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Wordly Wise

The Semiotics of Discourse in Dante’s "Commedia</I>


Raffaele de Benedictis

In Wordly Wise: The Semiotics of Discourse in Dante’s Commedia, Raffaele De Benedictis proposes a new critical method in the study of the Divine Comedy and Dante’s minor works. It systematically and comprehensively addresses the discursive aspect of Dante’s works and focuses mainly on the reader, who, along with the author and the text, contributes to the making of discursive paths and discourse-generating functions through the act of reading. This work allows the reader to become acquainted with how meaning is generated and whether it is granted legitimacy in the text. Also, in a system of signification, sign function and sign production are not limited to the properties of the mind but are the result of working interactively with the properties of discourse, which provide directionality for the reader’s enunciation(s) in action.


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Chapter OneTheoretical Framework for a Semiotics of Discourse in Dante


theoretical framework for a semiotics of discourse in dante · 1 · 1.1 Preamble When the trained reader of Dante comes across a new monograph concerning contemporary Dantean scholarship, one possible reaction could be skepticism, leading to a reading imbued with a sense of suspicion. For s/he does not know if the monograph really has something to say that has not already been said in seven hundred years of research, considering the fact that Dante major work is, after the Bible, the most read and studied text in Western culture; or if instead this might just be an attempt to re-invent Dante and his works in order to justify the writing of a new book. On the other hand, Dante and Dante stud- ies continue to reveal new levels of understanding which make this continual pursuit worthwhile. This means that we do not necessarily have to express absurdities, or that we can, without consequences, afford to say absurdities in order to guarantee the publication and the felicitous reception of a new work. In a way, this was indeed the case for the well known British Dante scholar Barbara Reynolds, who claimed in her fairly recent book1 that in the first canto of the Paradiso, Dante was in all likelihood ‘transhumanized’ as a result 1. Barbara Reynolds, Dante: The Poet, the Political Thinker, the Man (London: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2006), 339. De Benedict_01.indd 1 22/11/11 10:29 AM 2 wordly wise of being under the effect of Cannabis sativa. Reynolds’ claim, rather daring...

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