deal with each other as interpreters), it was a great pleasure to be inside that poem together day after day. To say that this was a fascinating and deeply involving project is an understatement.

While working on Paradiso, Bob suffered a stroke that put the translation project on hold. Tell us about your experience working back from there.

The stroke was (1) a bleeding stroke (the more deadly kind) and (2) a very bad one, at that. Not only did I not believe I would survive; for Jean's sake I wanted not to. But about a week along (a week that is now a jumble of confused semi-somnolent memories: e.g., I once came to and found three Italian colleagues in my room and me speaking Italian), I suddenly found myself looking down from the epicycle of Mercury (the phrase is Montaigne's), watching me (not myself, but this crippled fellow with his buttocks protruding from of his gown) and the hospital world with enormous distance and amusement. I think that comic vision helped me turn a corner. Significant recovery from a major stroke requires luck and time and effort. In any case, the completion of this project was probably delayed by about a year.

What has it been like for you two to collaborate on this project?

In all the years of our marriage, while we have worked in the same or similar fields of literature (and had on occasion taught at the same university and twice in the same course -- with many resultant conversations about the texts under consideration), we, while we frequently showed the other our work for his or her comments, have never collaborated on anything. Thus each of us learned how the other really thought the poem worked. It was a challenge and a rewarding experience for us both.

In what ways do you think this translation of Paradiso differs from other available translations?

There are about one hundred translation of the poem into English published in the last two centuries. I am not sure one could group them; each is unique (or mainly so -- some translators unabashedly steal from their precursors without notice that this is what they are doing). In my many years of teaching I, of course, have looked at many of them. I do not know off hand how many of these are complete, but a good many are not (among several reasons, because the translator died or had decided to do only Inferno or even Purgatorio alone [there is even one translation of only Paradiso, I believe)). No one takes on the task of translating a great work without thinking his or her version cannot be improved upon, and only a fool believes his or hers is the last word (although I am aware of a few of these). On the other hand, this task is assumed by no one who is convinced that an existing translation pushes all the buttons or rings all the bells. Naturally we believe our work does a reasonably good job representing Dante, had he wanted to exist in English. That's the task, isn't it? To produce a version at which the writer would not snort in disgust. If you keep him in mind as you work, he certainly produces a certain restraint and a great deal of humility.

This translation is the text of the Princeton Dante Project Web Site. Tell us about the site and what it offers students and Dante enthusiasts.

The PDP is consultable at www.princeton.edu/dante. Those who have not actually visited might want to, rather than reading about it. The site contains the text of the poem in Italian and in our translation. It also contains my commentary, historical notes by Paget Toynbee, philological notes (under development), illustrations to each canto, an Italian voicing of the entire poem by Lino Pertile (Professor of Italian at Harvard), access from each line of the text to the Dartmouth Dante Project (with its roughly six dozen other commentaries). It also includes access to many other Dante sites around the globe. In addition, users of the site find all of Dante's other works, in the original and English translation, as well as other resources (lectures, maps, diagrams). Princeton University generously allows consultation of this resource at no charge.

What prompted your interest in him and his Divine Comedy?

I was bitten by the A.B. (Alighieri Bug) when I was teaching in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia in the very early 1960s. To tell a long story briefly, I fell in love with him (as I had already done with Jean) at Columbia. And when I moved to Princeton in 1962, I was asked to teach a course on Dante, Cervantes, and Goethe. I have been studying Dante ever since (he's my Day Job; Boccaccio is my Night one [I have written three books about Boccaccio and, with Timothy Hampton, translated his Amorosa Visione, a poem of some interest that imitates the Commedia]). Jean had not ever done scholarly work on Dante before. But she now teaches courses on the poem at various institutions.

What has been the most rewarding part of your work on Dante?

