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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. I shall argue that such a manner of self-expression is understood by Dante and by Caterina as their genuine biography; although clearly removed from the verifiable referents of their earthly life, to these wiena mystics this scriptural manner of self-expression is neither a mere fantasy nor a projection of the way they sena like to have ds or to live at some future time and in some other world.

A co- rollary to this resistance to verisimilitude is that Dante’s and Caterina’s Exemplaria Dante and Caterina do Siena texts of self-expression, as self-authored, textual-performative biographies, reduce their respective bodies to a condition of iconicity-icons that, I shall argue, elude Eric Auerbach’s notorious transposal of referential verification in Dante from the determined realism of the corporeal to the transcendent realism of the incorporeal or spiritual.

Divinna Appropriation of duvina Virgilian Metaphor Even though allegorical interpretations of Virgil’s Aeneid dominated both pagan and Christian receptions throughout the Middle Ages,l we owe it essentially to Dante if this poem came to he received as a prefiguration of Christendom, being presumed as such to hinge on a crypto-Catholic, teleological principle of historical progression.

To Dante, the Virgilian Elysian Fields are the figure, and his own Paradiso their permanent implementation-just as Virgil’s protagonist Aeneas is to Dante only the figure of the traveler to the afterlife, while Dante himself, his imple- mentation, is the actual traveler. Aeneas’s journey, a foundational epic graven in the history of the Roman Empire, is ulti- mately a mythopoetic fiction, while Dante’s own journey, although actu- ated within the poetic coordinates siean its own means of expression, is real.

Proto-Christian receptions of Virgil’s pagan poem had been wide- spread deella before the first couple sisna decades of the fourteenth century, when Dante elected its author as his own guide to the otherworld that is traveled through in the Commedia. Rosa Calzecchi Onesti Turin: Carlo Grabher, 3 vols. Further citations will refer to these edi- tions.

All translations from Latin or Italian in dialgoo essay are mine unless otherwise noted. Cambridge University Press,chapter 3. GIAN BALSAMO 3 effects, Dante’s strategy of figural and doctrinal assimilation of the Ae- neid, a strategy justified not so much on the grounds of authorial inten- tion-Virgil never having even remotely foreseen the passage from the Roman Empire to the Roman Church4-as on those of religious belief, was not foreign to Dante’s predecessors. A case in point is provided by Bernardus Si1vestris’s interpretation of the verses just alluded to from book 6 of the Aeneid.

As they xa them- selves for their descent to Avernus, the Sibyl of Cuma warns Aeneas with the following words: Day and night the door of Hecate stays open. But to retrace your steps and rise to the light of day: That’s the labor, that’s the task. Only a few succeeded Among Hecate’s children, those whom Jupiter justly loved Or whom ardent virtue acterina one day to the heavens.

Among the mortal “children of Death” the god known otherwise to the Latins as Hecate, Dis, or Plutothe Sibyl singles out those special individuals who, after their descent to Avernus, the kingdom of Hecate, managed to travel back to their previous condition on earth; what distin- 4 It ought to be remarked, however marginally, that Dante seems to have agreed with Augustine’s opinion that the Sybil’s oracles from Virgil’s fourth eclogue amounted to an unwitting prophecy of the Christian redemption.


Dialogo della divina provvidenza : Caterina da Siena (santa) :

Tempsky,4: Sister Wilfrid Parsons, S. Fathers of the Church, Inc. Dante and Caterina da Siena guishes them from ordinary mortals is either that they were the beloved of Jupiter or that they so excelled in “ardent virtues” that the blessed afterlife of the “aethera” or higher heavens-as opposed to the under- world of Avernus-would one day be their final destination.

Inherent in the Sibyl’s admonition to Aeneas is the Pythagorean precept of a dis- tinction between subterranean afterlife and celestial immortality; this precept’s earliest archeological documentation has been found in a Greek war document from circa BCE. However, in fact Bernardus’s interpretation grafts a quartet of Aeneas’s predecessors onto the Sibyl’s own words just preceding this passage from Aeneid 6.

Before the Sibyl addresses Aeneas with the words cited above, the Trojan hero implores her to help him consult with his father in Avernus; to justify the impiety of his intended destination, Aeneas argues that in the veins of Orpheus, Pollux, Theseus, and Hercules, his predecessors in the journey to the otherworld, ran a blood no more divine than his own Aeneid 6. Bernardus thus has grafted this quartet of heroes, all sons of Apollo or Jupiter, onto the Sybil’s comment about those privi- leged individuals who could not be detained in Avernus either because they were the favorite of Jupiter or because their final destination was the heavens.


