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Reviews133 the great gulf fixed between the Christian poet and his pagan "maestro." While both stress the necessity of sacrifice in the face of Mars/mors—and while both have their epic protagonists afforded a glimpse ofeternity on the brink of their fullest engagement with the works of time—Virgil finally can offer nothing more substantial than the prospect of fame. He cannot imagine any force powerful enough "to convert history's tragic signs into comic ones, history's temporary losses into eternal gains" (p. 35). What Virgil could not imagine was the sign which Dante superimposes upon Mars in order to mark not so much the transcendence of death as its total transfiguration: the Cross. Schnapp draws upon a dazzling array of patristic and medieval sources to elucidate the synthetic achievementofwhat the poet has created in the "Elysium" of his Paradiso. His fourth chapter, "Unica Spes Hominum," is a scholar's gold mine and a literary critic's tour de force where he elaborates upon the traditional exegetical and iconographie resources Dante drew on to forge his poem's response to Virgil's "darkness visible." Schnapp's erudition is exceptional, yet throughout his careful reconstruction of tradition he never loses sight of the hermeneutical concerns that drive the scholarship forward and present a compelling reading of the whole Commedia. For what the "transfiguration of history" finally means for the Christian Aeneas of Dante's poem is, according to Schnapp, an invitation to take up the cross and follow in Christ's steps—a charge delivered by Cacciaguida in the central canto (17) of the Paradiso. This entails nothing less than accepting the call to be a martyr: to live a life of sacrifice, bearing witness to a cross that signifies both God'sjudgment and redemption. In particular, it means accepting the task of writing the Commedia as a personal act of martyrdom, thus transforming a poet's words "into literary crosses, into heroic acts of public testimony and confession" (p. 11). Among the most innovative sections of Schnapp's book is the concluding chapter, in which he suggests that one model for the "architecture" of Paradise's heaven of Mars is the mosaic program found in the apse of Ravenna's Sant' Appolinare in Classe. What Dante might well have discovered in those sixthcentury mosaics, Schnapp speculates, is the symbolic form he needed to undergird the particularities of his own narrative: an iconographie meditation not only on the Transfiguration of Christ as the Exaltation of the Cross, but on the figure of the martyred bishop of Ravenna, Apollinarius, as a repraesentatio Christi. It is that figure who, to turn to the setting of Paradiso 15-18, suggests the crusader Cacciaguida, appearing to Dante at the foot of the celestial cross of Mars as a Christian warrior and calling the pilgrim to embark upon his own spiritual combat: the writing of the poem. Yale UniversityPeter S. Hawkins Dostoyevsky's Critique of the West, by Bruce K. Ward; xiv & 202 pp. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1986, $34.00. 134Philosophy and Literature Dostoyevsky critics commonly draw a genius/ratbag distinction (ratbag being an Australian term for a tiresome and unbalanced fanatic). As a novelist Dostoyevsky was a genius, gifted with profound insights into human nature, religious belief, and so forth. As a journalist he was a ratbag, the purveyor of a villainous stew ofreactionary Russian chauvinistideas spiced with an unpalatable mysticism. Ward challenges this distinction. If Dostoyevsky was a ratbag (Ward thinks), he was no genius. He was a genius. Therefore he was not a ratbag. Accordingly, Ward sets out to rehabilitate Dostoyevsky's ratbaggery—his "critique of the West"—and demonstrate its connections with his "teaching" concerning "the crisis of the human spirit." The word "teaching" is significant. The supposed doctrines of the prophet are presented with a flat hagiographie pedantry —though Dostoyevsky's "extremism" is mildly censured. The Roman Church (according to Dostoyevsky's "critique") fell away from Christ by accepting "Caesar's sword," the "third temptation," and establishing a rule of "miracle, mystery, and authority," rather than a truly Christian community . Protestantism was a merely negative rebellion which petered out. In its place arose the "Geneva idea" of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 133-135
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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