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Dante's Hermeneutics of Salvation

Dante's Hermeneutics of Salvation: Passages to Freedom inThe Divine Comedy

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Dante's Hermeneutics of Salvation
    Book Description:

    A work of considerable importance both for and teachers and students of Dante studies, Dante's

    Hermeneutics of Salvation

    will also prove useful to scholars working in medieval studies, philosophy, and literary theory.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8425-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction: Situating the Project
    (pp. 3-12)

    The aim of this book is to bring about a ‘confrontation’ or ‘fusion of horizons’ between the philosophical poetry of Dante Alighieri and our contemporary, post-Heideggerian philosophical context. This book is about neither Dante in historical context, nor Heidegger in historical context, but is about what is revealed when one takes Dante seriously in a post-Heideggerian philosophical world. My purpose is not to compare Dante and Heidegger as if from an external, God’s-eye point of view, but rather to read Dante in a way that illuminates the hidden possibilities contained in his thought, and that reveals the often overlooked relevance...


    • 1 Language, Mediation, and Salvation in Dante’s Commedia
      (pp. 15-32)

      In this chapter, I will examine issues concerning the simultaneous self-perfection of reader and text, arguing that such simultaneous self-perfection occurs by means of the mediating nature of language. The relation between text and reader is beautifully embodied in theCommediaitself, a text that includes both an account of its subject matter as it develops (in the story of the pilgrim) as well as an account of its own coming-to-be as aninterpreted, meaningful account (in the narrative of the poet). There is a necessary relation, though not an identity, between the content of Dante’s text (as shown in...

    • 2 Meaning
      (pp. 33-65)

      By interpreting Dante’s use of narrative as a problem to be overcome rather than an agent of transcendence, it seems that both Barolini and Freccero are still buying into the fiction that Dante is seeking to represent something ‘in itself,’ that which is eternal and wholly unconnected to the human understanding, for which it is being represented. If this were the case, then the use of narrative would be not only problematic, but also impossible, because narrative is conditioned by human understanding. For this reason, the final vision that is the goal of the fictitious journey is indescribable. By contrast,...

    • 3 Historicality and Truth
      (pp. 66-79)

      As I have shown in chapter 1, the paradigmatic example of meaning for Dante and Augustine is the communication of the Eternal Logos in time: the Word of God entering history. While history (in the sense of the ‘experience of one’s situation in time,’ i.e., temporality) is the condition of the possibility of meaning, history (in the sense of the passage of time and the implied distance between knower and known) also presents a potential stumbling block to interpretation. Dante and Augustine belong to the tradition that claims that temporal mediation is not a stumbling block, but is necessary for...

    • 4 The Recapitulatory Nature of Finite Understanding
      (pp. 80-97)

      Chapter 3 has left us with some important questions: How can we allow the text to speak to us as contemporary readers? Is there any way of reading Dante such that his fierce desire for immortality in the other world and his refusal to allow Virgil to enter paradise makesenseto us, here and now, as opposed to either (1) being ‘accounted for’ by historical scholarship as part of Dante’s ‘medieval mindset,’ or (2) being made to conform to a generalized romantic/poetic yearning for ‘freedom’ and/or ‘immortality’ that anyone (and no one) would understand? Is there any way that...

    • 5 The Hermeneutics of Conversion
      (pp. 98-132)

      In order to explain how conversion may be understood in terms of recapitulation, it is necessary to revisit a question from chapter 4, a question originally asked by D.S. Carne-Ross in his essay ‘Dante Agonistes’: ‘Would it be possible to interpret the sign-things of [theCommedia] so that they no longer point from here to there, from this world to the ‘true’ world, but rather to a different way of human being on this earth?’¹ Chapter 3 presented a largely negative response to this question, for it focused mainly on the shortcomings of both historicist and Romantic hermeneutics, criticizing their...


    • 6 Dialectical Reading and the Dialectic of Salvation
      (pp. 135-171)

      Understanding begins … when something addresses us … this requires … the fundamental suspension of our own prejudices … [However,] if a prejudice becomes questionable in view of what another person or text says to us, this does not mean that it is simply set aside and the text or the other person accepted as valid in its place. Rather, historical objectivism shows its naïveté in accepting this disregarding of ourselves as what actually happens. In fact … only by being given full play is [our prejudice] able to experience the other’s claim to truth and make it possible for...

    • 7 Paradisal Hermeneutics: Reading the Volume of the Universe
      (pp. 172-244)

      Two important claims have already been established in this book. The first is that finite situatedness is a precondition for, not an impediment to, understanding. Understanding always takes place in the mind of a finite person in a particular place and time; no one has a God’s-eye, perspectivally neutral stance. The belief that one does or could have such a stance is naïve. Accordingly, all understanding must make sense of the ‘whole’ (sentence, situation, life, or span of history) by looking at the ‘parts’ (words, events) one by one, in time. The parts do not make sense apart from the...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 245-300)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-316)
  9. Index
    (pp. 317-327)