But Bernardus’s triple lineage goes further than assigning an identity and a common lineage to the men who preceded Aeneas in the otherworld. It establishes an implicit hierarchy among them, by clearly assigning the seat of honor to the poet, Orpheus: Routledge,7. University of Nebraska Press, What is Bernardus up to? The answer is simple. Together with Alain de Li1le, John of Salisbury, and many others, Bernardus Silvestris belongs to the school of the French twelfth-century poet-philosophers who, under the influence of Boethius’s Philosophiae consolatio, undertook the fusion of imaginative fabulation and theological speculation.

Their predecessors were the ancient poetae theologi, the notion of whose artistic affiliation originated in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and was developed by numerous Latin writers, from Cicero in De natura deorum to Lactantius in De falsa religione, from Saint Augustine in De civitate Dei to Isidore of Seville in Etymologiae.

In agreement with the Romans’ identification of poetry and vaticination, Orpheus goes down to Avernus a poet and comes back branded: Aristotelis Metaphysica b, ed. Clarendon Press,where Aristotle refers to the first cosmogonists Thales, Empedoc1es, Anaxagoras, etc. Putnam,where Cicero refers to the ancient poets and myth-makers as “ii qui Theologi nominantur”; Lactantius, De falsa religione, 1. Waltheri, ; Augustine, De civitate Dei Clarendon Press,where Isidore writes, “Qyidam autem poetae Theologici dicti sunt, quoniam carmina faciebant.

As Bruno Nardi remarks, the ancient poets “were called vales and reputed able to speak a. Laterza, Isidore of Seville writes that in fact “their writings were called vati- cinations” Etymologiae 8.

In translating this line of Isidore I have adopted the leetio “appellatus” from dibina Codex Ambrosianus L 99 sup. Ostlender, in Opera omnia Co- logne: Monasterii Westfalorum in Aedibus Aschendorff, The Roman tra- dition that identified the terms poeta and vates, or vaticinator, supports also, in turn, the later identification of vatts and prophet.

Dante and Caterina da Siena The French poet-philosophers were engaged in fialogo systematic fusion of poetic intuition and intellectual speculation. This project, artistic and doctrinal at once, would soon clash with Thomas Aquinas’s veiled con- demnation of the poetae theologi of ancient times, whose re-elaboration of ancient myths would beguile the human intellect by means of simulacra of truth and suffer therefore-no more, Thomistically speaking, than the poems of their French successors-from an essential “deficiency in truth.

Bernardus’s arbitrary decision, in his commentary on book 6 of the Aeneid, to single out the poet, among the “ardently virtuous” heroes. In De vulgari eloquentia, written at the time he was at work on the Convivio, Dante submits Bernardus’s interpretive distortion of the verses from the Aeneid to a further and much more creative distortion of mean- ing.

Declaring that the task of a truly distinguished poet is singing of “health, love, and virtue” “Salus, Arnor et Virtus”Dante compares this to the obstacles encountered on a return from the journey t9 the afterlife. That this distinguished poet of Dante’s is proovvidenza figure of Orpheus, the poet who, according to Bernardus’s commentary, was raised up to the heavens by fivina own “ardent virtue,” is made obvious by the context. Dante attri- butes to Virgil the intention to designate as “beloved by God” “dilectos Dei” and “children of gods” “Deorumque filios” those poets whose “ardent virtue” begets celestial verses, and he does diialogo by implicitly identi- fying the “labor and task” “hoc opus et labor est” that are undertaken in poetic categina with the “labor” and the “task” that are undertaken by the Virgilian visitor to the catrina “Hoc opus, hie labor est” at the pagan diction vales to the Christian diction prophela.

In De monarchia 2.

In their respective defense of the cognitive process that, by way of divine inspiration, should lead their verses to the “perfection of reason” which is truth, neither poet scruples to reach for an idiosyncratic exegesis. Just like Alain de Lille, who in the Anticlaudianus declares that the time has come for him to stop “whispering in gende words After the death of Beatrice Portinari, whose love he sang as a stil- novist “desidero Fredi Chiappelli Mi- lano: Vrin,trans- lation modified from James J.