It may seem corny, but the response we have gotten from complete strangers, some of whom have become friends: e.g., two law professors, one at NYU the other at Pennsylvania, who meet one day each weekend to mull over a canto as they work their way through the Comedy (they are beginning their second trip through the entire poem next year); a nine-year-old Chicagoan named Warren whose parents wrote (in 2001) to tell us about their son, a Harry Potter fan who ended up telling his schoolmates that our Inferno was almost as good as Rowling (our Dante A. and her Harry P. were "born" in the same year [1997: HP hit the bookstores and Jean and I began translating in Florence] and finished publication in the same year [summer 2007: HP and Paradiso published only a month from one another); the Italian actor and Dante-reciter Roberto Benigni, who calls to talk about Dante when he is not turning his fellow-citizens on to Dante (he currently "barnstorms" around Italy reciting Dante to vast crowds, bless him); the Italian students whom I met lecturing this spring in Milan and Bologna, some of whom are still in touch with us, with all of whom it was and is a delight to talk about Dante's work.

Jean brings her considerable gift of poetry to this text. Tell us about your writing process bringing these words to life on the page.

We began with a prose version (as we have made clear in our Introductions to each cantica of the poem) and quickly turned it into something like "poetry." We chose the least limiting form, free verse, finding that even blank verse, with its regular rhythms, impinged too much on our desire to represent Dante's words as clearly and as precisely as is possible. That was our first priority; but we also wanted to give those words in English as much "musicality" as we could. This was Jean's primary focus (though each of us spent a lot of time invading the other's terrain -- I think with positive result). Jean started us out when she insisted that prose translations are not "sayable," that is, one cannot read them aloud with any sense that the original was not only a poem, but one of the greatest poems ever written. One sign that poetry in translation is "working" is observed when the translation not only seems to be faithful to the meaning of the original, but also expresses, in English, the sounds and associations that suggest that meaning. As an example, consider this tercet from the first canto of Paradiso (vv. 19-21):


Entra nel petto mio, e spira tue                                 Enter my breast and breathe in me

si come quando Marsia traesti                                                   as when you drew out Marsyas,

de la vagina de le membra sue.                                 out from the sheathing of his limbs.


How well we have succeeded in accomplishing this joining of sound to sense is not ours to judge. All translators, at the outset, know (or ought to know) that they will fail. The crucial measure is by how much they do not fail, how far they get into the meaning and feeling of the original. Cervantes, in the preface to Part II of the Quijote, had it right: To read a book in translation is to look at a tapestry from the wrong side.

What are you two working on next?

We both confess that it's again a pleasure to be working alone. Jean is back at her poems (and has been having things accepted at a great rate); the third volume of her poetry, Bloodroot, should be out next year. As for me, I'm working on a grammar book for adults -- no, not a racy one, but a short "serious" book that has the working title "What They Don't Want You to Know about Grammar." I am well into it and enjoying the work, which is like nothing I've ever done.

On the other hand, as we began translating Dante, we also spoke of taking on the challenge of Boccaccio's Decameron. And I, some twenty-five years ago, began a translation of Dante's Vita nuova. We have also talked about completing that project. We'll see.

THE DIVINE COMEDY: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso by Dante Alighieri, translation by Allen Mandelbaum, introduction by Eugenio Montale ($23.00, hardcover, Everyman's Library, 183, Knopf; ISBN: 0679433139)

THE DIVINE COMEDY by Dante Alighieri, translated by Charles H. Sisson ($17.95, paperback, 771 pages, Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press; ISBN: 0192835025)

THE DIVINE COMEDY by Dante Alighieri, translated by  John Ciardi ($39.00, hardcover, 602 pages, W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393044726) PAPERBACK

THE DIVINE COMEDY of Dante Alighieri ($69.95, 10 audio cassettes, Blackstone Audio Books; ISBN: 078610256X)

DIVINE COMEDY of Dante Alighieri: Inferno Vol 1 Part Italian Text and Translation edited translated and commentary by Charles Singleton ($14.95, paperback Vol 001, Princeton University Press; ISBN: 0691018960)
DIVINE COMEDY: The Inferno/Commentary by Dante Alighieri, edited translated and commentary by Charles Singleton ($29.95, paperback commentary edition Princeton University Press; ISBN: 0691018952)

DIVINE COMEDY: Pugatorio (1: Italilan Text and Translation) by Dante Alighieri, edited translated and commentary by Charles Singleton ($18.95, paperback, Princeton University Press; ISBN: 0691019096)

DIVINE COMEDY: Purgatorio 2: Commentary by Dante Alighieri, edited translated and commentary by Charles Singleton ($35.00, paperback, Princeton University Press; ISBN: 069101910X)

