Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Dante Alighieri: 'Vita Nuova'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Dante Alighieri: 'Vita Nuova'

Article excerpt

Dante Alighieri: 'Vita nuova', ed. Jennifer Petrie and June Salmons, Belfield Italian Library (Dublin: Foundation for Italian Studies, University College Dublin, 1994). 152 pp.; 1 illustration. ISBN 1-898473-01-3. L7.95.

The Vita nuova is Dante's selective review of the story of his love and his poetry of Beatrice, compiled retrospectively after her death. There has long been a tendency to interpret it in excessively allegorical or spiritualized terms, particularly by imposing upon it a traditionalist reading of the figure of Beatrice in the later Commedia. In fact, despite a number of religious echoes and theological allusions, this libello which Dante transcribed from the greater book of his memory never explicitly makes the transition from the love of a woman to the love of God; it is, finally, Beatrice - not God - whom his pilgrim sigh contemplates in Heaven (chapter 41). The Ita nuova remains the work of a layman, of a poet working within the tradition of the medieval Italian lyric, experimenting with it and, in the prose, blurring concrete details in order to universalize the personal experience of its two major themes, love and death. In particular, Dante's transition from his Cavalcantian poetry of anguish to his Guinizzellian praise style establishes what is perhaps the hallmark of his poetry throughout the rest of his life: the conscious attempt always to match his theme (matera) to his poetic language (his arte), particularly in terms of elevating both together to ever higher conceptual and expressive levels (see, for instance, Pur,atorio, ix. …

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