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A Modern Reader's Guide to Dante's «Inferno»

Second Printing


Rodney J. Payton

This book is a thorough introduction to the Inferno for today's reader. It is based on Professor Payton's many years of reading Dante's masterpiece with university undergraduates and upon the work of the very best modern critics. The Guide can be used alone as a critical aid or as a reference work for further research.


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Preface xi


PREFACE This book is intended for either beginning or "intermediate" readers of the Inferno, that is, those who are just beginning to read the poem or those who have read it and now want to learn more about it. I assume that you are reading the poem in English. There is a lot of information about Inferno available, as people have been writing about the poem ever since it appeared more than 600 years ago. However, much of the available information is diffused in scholarly journals which are difficult for most people to obtain. Most of this writing is the work of professional critics and academics and while much of it, especially recent work, is superb scholarship, it makes few concessions to readers who are not specialists or who are not competent in several foreign and ancient languages. This book draws heavily on these sources, but I have tried to put the arguments and insights of the scholars into everyday language. I have included my own thinking about the poem, ideas which have developed in eighteen years of reading and discussing Dante with my students. Every modern English edition of Inferno includes a set of notes by the translator. In general, these notes are very good. The problem is that they are usually too brief. A deeper understanding of the poem requires more information than space allows the translators to include. There is another problem with "notes." Notes are keyed to the line numbers of the poem and are usually...

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