Reading Paul and Dante in the fourteenth century
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Given the importance of Paul for Dante’s characterization of the pilgrim, and his invocation of the Pauline Epistles throughout the Commedia, this thesis began by asking how important Paul was to Dante’s fourteenth-century readers. It examines the use of the Pauline Epistles by the Trecento commentators of Dante’s Commedia in order to contribute to our understanding of how both were read in late medieval Italy. Part One examines reading practices in the Middle Ages, and introduces commentary writing as a genre. The fourteenth century commentators are then described, with a focus on personal circumstances that may have influenced their interpretations. Part Two examines the use of Paul in the commentaries, differentiating between different forms of citation, such as when the commentators used Paul because they identified Pauline references or allusions in the poem, or when they included Paul in their interpretations for other reasons. This produced close readings of selected commentaries which reveal how the commentators read Paul and understood Dante. Jacopo della Lana used Paul when copying Aquinas, and his knowledge of the Epistles themselves, it is argued, was often confused and inaccurate. Pietro Alighieri repeatedly used Paul in combination with other sources in order implicitly to link canti. Guido da Pisa viewed the Commedia as a prophetic dream vision, and equated Dante with Biblical figures, including Paul. This comparison allowed Guido to justify his use of Dante as a life model for his dedicatee. The commentators acknowledge the importance of Paul when Dante clearly alludes to the Epistles, but in general, they simply use Paul as an authoritative voice. Finally, this thesis demonstrates their understanding of Dante not just as narrator/character, but also as reader.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2020-10-12
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 12th October 2020
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