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8 - Classical Culture

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2018

Zygmunt G. Barański
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame, Indiana
Simon Gilson
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

Composed by a bilingual Latin-vernacular writer, targeting an audience that did not exclude literates, and featuring a wide array of notions, texts, and characters recognizably imported from the ancient world, Dante’s Comedy entered in a close dialogue with classical texts. The rich and complex relation established with the classical past, as it was mediated in Latin works of literature, history, philosophy, and science included moments of substantial continuity with classical antecedents, but pointed signals that an essential intellectual, cultural or poetic divergence existed between the pre-Christian worldview embedded in classical culture and a new, more complete and truer vision of life. As a central character in the plot and cultural point of reference for Dante’s classicizing poem, the character of Virgil and his works are often the catalyst (and the object) of alternate literary coopting and cultural antagonizing, a role that they had already played in Augustine’s works. The cultural negotiation of textual transmission and ethical translation taking place in Dante’s dialectical preservation of the past contributes to making of the Comedy a central, if idiosyncratic, text in the Christian-Humanistic canon.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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