Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Freedom Readers: The African American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the 'Divine Comedy'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Freedom Readers: The African American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the 'Divine Comedy'

Article excerpt

Dennis Looney, Freedom Readers; The African American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the 'Divine Comedy', The William and Katherine Devers Series in Dante and Medieval Italian Literature (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011). xiv + 280 pp. ISBN 978-0-268-03 3 86-6. $30.00. Dennis Looney examines the influence and reception of Dante's Commedia in African American literature and film from the late 18205 to the present He argues that black Americans were attracted to Dante as a politically engaged writer who 'speaks truth to power' (p. 3) and forged a poetic language out of cultural and linguistic diversity, one whose condition of exile resonated with the African diaspora. Noting that the modern rise of Dante studies coincided with both the abolitionist movement and the growth of Italian nationalism in the Risorgimento, he argues that Dante served a dual purpose as a canonical author who could afford black writers a means of entry into European cultural traditions, but also one who critiqued power structures and could be used to subvert, question, or upend those same traditions. …

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