«Gegengabe» in Paremiology, Folklore, Language, and Literature – Honoring Wolfgang Mieder on His Seventieth Birthday
Edited By Christian Grandl and Kevin J. McKenna
"Let Them Scratch Wherever It Itches": Aspects of Dante's Proverbial Method in the Comedy
Dante's Comedy remains as one of the most monumental and important works of world literature. Its vast traversal of the cosmos, the transition from deepest suffering to highest bliss, and the great journey of the pilgrim through the spectrum of human possibility works on so many levels and in so many ways that its richness continues to astonish and inspire almost 700 years after its completion. While the large structures of the poem and its supremely detailed journey through a vision of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, Dante's art works at the level of individual phrase and particularly in memorable proverbial and proverbial like expressions.
I use as my title a quotation from far up in Paradiso when Dante encounters his noble ancestor Cacciaguida in the sphere dominated by Mars to show forth to pilgrim and reader those who defended the faith in arms as well as belief. The central section of Paradiso, Cantos 15 to 17, is particularly personal as it links the pilgrim Dante to his ancestral past as well as the painful aspects of his exile from Florence and his exile's journey and dependency on patrons for sustenance, even as he was composing the Comedy. After passages on the glories of past Florence, Cacciaguida encourages the pilgrim in both his exalted quest and his fierce denunciation of both political and clerical transgressors against peace and human goodness. He exhorts the pilgrim to write truthfully of all he has seen:
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