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Dante's <I>Vita Nuova</I> and the New Testament
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Book description

Modelling knowledge as revelation and theology as poetry, this powerful new reading of the Vita nuova not only challenges Dante scholars to reconsider the book's speculative emphases but also offers the general reader an accessible yet penetrating exploration of some of the Western tradition's most far-reaching ideas surrounding love and knowledge. Dante's 'little book', included in full here in an original parallel translation, captures in its first emergence the same revolutionary ferment that would later become manifest both in the larger oeuvre of this great European writer and in the literature of the entire Western canon. William Franke demonstrates how Dante's youthful poetic autobiography disrupts sectarian thinking and reconciles the seeming contraries of divine revelation and human invention, while also providing the means for understanding religious revelation in the Bible. Ultimately, this revolutionary unification of Scripture and poetry shows the intimate working of love at the source of inspired knowing.


'This book, which includes the original text and a new, spirited English translation of it, proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the presence of the Christian New Testament on young Dante’s mind when he wrote the Vita nuova is not just occasional – it is indeed part of Dante’s determined effort to write a kind of ‘sacred story’ long before he conceived the ‘sacred poem’ – the Divine Comedy. William Butler Yeats once wrote, in a poem entitled after Dante’s Vita nuova ‘Ego Dominus Tuus’, that Dante ‘has made that hollow face of his / more plain to the mind’s eye than any face / but that of Christ’. Franke now shows that there is more to the Irish poet’s lines than we thought. He bravely confronts the problems of hermeneutics which making his ‘face’ plain in the Vita nuova’s love story might imply for its author and proposes, shedding light on both texts, that this strange ‘autobiography’ deliberately looks for a ‘poetics of revelation’ and is constructed as a true ‘New Testament’.'

Piero Boitani - Emeritus, Comparative Literature, Sapienza University of Rome

'Professor Franke's original, tightly argued study makes a significant contribution to the reappraisal of Dante's youthful masterpiece by offering, at once, a fresh translation and a well-rounded interpretation. Dante's Vita Nuova and the New Testament is to be welcomed for its concern to present Dante's libello to an Anglophone readership, as it offers a global interpretation of the Vita nuova at the crossroad between Biblical and philosophical traditions.'

Giuseppe Ledda - Università di Bologna

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