Dante's "Comedy": Introductory Readings of Selected Cantos by Uberto Limentani
The ten readings in this slim volume were originally given as lecturae Dantis at the University of Cambridge between 1969 and 1984. Limentani seems to favor transitional and political cantos (the readings chosen are Inferno 1, 6, 8, 17; Purgatorio 1, 5, 8; Paradiso 1, 6, 17); he is adept at noting the canto's position within the poem as a whole. His method is to give an overview of the canto that follows its own organization, proceeding from one block of verses to the next; his style melds a willingness to offer an "impressionistic" reaction (for instance, regarding Inferno 1: "This vagueness as to details adds to the Canto the air of a dream-like scene that I myself find very appealing" [p. 2]) with a certain amount of textual precision (shortly before offering he above comment, he pointed out that "the words 'parea' and 'sembiava' appear three times between lines 46 and 50" [p. 1]). The lectura of Inferno 6 is particularly satisfying for its stress on the link between gluttony and Florentine politics; Limentani also makes the interesting point that this canto is, with Inferno 11, the shortest in the poem. Indeed, most useful, from this reader's perspective, were the occasional observations that set one thinking of the poem as a whole: thus Limentani informs us that Inferno 17 contains more similes than any other canto, notes that "If Purgatory is the antechamber of Paradise, Ante-Purgatory is the antechamber of the antechamber" (p. 81), and reminds us that there is no Roman emperor in hell.
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- April 1, 2013