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Harvey Miller

Reading Dante with Images: A Visual Lectura Dantis

M. Collins (ed.)
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416 p., 8 b/w ill. + 224 colour ill., 220 x 280 mm, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-912554-50-8
Languages: English
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Retail price: EUR 150,00 excl. tax
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A new approach to the traditional Lectura Dantis: Dante scholars study selected cantos while also taking into consideration the illustrations of those cantos, thus engaging with illustrations as interpretation, and further considering the Commedia from the perspective of its ekphrastic nature.

This volume contains an unprecedented meeting of two major traditions, each of which are forms of careful engagement with Dante’s Commedia: the Lectura Dantis, and the illustrations of this work. The Lectura Dantis, initiated by Giovanni Boccaccio in the fourteenth century, consists of a canto by canto study of Dante’s poem. The history of Commedia illustration has equally deep roots, as illuminated manuscripts of the text were being produced within decades of the work’s completion in 1321. While both of these traditions have continued, mostly uninterruptedly, for more than six hundred years, they have never been directly brought together. In this volume, Dante scholars take on a single canto of the Commedia of their choosing, reading not just the text, but also exploring the illustrations of their selected text to form multifaceted and multi-layered visual-textual readings. In addition to enlivening the Lectura Dantis, and confronting the illustrated tradition of the poem in a new fashion, these studies present a variety of approaches to studying not just the Commedia but any illustrated literary work through a serious inquiry into the words themselves as well as the images that these words have inspired.

Matthew Collins holds a PhD from Harvard University’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. He has published, among other things, on the reception history of Dante’s Commedia in illuminated manuscripts, drawings, and early printed illustrations, as well as later literary receptions of the work, including the influence of Dante on Giacomo Leopardi and Bob Dylan.

Table of Contents

Experimenting with Traditions

Inferno 1: Openings and Beginnings

Inferno 6: Una fiera crudele e tanto diversa. Cerberus Illustrated in the Early Manuscripts and Incunabula of the Divine Comedy

Inferno 10: Heretics in Fiery Tombs

Inferno 26: Tongues on Fire

Inferno 33: The Power of Grief

Purgatorio 2: The Angel on the Water

Purgatorio 5: An Experimental Visual Interpretation

Paradiso 28: Entruthing the Image

Accidental Dantista: Los Angeles is Not Hell, New York is Not Paradise

Una selva oscura: Midlife and Metaphor

On Illustrating the Divine Comedy


“Each essay, whether by a scholar or an artist, offers insightful, well-written, and engaging approaches that not only delight and inform but also serve as excellent models for teaching the Commedia at the post-secondary and perhaps even secondary level. Indeed, the collection may even be beneficial for art courses that have little or nothing to do with Dante’s text, as the depth and length of the illustrators’ explanations far exceed those in any previous such commentaries. Moreover, art students may be particularly inspired by the high production values of this volume, which features 224 crisp, correctly colored reproductions of all major images the authors discuss. (…) a beautifully produced and refreshingly innovative addition to a crowded field that, precisely through such works as this, continues to surprise us with the insights it offers to Dante, his text, its original circumstances, and those of its interpreters, both past and present. (Karl Fugelso, in The Medieval Review, 22/05/05)

Interest Classification:
Fine Arts & Performing Arts
Art History (general)
Medieval art history

This publication is also distributed by: ISD, Marston
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