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  • Dantean Dialogues: Engaging with the Legacy of Amilcare Iannucci ed. by Maggie Kilgour and Elena Lombardi
  • Giulia Gaimari
Maggie Kilgour and Elena Lombardi, eds. Dantean Dialogues: Engaging with the Legacy of Amilcare Iannucci. University of Toronto Press. xxi, 264. $80.00

Dantean Dialogues is a collection of eight essays that aims at commemorating one of the most outstanding and prolific Dantean scholars, Amilcare Iannucci, whose extensive research addressed themes of paramount importance and undoubtedly constitutes one of the pillars of Dante scholarly tradition. Each “dialogue” not only honours the memory of Iannucci’s life and works but also represents a relevant reflection with regard to its own specific field.

In “‘Lascio cotale trattato ad altro chiosatore’: Form, Literature, and Exegesis in Dante’s ‘Vita nova,’” Zygmunt Barańsky draws on Iannucci’s studies of Dante’s literary criticism and self-exegesis to reassess the Vita nova in light of the unity and complexity of its metaliterary discourse. By considering medieval types of textual organization and the layout of the Vita nova’s fourteenth-century manuscripts, Barańsky insists on the unconventionality of Dante’s exegetical procedures, as well as on his intention to harmonize poetry and prose. He examines the prosimetrum’s explicit and incipit (particularly the opening image of the “book of memory”), which both stress the novelty of Dante’s book as a whole and also its dependence on Scriptures: “the supreme prosimetrical work of the Middle Ages was God’s book; and no other text is as visibly and present in the ‘little book.’”

In her essay “A Cavalcantian ‘Vita nuova’: Dante’s Canzoni ‘Lo doloroso amor che mi conduce’ and ‘E’ m’incresce di me sì duramente,’” Teodolinda Barolini illustrates how Dante’s path to the Vita nova has not been linear. Specifically, she analyses the ideological, linguistic, and rhetorical texture of the two lyrics mentioned in her title, with the purpose of showing Dante’s experimentation with radicalized Cavalcantian poetics. In both canzoni distinctive features of Guido Cavalcanti’s conception of love have been contaminated with theologized and hyperbolic elements, as well as radicalized through the employment of a more robust and erotic register that is typically Dantean.

In “Dante’s Cato Again” Robert Hollander thoroughly scrutinizes the first two cantos of Dante’s Purgatory, with respect to the troublesome figure of Cato. Hollander’s discussion deals with several aspects of his presence and role, as well as with the variety of critical positions. Among many relevant considerations, he recalls the classical and Biblical sources that could have influenced Dante’s presentation of Cato and also stresses the importance of the oppositional nature of Psalm 113 and Dante’s song “Amor che nella mente.” [End Page 401]

“‘Che libito fe’ licito in sua legge’: Lust and Law, Reason and Passion in Dante” by Elena Lombardi and “The ‘Vulgata’ in the ‘Commedia’: Self-Interpreting Texts” by Carolynn Lund-Mead have been respectively inspired by Iannucci’s studies Forbidden Love: Metaphor and History and Autoesegesi dantesca: la tecnica dell’ “episodio parallelo.” Lombardi further explores the tight bond between lust and law throughout Dante’s works, highlighting how erotic and philosophical concerns lead to politics. Lund-Mead investigates Inferno XV, Purgatorio XI–XII, and Paradiso XV–XVII, analysing the role of Scriptures in relation to Dante’s self-exegesis and authority: “God’s words, knowledgeably interpreted and recreated, bequeath particular authority to Dante’s text.”

In “Dante’s Ovidian Doubling” Maggie Kilgour focuses on Dante’s engagement with Ovid’s works, rhetoric, and meditation on the nature of art and artistic creation. Her important claim “to read Dante as always ‘correcting’ Ovid prevents us from seeing how Dante is developing a deeply Ovidian technique” is supported by acute analyses of Inferno XXIV–XXV.

The last two essays, “Esoteric Interpretation of the ‘Divine Comedy’” and “‘Ersed Irredent’: The Irish Dante,” by Massimo Ciavolella and Piero Boitani respectively, represent a tribute to Iannucci’s interests in the adaptability of Dante’s oeuvre to various readings and reworkings. While Ciavolella traces the history of the esoteric interpretation of Dante’s Comedy, concentrating on the works of René Guénon and Mark Jay Mirsky, Boitani investigates the ways in which...


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