DIVINE COMEDY: Paradiso/Text, Part 1 by Alighieri Dante, edited translated and commentary by Charles Singleton ($18.95, paperback, Princeton University Press; ISBN: 0691019126

DIVINE COMEDY: Paradiso/Commentary  by Dante Alighieri, edited, translated and commentary by Charles Singleton ($29.95, paperback, Princeton University Press; ISBN: 0691019134

Long narrative poem originally titled Commedia (about 1555 printed as La divina commedia) written about 1310-14 by Dante. The work is divided into three major sections--Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso--which trace the journey of a man from darkness and error to the revelation of the divine light, culminating in the beatific vision of God. It is usually held to be one of the world's greatest works of literature. The plot of The Divine Comedy is simple: a man is miraculously enabled to visit the souls in Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. He has two guides: Virgil, who leads him through the Inferno and Purgatorio, and Beatrice, who introduces him to Paradiso.
Through these fictional encounters taking place from Good Friday evening in 1300 through Easter Sunday and slightly beyond, Dante the character learns of the exile that is awaiting him (an actual exile that had already occurred at the time of writing). This device allowed Dante not only to create a story out of his exile but also to explain how he came to cope with personal calamity and to offer suggestions for the resolution of Italy's troubles as well. Thus, Dante's story is historically specific as well as paradigmatic; his exile serves as a microcosm of the problems of a country, and it also becomes representative of the Fall of Man. The basic structural component of The Divine Comedy is the canto. The poem consists of 100 cantos, which are grouped into the three major sections, or canticles. Technically there are 33 cantos in each canticle and one additional canto, contained in the Inferno, that serves as an introduction to the entire poem.
For the most part the cantos range from 136 to 151 lines. The poem's rhyme scheme is the terza rima (aba, bcb, cdc, etc.) Thus, the divine number three is present in every part of the work. Dante adopts the classical convention of a visit to the land of the dead, but he adapts it to a Christian worldview by beginning his journey there. The Inferno represents a false start during which Dante, the character, must be disabused of harmful values that somehow prevent him from rising above his fallen world. Despite the regressive nature of the Inferno, Dante's meetings with the damned are among the most memorable moments of the poem: the Neutrals, the virtuous pagans, Francesca da Rimini, Filipo Argenti, Farinata degli Uberti, Piero delle Vigne, Brunetto Latini, the simoniacal popes, Ulysses, and Ugolino impose themselves upon the reader's imagination with tremendous force. Nonetheless, the journey through the Inferno primarily signifies a process of separation and thus is only the initial step in a fuller development. In the Purgatorio the protagonist's spiritual rehabilitation commences. There Dante subdues his own personality so that he will be able to ascend. He comes to accept the essential Christian image of life as a pilgrimage, and he joins the other penitents on the road of life. At the summit of Purgatory, where repentant sinners are purged of their sins, Virgil departs, having led Dante as far as human knowledge is able--to the threshold of Paradise. Beatrice, who embodies the knowledge of divine mysteries bestowed by Grace, continues Dante's tour. In the Paradiso true heroic fulfillment is achieved. Dante's poem gives expression to those figures from the past who seem to defy death and who inspire in their followers a feeling of exaltation and a desire for identification. The Paradiso is consequently a poem of fulfillment and of completion.

The scholarship and depth of knowledge Charles Singleton brings to his translation and detailed annotations of this masterpiece makes it accessible for the late twentieth-century reader. I have used volumes 1 and 2 extensively, and regret being unable to procure the third. Problems with latinisms and words that Dante coins in Tuscan disappear. Biblical references that would have been overlooked are brought to notice. As good as a course of study.

What seems in the Divine Comedy to be an external landscape is really the psychological landscape of a man who wished to make the intangible tangible and the invisible visible. Dante's mind, packed with interesting figures from classic philosophers to contemporary politcal rivals, as well as wisdom and common sense, is laid out before us in the Divine Comedy. As Dante journeys through the labyrinth of memory and contemplation we learn more of those mysterious processes our own minds must experience in order to travel from the nadir and inferno of our own ignorance to the summum bonum of divine revelation.

