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Wordly Wise

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

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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 SixConclusions 225

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conclusions · 6 · In the present study I attempted to propose a new critical method which may, hopefully, serve as an interpretive tool for Dante’s Commedia and Dante scholarship in general. Traditionally, Dante criticism has centered the inter- pretive process on the author and the text. It has focused very little, and only in general terms, on the role of the reader, which, along with the author and the text, contributes to the making of the text through the act of reading. A few decades ago, D’Arco Silvio Avalle1 magisterially dealt with the con- cept of “theme” or the nodal textual points of “structure” and “system” regarding the semiological levels in the Commedia. Nonetheless, he ascribed his method to “the constant magnitudes” of the literary work which are directly con- nected with the Saussurian notion of langue. For him only “the constant mag- nitudes” shape “the specific field of application of the semiological methods”. Thus, his enquiry consisted in identifying textual “patterns” that can be con- nected to forms of social conventionality and mythical archetypes upon which Dante constructed his literary work analogously to an act of parole.2 His entire investigation is focused on autonomous primary patterning models, which, in relation to discourse, lacks the comprehensive observational scope of the 1. Modelli semiologici nella Commedia di Dante (Milano: Bompiani, 1975), 6. 2. Ferdinand De Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, 14,16. De Benedict_06.indd 225 22/11/11 10:28 AM 226 wordly wise semiotic investigation insofar as it omits the level of...

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