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5 - Title, Genre, Metaliterary Aspects

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

Dante studies have dedicated great energy since the 1970s to investigating the metaliterary aspects of many of the Commedia’s main features, which include the poem’s title and genre, the terza rima verse form, and, in general, the self-conscious means by which Dante asserted, by virtue of the poem’s transcendent subject-matter and its divinely inspired artistry, the supreme authority of ‘my comedy’ vis-à-vis the previous literary tradition. Yet, while striving in the Commedia to provide access to a truth that transcended language and literature, Dante continually recognized not only the limitations of the preceding literary tradition, but also the inevitable failure of his own prodigious attempt to represent that truth. Dante's awareness of the intrinsic limits of human language was such that we find him inviting a metaliterary reflection on the ‘comic’ literariness of his enterprise throughout the poem, for instance, at the very moment when he first announced the poem’s title, Comedìa, midway through the first canticle. A hitherto little understood metaliterary feature of the Commedia is constituted by the poem’s geo-topographical similes, which play a fundamental role in the highly self-conscious poetic construction of the Comedìa's other world while pointing to the ultimately insuperable incongruity between language and truth.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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