Divina Commedia is the most AWESOME story ever written. Dante ranks among the most brilliant men of all time. Maybe I feel this way because I'm a kid who likes fantasy novels, but I must say that I have read no wilder, more beautiful adventure quest than Dante's journey through the Catholic hereafter. The imagery alone is incredible. These books are stunning. Really. They make me wish I could understand Italian so I could catch the magic of Dante's rhyme...

And if you've already read the Commedia, you haven't caught the whole story until you've finished La Vita Nuova as well! La Vita Nuova is a collection of sonnets about Dante's reactions to the life and death of Beatrice. Don't miss it.

THE DESIGN IN WAX: The Structure of the Divine
Comedy and Its Meaning by Marc Cogan ($35.00, paperback, 432 pages, The William and Katherine
Devers Series in Dante Studies, 3; University of Notre Dame Press; ISBN: 0268008876)

THE DESIGN IN WAX approaches the Divine Comedy from an explicitly the specifically medieval interpretation of the structure which underlies each part of the poem and the poem as a whole. It uses the theology and psychology derives fron Thomas Aquanias as a guide to the background of the work attempting to show the unities between the three parts of the poem. In this way one is given the tools to uncover much that might otherwise seem obscure. Cogan shows how to discover the single consistent principle which organizes each part and the overall narrative.

The incidents of the poem would remain hopelessly ambiguous were it not for the philosophical and theological distinctions embodied in the structure of the narrative, in which light it is possible to reduce the ambiguity of concrete incidents to their intended allegorical content. Through medieval interpretations of Dante's sources, Cogan discovers a single consistent moral and theological principle organizing each of the sections of the poem and its overall narrative. He argues that, using one common principle, Dante brings the separate allegories of the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso together into one great allegory, making the transformation of the principle into an ordered set of variations on the theme of love and its representation in human beings as the image of God. This allegory, he points out, provides a meditation on the nature of God and the capacities of human beings that will inspire presipient readers.

THE DESIGN IN WAX is a thought-provoking tool for all students of the Divine Comedy interested in studying Dante's calculated use of poetry to overcome the limits of human understanding.
DANTE ALIGHIERI: Divine Comedy, Divine Spirituality by Robert Royal and Christine Chapman ($16.95, paperback, 118 pages, Crossroad Spiritual Legacy Series, Crossroad Pub Co; ISBN: 0824516044

FROM PUBLISHER: A Popular Presentation of the Spiritual Genius of Dante New in the Spiritual Legacy Series. In the course of exploring the human pilgrimage on Earth in his legendary poem, Dante lays out a spiritual path through the canticles of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Readers will appreciate the careful, reader-friendly approach to the actual poetry, as well as the fine biographical portrayal of Dante, the man, the writer, and the spiritual lover extraordinaire.

Robert Royal holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Italian Studies from Brown University; a doctorate in Comparative Literature from Catholic University; and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship from Florence, Italy.

DANTE AND THE KNOT OF THE BODY AND SOUL by Marianne Shapiro ($49.95, hardcover, St Martins Press; ISBN: 0312217501)

this semiotic approach to Dante opens some useful new insights into the more thick meaning of Dante's work as a whole. It entails seeing verse and prose as a structure, of which the building blocks are primarily linguistic, and taking the form of these building blocks to be part of the content. Shapiro analyzes Dante's verse by treating language as the only sure repository of meaning. This insightful work offers a wide range of of semiotics approaches to understanding Dante's texts.

DANTE'S AESTHETICS OF BEING by Warren Ginsberg ($37.50, hardcover, University of Michigan Press; ISBN: 0472109715) review pending

DANTE'S INTERPRETIVE JOURNEY  by William Franke ($45.00, hardcover, 250 pages, Religion and Postmodernism, University of Chicago Press; ISBN: 0226259978) PAPERBACK review pending

Introduction: Truth and interpretation in the Divine Comedy
1. Historicity of Truth
2. Truth through Interpretation and the Hermeneutic of Faith
3. Interpretive Ontology: Dante and Heidegger
Ch. 1. The Address to the Reader
1. The Ontological Import of the Address to the Reader
2. Reader's Address as Scene of the Production of Sense
3. Truth, Sendings, Being-Addressed: Deconstruction versus Hermeneutics
or Dialogue with Derrida?
4. A Philological Debate: Auerbach and Spitzer
5. Petrarch, Boccaccio, and the Fiction of Philology