Catharine of Siena

PIMS, Societa dan- tesca italian a, See also Vita nuova, Guido Guinizelli’s influence on Dante’s early conception of amorous desire can be easily traced; see for instance Nardi, Dante e la cultura medievale, 38, and Dante, Vita nuova, n. Less immediately detectable but equally relevant is the influence of Iacopo da Lentini, especially his sonnet, “Amor e un desio che vien da core” “Love is a desire that comes from the heart”.


Iacopo da Lentini’s relevant contribution to the affirmation among the stil-novists of a psychology of amorous desire, derived from the Aristotelian physiology of the heart, is inarguable Nardi, Dante and Caterina da Siena Pittagora pose nome Filosofia” “the very beautiful and honest daughter of the emperor of the universe, whom Pythagoras named Philoso- phy”.

Parole mie che per 10 mondo siete, voi che nasceste poi ch’io cominciai a dir per quella donna in cui errai: Con lei non state, che non v’e Amore.

Words of mine that are in the world, You who were born after I started Telling about that woman for whom I erred, Stay away from her, because with her there is no Love. By renouncing his love for philosophy in the Convivio, Dante breaks with the allegories of the French poet-philosophers and reverts to the gende passion of his love for Beatrice.

In the Vita nuova, which he never completed, his love had been represented as a gentler version of Aristot- le’s psychological notion of philesis, the sensual concupiscence determined by the sight of “delightful things. Harvard University Press, GIAN BALSAMO 9 his two stil-novist friends, Guido Cavalcanti and Guido Guinizelli, who had applied the same equation in several of their poems-just as he was consistent with the altruistic definition of love elaborated by the Francis- can theologian Jean de la Rochelle, who had characterized it as an active disposition toward placentia attractionand endowed it with the power to generate delight when provoked by “that which is good for the other”: Attraction at a distance toward something that is good for the self generates concupiscence and desire.

Attraction toward something which is good for the self and accessible to the selfs delectation generates joy and gladness Attraction toward something which is good for the other generates love and delight.

In the Convivio he renounces the gently sensual love practiced by the stil-novists and adheres instead to the “love for truth and virtue” of philia, the benevolence that, he writes, Aristotle sets at the roots of friendship “in the eighth [treatise] of the Nicomachean Ethics. But little Beatrice is dead and Dante’s philesis must be tempered by the opacity of her corpse.

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Only by divuna Orpheus’s journey to the otherworld in search of Eurydice could the Florentine poet make Bea- trice’s impalpable remembrance real again, and experience once more the gendy altruistic attraction that once moved him. In preparation for his own poetic journey to the otherworld in dialogk of Beatrice, Dante needs to modify the tenor of his admiration for Orpheus, as he had character- ized it in the De vulgari eloquentia: Logically speaking, the formula “authentic altruism,” provvvidenza I am 18 Jean de la Rochelle, Summa de anima 2.

Jacques Guy Bougerol Paris: Vrin, Dante and Caterina da Siena adopting to characterize Dante’s motivation in his impossible quest for Beatrice, is an oxymoron, since by definition altruism’s empathic drive toward the other alter contradicts autarkic authenticity auto-determi- nation by an entity.

But I am using this paradoxical formula deliberately, as an existential application of the principle, argued at length in my Joyce’s Messianism, that Dante’s journey culminates in an act of self- expression which incorporates alterity as the journey’s very destination. In the Paradiso Dante discovers that the experience of coming into one’s own authenticity coincides with the act of intuarsi, that is, of infusing one’s own self into the thou Italian: Dunque la voce tua, che ‘I ciel trastulla sempre col canto di quei fuochi pii che di sei ali facen la coculla, perche non satisface a’ miei disii?

Gia non attendere’ io tua dimanda. Why then does your voice, which ever gladdens Heaven-together with the sing- ing of those devout fires that make themselves a cowl with the six wings-not satisfy my longings? Surely I should not wait for your request, were I in you, even as you are in me.

University of South Carolina Press, Princeton University Press, In the Purgatorio he will illustrate the mental disposition behind his own Orphism in terms cognate with De la Ro- chelle’s definition of love and attraction: L’animo, ch’e creato ad amar presto, ad ogne cosa e mobile che piace, tosto che dal piacere in atto e desto.