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The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy

The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy

Joan M. Ferrante
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy
    Book Description:

    Joan Ferrante analyzes the Divine Comedy in terms of public issues, which continued foremost in Dante's thinking after his exile from Florence. Professor Ferrante examines the political concepts of the poem in historical context and in light of the political theory and controversies of the period.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5399-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION Political Theory and Controversy
    (pp. 3-43)

    TheDivine Comedypurports to be a description of the state of souls after death. So Dante describes it in his dedicatory letter to Can Grande. But this refers only to its literal sense; allegorically, the subject is man as he, by the exercise of his free will, merits reward or punishment. Dante’s focus is on men’s actions and their responsibility for them. Thus, though the setting of the poem is the three realms of the other-world, and though almost all the characters are dead, there is a persistent concern throughout the work with what is going on on earth,...

  5. ONE City and Empire in the Comedy
    (pp. 44-75)

    The Political Vision of theComedyis firmly rooted in what are, for Dante, the essential political structures of city and empire.¹ He states his views quite clearly in theConvivio, 4.4, and in theMonarchy, 1.5: man needs the help of his fellows in order to achieve a happy life on earth, government is essential if men are to live together in society, cities are the smallest self-sufficient structures that meet man’s needs, though kingdoms serve the same function and can also keep peace among cities, but only a world-monarchy, an empire, can control the greed and aggressions of...

  6. TWO Church and State in the Comedy
    (pp. 76-131)

    The Proper Functioning of the empire on earth depends not only on its relations with individual cities and kingdoms, but also on its relations with the papacy. The jurisdictional dispute between secular and ecclesiastical authority, the third and certainly the most controversial question Dante takes up in theMonarchy, also permeates theComedy. He deals with it directly in Marco Lombardo’s discourse on the two suns (Pg. 16) and in the various attacks on the Donation of Constantine, and indirectly in his own frequent and clear denial of any but a spiritual and didactic function to the church and in...

  7. THREE The Corrupt Society: Hell
    (pp. 132-197)

    The Proper Relation of individual states (cities or kingdoms) to the empire and the separate and distinct functions of ecclesiastical and secular authority discussed in chapters one and two provide the political framework for theComedy. Within that framework, each cantica presents a different but related model for human society. Paradise is the ideal society in all its essential elements working harmoniously; Purgatory is a society in transition, moving from self-centeredness to concern for and commitment to others, but not yet organized within an effective structure. Hell reveals what society is when all its members act for themselves and against...

  8. FOUR Society in Transition: Purgatory
    (pp. 198-252)

    Dante’s Purgatory, where individuals learn to become citizens of the ideal society, is situated on an island on the surface of this earth. It is potentially accessible to the living—Ulysses sailed within sight of it—but only in humility and acceptance of the divine order. This realm partakes more of earthly existence than Hell or Paradise, because Dante believes and wants his audience to believe that it can be established here. With the right leadership in church and state and the good will of individuals, the earthly paradise could be achieved. Dante subtly shows the relation between the individual...

  9. FIVE The Ideal Society: Paradise
    (pp. 253-310)

    Purgatory prepares the individual to assume a fitting and useful role in the ideal society; Paradise provides the model for that society. At each level as he rises through the planets, Dante sees a harmonious group of souls, beginning with those who were motivated more by their own needs than by a concern for others, but who nonetheless served God and mankind; they appear as they acted in life, as individuals within the group. As Dante moves up, however, he sees souls who have submerged their individuality in a symbolic figure (wheels, a cross, an eagle, a ladder), which represents...

  10. SIX Exchange and Communication, Commerce and Language in the Comedy
    (pp. 311-380)

    Athough Dante seems to be primarily concerned in his poem with the leaders of the church and the major secular governments in Italy and Europe, men who can move their institutions towards the ideal universal government, his audience would have included many from the commercial world, some of whom were also in a strong position to influence international politics. It is therefore not surprising that Dante should speak to them in the technical language of finance and trade and that he should be concerned with financial activities throughout his poem. He accepts commerce as an essential part of life in...

  11. Index
    (pp. 381-392)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 393-393)