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Dante and Derrida

Face to Face

Francis J. Ambrosio

Publication Year: 2007

Reading Dante’s Commedia alongside Jacques Derrida’s later religious writings, Francis J. Ambrosio explores what these works reveal about religion as a fundamental dynamic of human existence, about freedom and responsibility, and about the significance of writing itself. Ambrosio argues that both the many telling differences between them and the powerful bonds that unite them across centuries show that Dante and Derrida share an identity as religious writers that arises from the human experiences of faith, hope, and love in response to the divine mystery of being human. For both Dante and Derrida, Ambrosio contends, “scriptural religion” reveals that the paradoxical tension of freedom and absolute responsibility must lead to the mystery of forgiveness, a secret that these two share and faithfully keep by surrendering to its necessity to die so as always to begin again anew.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Theology and Continental Thought

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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On the Pre-text or As a Pre-face

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pp. ix-xi

Truly, I do not know why I must write this book, so I must begin by asking for your forgiveness for having done so without knowing why and therefore, necessarily, without knowing how. Having said this, I have in effect said in a different way all that I believe the book truly has to say. So if you read further, it is your responsibility and it will be for the sake of that difference, to decide ...

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pp. xii

Much of the research and the first stages of writing for this book were supported by a sabbatical grant from Georgetown University. I undertook an initial exploration of the present subject matter in an essay entitled, “Dante and Derrida: The Promise of Writing and the Piety of Broken Promises,” which appeared in Styles of Piety, eds. S. Clark Buckner and Matthew Statler (New ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xv

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pp. 1-13

As it turns out, this question seems to be one way of identifying the human concern generally referred to as “religion,” at least in the sense that we speak of “religions of the Book,” religions that trace their history back to Abraham, “the father of faith.”1 Still the faith of Abraham is only a beginning, only one possible beginning, in a long history of religious scripture, of ...

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CHAPTER ONE: Vita Nuova: The Promise of Writing

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pp. 15-49

Chapter 1 undertakes an interpretation of Dante’s Vita nuova occasioned by the difference that appears in that text when it is read alongside the first essay of Derrida’s The Gift of Death. Derrida’s essay concerns itself with the history of Europe as the history of European religion and European responsibility, which Derrida reads together as a history of secrecy, the history of keeping ...

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CHAPTER TWO: Inferno: The Aporia of Forgiveness

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pp. 51-115

Chapter 2 continues the reading of Circumfession as a confession of Derrida’s conversion in writing, now read alongside the text of Dante’s Commedia, beginning with an interpretation of Inferno as another conversion story. That story opens with a call for Dante to begin again, differently, the journey of constant conversion which the Vita nuova first traced, wherein the Secret promise of ...

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CHAPTER THREE: Purgatorio: Re-turning to the Scene of Forgiveness

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pp. 117-158

Chapter 3 takes up the aporia of forgiveness as the precise “turning point” through which the process of constant conversion must always pass so as to begin again. Dante locates this turning point in the Resurrection of Jesus, the secret encrypted in the sign of the Cross. For Derrida, this figure of constant conversion traces the movement of life passing over into a new beginning ...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Paradiso: Turning Tears into Smiles

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pp. 159-211

Chapter 4 examines the difference that emerges when Derrida’s Memoirs of the Blind is read alongside Dante’s Paradiso in an attempt to respond to the question, “What is the difference between Dante and Derrida, and what difference does it make for the concerns that they share and the style of writing that marks their relationship?” Both texts are configured as “Pictures at ...

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In Memoriam: A Smile in Passing . . .

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pp. 213-228

Less a conclusion than a reconfiguration of the question, a re-figuring performed as an exchange of roles, personae, masks, the study ends with an unmasking of Dante as no more “Christian” than Derrida; Derrida as no less religious than Dante. Yet this does not settle the question of who each of them is, their identities as religious writers, writers of religion as responsibility for ...


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pp. 229-237


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pp. 239-240

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480410
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791470053

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: SUNY series in Theology and Continental Thought

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Subject Headings

  • Derrida, Jacques.
  • Dante Alighieri, -- 1265-1321 -- Influence.
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