Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Mismapping the Underworld: Daring and Error in Dante's 'Comedy'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Mismapping the Underworld: Daring and Error in Dante's 'Comedy'

Article excerpt

Many scholars down the centuries have commented on Dante's manifest love of order and the tenacity of his quest for formal and moral perfection in and through the Commedia; this seems to be the first book to suggest that the poem also deliberately incorporates, and takes pleasure in, error. In five brief but stimulating and stylistically engaging chapters, John Kleiner studies a series of apparent internal contradictions or inconsistencies within the text of the Commedia, and also surveys the history of attempts - most notably that of Charles Singleton - to discern a symmetrical pattern in the arrangement of poems and prose in the Vita nuova. In each case, he argues that commentators' efforts to explain away the seeming anomalies created by Dante's writing are misguided, and that, instead of regretting or trying to excuse this poetic fallibility, we should learn to celebrate it - as, in Kleiner's opinion, Dante himself would have us do.

The first chapter (`Finding the Center') offers a subtle but by no means unsympathetic epo.re of the shortcomings of Singleton's structural analysis of the Vita nuova, aimed at disclosing `tensions and contradictions', where Singleton had found only 'coherence' and a `passion for order' (p. 22). Chapter 2 ('Mismapping the Underworld) starts from the efforts made by Renaissance commentators to establish an adequate cartography of Dante's Hell, links their failure to certain irreducible textual features of Inferno, and suggests that these features are consciously built into the work by an essentially 'playful' author. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.