Ch. 2. Dante's Hermeneutic Rite of Passage: Inferno IX

1. Blockage
2. Passage
3. Ambiguities
4. Appendix: Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, and the Meaning of a Modern
Understanding of Dante
Ch. 3. The Temporality of Conversion
1. Interpretation as Ontological Repetition and Dante's Fatedness
2. Ecstatic and Repetitive Temporality
3. Phenomenology of Fear/Anxiety in Inferno I
4. Dantesque Allegory and the Act of Understanding
Ch. 4. The Making of History
1. Relocating Truth: From Historical Sense to Reader's Historicity
2. Reality and Realism in Purgatorio X
3. Some History (and a Reopening) of the Question of the Truth of the Commedia
Ch. 5. Resurrected Tradition and Revealed Truth
1. Dante's Statius
2. Hermeneutics, Historicity, and Suprahistorical Truth
Recapitulatory Prospectus: A New Hermeneutic Horizon for Religious
Revelation in Poetic Literature?
Core Bibliography of Recurrently Cited Sources

DANTE'S VISION AND THE CIRCLE OF KNOWLEDGE by Giuseppe Mazzotta ($52.50, hardcover, 352 pages, Princeton University Press; ISBN: 0691069662)

In a masterly synthesis of historical and literary analysis, Giuseppe Mazzotta shows how medieval knowledge systems--the cycle of the liberal arts, ethics, politics, and theology--interacted with poetry and elevated the Divine Comedy to a central position in shaping all other forms of discursive knowledge. To trace the circle of Dante's intellectual concerns, Mazzotta examines the structure and aims of medieval encyclopedias, especially in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; the medieval classification of knowledge; the battle of the arts; the role of the imagination; the tension between knowledge and vision; and Dante's theological speculations in his constitution of what Mazzotta calls aesthetic, ludic theology. As a poet, Dante puts himself at the center of intellectual debates of his time and radically redefines their configuration. In this book, Mazzotta offers powerful new readings of a poet who stands amid his culture's crisis and fragmentation, one who responds to and counters them in his work. In a critical gesture that enacts Dante's own insight, Mazzotta's practice is also a fresh contribution to the theoretical literary debates of the present. In a masterly synthesis of historical and literary analysis, Giuseppe Mazzotta shows how medieval knowledge systems--the cycle of the liberal arts, ethics, politics, and theology--interacted with poetry and elevated the Divine Comedy to a central position in shaping all other forms of discursive knowledge. To trace the circle of Dante's intellectual concerns, Mazzotta examines the structure and aims of medieval encyclopedias, especially in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; the medieval classification of knowledge; the battle of the arts; the role of the imagination; the tension between knowledge and vision; and Dante's theological speculations in his constitution of what Mazzotta calls aesthetic, ludic theology. As a poet, Dante puts himself at the center of intellectual debates of his time and radically redefines their configuration. In this book, Mazzotta offers powerful new readings of a poet who stands amid his culture's crisis and fragmentation, one who responds to and counters them in his work. In a critical gesture that enacts Dante's own insight, Mazzotta's practice is also a fresh contribution to the theoretical literary debates of the present.

IMAGES OF THE JOURNEY IN DANTE'S DIVINE COMEDY by Charles H. Taylor, Patricia Finley ($55.00, hardcover,  288 pages, Yale University Press; ISBN: 0300068344)

The vivid events and characters of Dante's Divine Comedy -- one of themost powerful expressions of sacred imagination in all literature -- have inspired artists for over six centuries. This magnificently illustrated bookassembles more than 250 illustrations of Dante's poem, created by fifteenknown artists and some twenty anonymous illuminators to depict everyaspect of the pilgrim's journey to the depths of Hell, the mountain of Purgatory, and the heavenly spheres of Paradise.

by Gustave Dore ($9.95, paperback, 136 pages, 136 Plates, Dover Publications; ISBN: 048623231X)

Absolutely perfect! These pictures capture the essence and feel of the Divine Comedy perfectly. These are the kinds of scenes that went through my mind while I read. What captured my attention the most were the plates of Puragatory. Nobody else could have caught the mood more accurately. Dore and Dante are both gensises.


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