Dante's Golden Legend: Auto-hagiography in the Divine Comedy

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Dante's Golden Legend examines how the Divine Comedy absorbs and reimagines Dante's early attempts at life-writing (the Convivio and the Vita Nuova ), as well as how Dante appropriates and revises various biographical and hagiographical models, using them as vehicles for his own auto-hagiographical project. The Comedy , Watt contends, presents not only Dante's encyclopedic vision of sacred history but also his own purpose and place within that history. In the Comedy , just as Dante critiques the lives of others, both saints and sinners, he interprets his own life, and concludes that his is, indeed, the life of a saint, charged with a sacred mission. While there have been numerous analyses of specific autobiographical aspects of the Comedy , they are fragmentary at best. Dante's Golden Legend , in contrast, considers how these moments, together with the prophecies woven through the poem, create an overarching narrative structure that reveals Dante's own hagiographical significance, addressing a surprising void in the criticism. Furthermore, as much as Dante's auto-hagiographical stance reflects the medieval preoccupation with the relationship of the here and now to the afterlife, his autobiographical impulse equally anticipates the Petrarchan obsession with self and the subsequent humanist examination of the value of the secular. Accordingly, this study provides a helpful backdrop against which to consider the cultural collision of the sacred and the secular that characterizes much of the European Renaissance project. For these reasons, the book will appeal not only to Dante specialists, but also to scholars of Medieval and Early Modern Studies alike.

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Mercer University Press
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