Dante and the Making of a Modern Author / Edition 1

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Leading scholar Albert Russell Ascoli traces the metamorphosis of Dante Alighieri – minor Florentine aristocrat, political activist and exile, amateur philosopher and theologian, and daring experimental poet – into Dante, author of the Divine Comedy and perhaps the most self-consciously 'authoritative' cultural figure in the Western canon. The text offers a comprehensive introduction to Dante's evolving, transformative relationship to medieval ideas of authorship and authority from the early Vita Nuova through the unfinished treatises, The Banquet and On Vernacular Eloquence, to the works of his maturity, Monarchy and the Divine Comedy. Ascoli reveals how Dante anticipates modern notions of personalized, creative authorship and the phenomenon of 'Renaissance self-fashioning'. Unusually, the book examines Dante's career as a whole offering an important point of access not only to the Dantean oeuvre, but also to the history and theory of authorship in the larger Italian and European tradition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Dante and the Making of a Modern Author is a major work of scholarship, the result of many years of reflection and research. Its subject — the poet’s profound, shifting, and self-centred obsession with 'authority' — is certainly among the most vital in present-day Dante studies; and, for a long time to come, Ascoli’s book will stand as the definitive analysis of the question. Fittingly, Ascoli has written the authoritative account of Dante’s lifelong engagement with auctoritas."
-Zygmunt Baranski, University of Cambridge

"In the long history of Dante studies, this is the book that was missing: an intellectual and literary biography of Dante as the first modern, vernacular 'author' of the Western tradition. A new and original book, scholarly, rigorous, and fully engaged with both Dante’s culture and our own, it combines depth with breadth and, while reconstructing the complex process through which Dante achieves his position as a supreme 'author,' builds its own enduring authority."
- Lino Pertile, Harvard University

"Ascoli (Italian studies, Univ. of California, Berkeley), who has authored numerous books and articles on Dante, Machiavelli, and Ariosto, offers a magisterial treatment of Dante's evolving conception of author...Thoroughly grounded in the primary and secondary literature, Ascoli's text is accessible even to the interested nonspecialist. An important contribution to Dante studies; highly recommended..."
-T.L. Cooksey, Library Journal

"This innovative, brilliantly constructed work examines how Dante Aligheri self-consciously presented himself as an authoritative poet, theologian, literary critic, and canonical giant. Ascoli argues that Dante strove to control how others regarded him and interpreted his work, and he achieved this so effectively that generations of even the most skeptical readers have approached him a little too reverentially to be wholly objective in their criticism. Drawing on works by Hannah Arendt and Roland Barthes, Ascoli deconstructs and historicizes Dante's work, presenting a modern way of reading him that neither disregards the spirit of the Commedia nor causes it to be considered ahistorically...Summing Up: Essential."
-M. E. DiPaolo, Alvernia College, Choice

“In three decades of teaching and writing about Dante, I do not recall a more meticulously researched study, at least in English, of the Florentine poet's total oeuvre….Though wide-ranging in the Latin and Italian texts treated, this extended study nevertheless focuses tightly on the related but complicated medieval concepts of author (auctor or autore) and authority (auctoritas or autoritade)…. Ascoli never shies away from presenting conflicting views or divergent scholarly interpretations of key Dantean passages. He never tires of noting how ‘complex’ the issues are that he himself raises. He is not afraid to pose a question and then respond that ‘there are plural answers’…this book is definitely required reading for all earnest scholars of Dante's opera omnia.”
-Renaissance Quarterly

"Ascoli has produced a study that is narrow in its focus but very broad in its implications. It is the product of long rumination and the most serious of scholarship."
- The Review of English Studies

"...outstandingly erudite."

"The argument throughout is rigorous and persuasive, and the book is unquestionably a major contribution to our understanding of Dante’s quest and the various paths that led to its fulfillment. Indeed, it mirrors that achievement inasmuch as Ascoli can fairly claim to be the first to have taken the full measure of Dante’s ambitions as hemoves fromwork to work. ‘Paene neminem ante nos’' (Almost no one before us) could be the book’s epigraph."
-Modern Philology

Library Journal

Dante stands as the first modern author. That said, the medieval conception of author differs from our own modern-day understanding of the word. Throughout his works, Dante was deeply concerned with defining the nature of authorship and the role of his own authority as a cultural operator, especially with regard to the "authority" of the poet on matters political and theological. Here, Ascoli (Italian studies, Univ. of California, Berkeley), who has authored numerous books and articles on Dante, Machiavelli, and Ariosto, offers a magisterial treatment of Dante's evolving conception of author. He historicizes and contextualizes the term while tracing Dante's active redefinition of it. Ascoli pays special attention to Dante's earlier works and their anticipation of his seminal The Divine Comedy. Thoroughly grounded in the primary and secondary literature, Ascoli's text is accessible even to the interested nonspecialist. An important contribution to Dante studies; highly recommended for all academic libraries.
—T.L. Cooksey

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521882361
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/21/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Albert Russell Ascoli is Gladys Arata Terrill Distinguished Professor in the Department of Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. The author in history; Part I. An Author in the Works: Dante Before the Commedia: 2. Definitions: the vowels of authority; 3. Language: 'neminem ante nos'; 4. Auto-commentary: dividing Dante; Part II. Authority in Person: Dante Between the Monarchia and the Commedia: 5. 'No judgment among equals': dividing authority in Monarchia; 6. Palinode and history; 7. The author of the Commedia; Works consulted; Index.

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