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The Poetics of Dante's Paradiso

The Poetics of Dante's Paradiso

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Poetics of Dante's Paradiso
    Book Description:

    A highly original and comprehensive reading,The Poetics of Dante's Paradisochallenges established scholarly interpretations to demonstrate that the intricacies of Dante's text reveal a subtle irony, employed to deliver a sharp critique of the corrupt church and empire of his own time.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9669-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Massimo Verdicchio
  4. Notes on the Texts
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-5)

    Traditional readings of theParadisohave always viewed the third cantica as a poem apart because it deals with the blessed souls in Paradise, in contrast to the sinners in the previous two cantica, and no longer based on the principle ofcontrapasso, since inParadisothe souls are free of sin and beyond punishment. This view is true to a certain extent since it informs the literal level of Dante’s representation. All the characters that Dante encounters are either souls who have been saved, or religious leaders, or saints. At the allegorical level, however, the blessed souls still have...

  6. Prologue I DXV and Paradiso
    (pp. 6-11)

    ThePurgatoryends with a final allegory of a harlot conniving with a giant, which is meant to exemplify the aberrant political alliance between the House of France and the Papacy, which Dante condemns. The event occasions a prophecy, made by Beatrice in no uncertain terms, of a DXV who will come to kill them both and restore order:

    ch’io veggio certamente, e però il narro,

    a darne tempo già stelle propinque,

    secure d’ogn’ intoppo e d’ogni sbarro,

    nel qualeun cinquecento diece e cinque,

    messo di Dio, anciderà la fuia

    con quel gigante che con lei delinque.

    (Purg. XXXIII,...

  7. Prologue II The Poetics of Paradiso
    (pp. 12-22)

    TheParadisohas always been considered a poem apart and different from theInfernoandPurgatory, not only in theme but also at the level of poetics.¹ Dante himself can be said to have contributed to this view when in the first canto he makes it known that he is tackling a subject never attempted before: ‘Nel ciel che più della sua luce prende/fu’io, e vidi cose che ridire / né sa né può chi di là sù discende’ [I was in the heaven that most receives of his light, and I saw things which no one who returns from...

  8. 1 Heaven of the Moon: Grammar (II−IV)
    (pp. 23-35)

    The analogy between Moon and Grammar is defined by the Moon’s precarious relation to the Sun. Just as the Sun does not illuminate the Moon entirely, but leaves some of its parts in the dark, resulting in Moon spots, Logic only partly coincides with Grammar. The problem is with language, which is always in flux, and what is in use and meaningful today will be meaningless tomorrow, and vice versa. The discrepancy between Grammar and Logic makes it impossible for Grammar to fully account for Logic. One cannot assume, therefore, that grammatical structures will yield the meaning they appear to...

  9. 2 Heaven of Mercury: Dialectics (V−VII)
    (pp. 36-45)

    Halfway through canto V Dante and Beatrice move to the Heaven of Mercury, and the canto proper begins with an apostrophe to the reader:

    Pensa, lettor, se quel che qui s’inizia

    non procedesse, come tu avresti

    di piú savere angosciosa carizia;

    (Par. V, 109−11)

    [Think, reader, if this beginning went no further how keenly you would crave to know the rest;]

    The apostrophe is the first part of a comparison where Dante compares the desire of the reader if the narrative of the poem were to stop at this point, to his desire to know the people of this canto....

  10. 3 Heaven of Venus: Rhetoric (VIII–IX)
    (pp. 46-58)

    At the beginning ofParadisoVIII, and alluding to the Heaven of Venus in which he now finds himself, Dante differentiates this heaven from the ancient notion of Venus the goddess of ‘mad love’ (folle amore) (Par. VIII, 2), and refers to this ancient belief as error: ‘le genti antiche nell’antico errore’ [the ancient peoples in their ancient error] (5). The reference to ‘folle amor’ is to Virgil’sAeneidand to Dido, and more explicitly to Venus’ fears that her son Aeneas may not be welcome at her court because of Juno’s constant interference with her son’s voyage. Venus instructs...

  11. 4 Heaven of the Sun: Arithmetic (X−XIV)
    (pp. 59-76)

    As Dante is about to move in the Heaven of the Sun, which is qualitatively different from previous heavens, canto X takes the form of a new prologue, where, once again, the reader is reminded of the task ahead:

    Leva dunque, lettore, all’alte ruote

    meco la vista,dritto a quella parte

    dove l’un moto e l’altro si percuote;

    (Par. X, 7−9; emphasis mine)

    [Lift up your eyes with me then, reader, to the lofty wheels,directly at that part where the one motion strikes the other;]

    The invitation to the reader to lift up his eyes to the Sun and...

