Dante: The Poetics of Conversion

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Harvard University Press, 1986 - Literary Criticism - 328 pages
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John Freccero enables us to see the Divine Comedy for the bold, poetic experiment thatit is. Too many critics have domesticatedDante by separating his theology from hispoetics. Freccero argues that to fail to see theconvergence of the letter and the spirit, thepilgrim and the poet, is to fail to understandDante's poetics of conversion. For Dante,body and soul go together and there is nosalvation that's purely intellectual, no poetrythat 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 nowsee Freccero's stature: he is the best contemporary critic of Dante. Freccero is that rarearticle, a critic of eclectic and not dogmaticpersuasion. Throughout Freccero operateson the fundamental premise that there is al-ways an intricate and crucial dialectic at workbetween Dante the poet and Dante the pilgrim, and that it is this dialectic that makesthe work so profoundly dramatic, one of thegreat novels of the self.

Thanks to Freccero we readers have theComedy whole again. Freccero calls uponmedieval philosophy, cosmology, science,theology, and poetics to enable us to traverseDante's moral landscape without losing ourway in the confusions of minute exegeses. Ina secular age Freccero enables us to see thispoem as what it is, something wholly otherthan what we might believe or write. Indoing so he shows us the most that languagecan achieve in any age, secular or not.

 

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Dante: the poetics of conversion

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Students and teachers worldwide will applaud this collection of Freccero's articles, destined to prove of lasting importance. In an arrangement based on the structure of the Commedia , the articles ... Read full review

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An amazing insight - not only literary criticism but also philosophy, history, theology, all-in-one

Contents

The Prologue Scene i
1
The Firm Foot on a Journey Without a Guide
29
Inferno II 108
55
Pilgrim in a Gyre
70
The Gates of Hell
93
The Neutral Angels
110
The Letter and the Spirit
119
From Epic to Novel
136
Purgatorio II 12
186
Manfreds Wounds and the Poetics of the Purgatorio
195
An Introduction to the Paradiso
209
Paradiso X
221
Paradiso XXXIII 144
245
The Significance of Terza Rima
258
NOTES
275
SOURCES
318

Inferno XXXII and XXXIII
152
o The Sign of Satan
167
Inferno xxxiv180
180

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About the author (1986)

Rachel Jacoff is Professor of Italian at Wellesley College.

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