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Reviewing Dante’s Theology

Volume 2

Series:

Claire E. Honess and Matthew Treherne

The two volumes of Reviewing Dante’s Theology bring together work by a range of internationally prominent Dante scholars to assess current research on Dante’s theology and to suggest future directions for research.
Volume 2 considers some of the broader social, cultural and intellectual contexts for Dante’s theological engagement. The contributors discuss the relationship between theology and poetry as Dante sees and presents it; Dante’s thought on the nature of the Church; the ways in which liturgical practice helped shape the poet’s work; the links between Dante’s political and theological ideas; the importance of preaching in Dante’s context; the ways in which the notion of virtue connects theological and ethical thought in Dante’s works; and the extent to which Dante’s often surprising, groundbreaking work tests medieval notions of orthodoxy. Each essay offers an overview of its topic and opens up new avenues.

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Claire E. Honess Dante and the Theology of Politics

Extract

‘Tanto essilio’ It is surely no coincidence that when Dante’s Adam describes the punish- ment inf licted on him as a result of that original and definitive sin which stains and corrupts all his descendents, he does so in terms which specifi- cally recall medieval Italy’s most common form of political punishment: that of exile: Or, figliuol mio, non il gustar del legno fu per sé la cagion di tanto essilio, ma solamente il trapassar del segno. (Par., XXVI. 115–17) [My dearest son, the tasting of the tree was not itself the cause of banishment, but rather our transgression of the mark.]1 Coming only nine cantos later, this choice of term cannot but recall Cacciaguida’s extended prophecy, in Paradiso XVII, of Dante’s own exile from Florence, an exile which is also presented, in the broader episode of the Heaven of Mars (Paradiso XV–XVII), as the loss of an ideal environ- ment – a sort of civic locus amoenus – in the form of the ‘dolce ostello’ (Par., XV. 132) [sweet […] resting place] of the eleventh-century Florence known to Dante’s illustrious ancestor.2 1 Translations of the Commedia throughout are those of Robin Kirkpatrick: Dante: The Divine Comedy, 3 vols (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2006–07). 2 On the locus amoenus in Classical and medieval literature, see Ernst R. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. by Willard R. Trask (Princeton, 158 Claire E. Honess Of course, Adam’s ‘exile’ from Eden is, primarily, a spiritual rather than a political one, more...

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