  12. 5 Heaven of Mars: Music (XV−XVII)
    (pp. 77-107)

    The Heaven of Mars can be called the heaven of Florence, as Mars, the god of war, was once Florence’s major divinity, replaced later by St John the Baptist, and occupies the mid-point in Dante’sParadiso, as the planet Mars does. The key symbol of these cantos is the Cross, formed by two converging Milky Ways, in the middle of which one can discern the image of Christ, ‘’n quella croce lampeggiava Cristo’ [in that Cross was flashing Christ] (Par. XIV, 104). This is the Cross of the crusading warriors for Christ, among whom is Cacciaguida, who followed it to...

  13. 6 Heaven of Jupiter: Geometry (XVIII–XX)
    (pp. 108-115)

    The Heaven of Jupiter accounts for three more cantos. In the first we are shown a superb geometric display directed by God the Supreme Geometer, who, in this fashion, introduces the theme of Monarchy, when the souls form an M and then an Eagle; in the second canto we have the history of Monarchy narrated by the Eagle; and in the third we have an excursus of those rulers who were considered just. But not everything is perfect even in the temperate Heaven of Jupiter, since it suffers from the influences of Mars and Saturn, which are hot and cold,...

  14. 7 Heaven of Saturn: Astronomy (XXI−XXII)
    (pp. 116-123)

    The 7thHeaven of Saturn, which Dante compares to Astronomy, takes only two cantos, XXI and XXII, and they are devoted to the contemplative souls and those with apostolic zeal. The person Dante speaks to is Pietro Damiano, and he is introduced with the usual geographical description of the Benedectine monastery of Fonte Avellana where he was an abbot. Once again the presence of Peter Damiano serves to criticize those monks who no longer live in contemplation for the glory of God, and whose order is now corrupt and in decay:

    Render solea quel chiostro a questi cieli


  15. 8 Fixed Stars: Physics and Metaphysics (XXIV−XXVII)
    (pp. 124-145)

    As with the Cacciaguida cantos, in the Heaven of Fixed Stars we are dealing with another set of three cantos. These are the cantos where Dante is examined on his knowledge of the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, respectively, by St Peter (Par. XXIV), St James (Par. XXV), and St John (Par. XXVI).

    Appropriately this set of cantos begins by reiterating the main function of theParadiso, and of theCommedia, providing the reader with vital nourishment.

    ‘O sodalizio eletto alla gran cena

    del benedetto Agnello, il qual vi ciba

    sí, che la vostra voglia è sempre piena,...

  16. 9 Primum Mobile: Moral Philosophy (XXVII–XXIX)
    (pp. 146-160)

    The Primum Mobile, or Crystalline Heaven, is the heaven which imparts motion to the other heavens and from which everything else in the universe originates:

    ‘La natura del mondo, che quieta

    il mezzo e tutto l’altro intorno move,

    quindi comincia come da sua meta.

    (Par. XXVII, 106−8)

    [The nature of the universe, which holds the centre quiet and moves all the rest around it, begins here as from its starting point.]

    The Primum Mobile contains no bodies, stars, or planets; it is the outermost of the moving spheres, and has no other place but the mind of God. Its motion...

  17. 10 Empyrean: Theology (XXX−XXXIII)
    (pp. 161-169)

    The strife which characterizes the earlier cantos, which account for the present state of Church and Empire, does not appear to belong to this heaven. The Empyrean, in his peace, resembles the Science of Divinity, Theology, where conflict and argument do not reign because its Subject is God, and He is unquestionably certain. In giving his disciples his doctrine, Jesus also gave them His peace. ‘My peace I give to you, my peace I bequeath to you.’ However, as Divine Science is one because God is One, for this reason His doctrine gives peace; on the other hand, the human...

  18. Conclusions
    (pp. 170-174)

    Thematically, theParadisois not different fromInfernoorPurgatory. As the punitive action of the DXV, announced in the last canto ofPurgatory, this cantica continues the task that Dante had set himself at the beginning of the poem as the action of the Veltro to expose and denounce the greed in human nature, which is responsible for the corruption in the Church and in the Empire, if not in mankind in general. At the level of poetic representation, reading theParadisopresents some difficulties, as its critique of the blessed souls is hardly noticeable. Dante compares it to...

  19. Index
    (pp. 175-177)