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humanities 175 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Jennifer Margaret Fraser. Rite of Passage in the Narratives of Dante and Joyce University Press of Florida. xx, 256. US $55.00 The figure of the diptych, a two-panelled folding support for iconography and/or writing, structures this intertextual study of Dante and Joyce B focusing chiefly on Dante as a reader of Virgil and Joyce as a reader of Dante. As Jennifer Margaret Fraser warns, Dante and Joyce are two names that >wish to signify= in the context of her reading >an arena of contending initiatory figures who are engaged in the write of passage: the pilgrim, the reader, the writer-in-progress, the novice poet, the author.= Where the image of the diptych suggests parataxis, its hinges impart to it a strong sense of binding through the circular narrative of initiation, which results, as expected, in a full circle for the Divine Comedy and in a spiral of centrifugal and centripetal forces in Joyce=s work. This spiral uncoils in the last chapter (>A Portrait in 3-D=) into a further tessera related to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which partially turns the image of the diptych into a triptych. In this work, initiation is intended as the sum of strategies that turn a pilgrim into an author as well as a psychoanalytical/anthropological pattern that leads from womb to tomb back to womb B in an attempted reconciliation between the maternal bodily womb and masculine imagination . The maternal thus becomes a complex and contradictory figure for intertextuality, insofar as it signifies both imitation and creativity. Not by chance, then, the analysis of both panels begins with the theme of the embryo. The whole Dante panel, indeed, is structured around the reading of the controversial embryology canto, Purgatorio 25, which Fraser perceives as spanning and spilling over the whole theological and poetic structure of the poem. Subsequently, the Dantean intertext provides the input for an >embryonic= reading of the construction of Stephen Daedalus=s character in the Joyce panel. Around this central pattern of the embryo, the other hinges tell familiar tales of fall and redemption, conversion, nurturing and threatening mothers, intertextual sirens that allure writer as well as reader astray. As it often happens when a strong logic is applied to rich, open, and allencompassing texts, this reading leads to both insights and forced interpretations, as does the approach of the analysis itself, a deeply textual one, which follows, playfully and almost metonymically, words and rhymes as they bounce within and through the works of Dante and Joyce. This kind of analysis provides a strong testimony to one of the most important qualities of Dante=s and Joyce=s works: in Fraser=s words, >they rescript us as writers, and in so doing they offer us multiple keys that open up myriad doors that were supposedly closed and locked.= Certainly this study shows how Dante=s and Joyce=s works are open, overflowing texts, xxxxxx which strongly empower the reader to trace his/her own pattern and 176 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 instruct him/her on the endless possibilities of the fieri: whether this openness is yet another textual siren who leads astray those who are, in Dante=s words, >in piccioletta barca= (Paradiso, II, 1) is a question worth addressing. (ELENA LOMBARDI) Sheila Delany. Chaucer and the Jews: Sources, Contexts, Meanings Routledge. xi, 258 US $90.00 This collection is a timely contribution to the current debate regarding constructions of alterity during the later Middle Ages. During the last decade, studies of Orientalism and postcoloniality in medieval texts have begun to intersect with studies of medieval anti-Semitism, giving rise to new insights regarding how medieval views of >the Jew= both influenced and were influenced by conceptions of >Saracen= identity. Sheila Delany=s new volume seeks to contribute to this debate by providing a selection of articles, both new and previously published, centred on the canonical figure of medieval English literature. Only five of the essays, however, actually treat Chaucer=s writings; the others deal with such topics as depictions of Jews in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 175-176
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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