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412Philosophy and Literature glected by the contributors, would be the ways in which Nietzsche's ideas were actually expressed in Russian translation. University of Canterbury, New ZealandJohn Goodliffe Dante: The Poetics ofConversion, byJohn Freccerò; edited by RachelJacoff; xvi & 328 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986, $25.00. Through his writing and teachingJohn Freccerò has, for the last thirty years, shaped die way American critics read die Comedy. Now that his major essays have been collected and edited by Rachel Jacoff, his insightful readings should reach a wider audience including students ofbodi medieval theology and poetic theory. As the tide of the collection suggests, the central issue in Freccero's work has been the role ofconversion within the Comedy. In Freccero's early essays—essays published before 1970—it is the typology of Dante's journey that occupies Freccero's attention. Freccerò draws upon his vast scholarly resources to show that a series ofevents in Dante'sjourney—his turning to light in the dark wood, his inversion on Satan's flank, his emergence from the "river of death"—can all be read as figurative conversions. In the later essays, by contrast, conversion is less important as an event figured within the narrative than as an interpretive structure governing Dante's relation to his own work as a poet. Freccerò argues, for example, that Dante's repeated citation of his earlier works in the Comedy represents a confession of his earlier poetic errors. In an analogous though more daring argument, Freccerò suggests diat the mimetic realism of the Inferno—a realism so often praised by Dante's critics—is a deceptive form of representation deliberately rejected by the poet in his progression toward the Purgatorio and the Paradiso. Freccerò suggests, through these readings, that the most critical conversion of the Comedy is Dante's ironic repudiation of various forms of fallen poetry. Like so many Dantistibefore him, Freccerò frequendybuilds his essays around a crux, around some particularly problematic line or image. In his first essay, for example, Freccerò addresses the vexing question of why Dante's lower foot is referred to as his "firm foot" in Inferno 1 . In odier essays Freccerò asks why Dante turns to the right rather than the left in the circle of the heretics, why Manfred's aerial body has a scar, and why the writing on the gates of Hell is described as "hard." Freccero's answers invariably involve a broad examination of Dante's poetic project; he finds in these difficulties clues to the reading of the entire work. There is, however, an important difference in the role played Revjews413 by difficulty in the early and late essays. When Freccerò sets about explaining Dante's "firm foot" in 1959, he suggests that our difficulty is primarily a consequence of historical distance and poetic reticence. We find Dante's poetry difficultbecause we are not sufficiendy versed in the traditions evoked by Dante. Yet when Freccerò discusses Manfred's scar or Ugolino's apparent cannibalism in the late 1970s and early 1980s, difficulty appears as an essential rather than accidental attribute of the text. Dante's poem invites misreading because error and self-deception play a central role within die reader's interpretivejourney; there can be no conversion, no turning toward truth, without an original error. Thus while Freccerò remains committed to die methodological assumption diat diere is a single correct reading of the Comedy's problematic passages, he is increasingly able to incorporate the danger of misreading within the readings that he proposes. The evolution apparent in Freccero's work renders the Poetics of Conversion an especially valuable collection. For the various shifts recorded in these essaysshifts from typology to metapoetics, from dense erudition to theoretical speculation —are in many respects exemplary of those displayed by the entire field of American Dante studies. Stanford UniversttyJohn Kleiner Hypocrisy and Self-Deception in Hawthorne's Fiction, by Kenneth Marc Harris; vi & 160 pp. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1988, $27.50. It is refreshing to discover a work which gives full weight to the fact that introspection, for the Puritans, was not undertaken for its own sake. Puritan soul-searching, ever alert for the symbolic moment, was undertaken in order...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 412-413
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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