Self-interpretation is made manifest as a crucial structuring principle of the Inferno in the segment of the poem that begins with Dante's entry into the city of Dis. This transition directly involves the reader as interpreter by means of the poem's explicit addresses to the reader. The self-deceptions manifest in the souls Dante encounters take on violent and then fraudulent forms in the seventh and eighth circles respectively. By his interpretive acts as poet, Dante actually participates in this violence and fraud. He makes himself complicit in what he condemns. He is not merely an observer from on high but descends into his own sinful self through acts that involve the author and, behind him, the reader too as interpreters. Dante constantly highlights how it is we ourselves who are secretly at risk in the sins we interpret as readers, for the sins punished in hell are presented as fundamentally sins of self-interpretation.


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pp. 1-19
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