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Reading Dante

by Giuseppe Mazzotta

A towering figure in world literature, Dante wrote his great epic poem Commedia in the early fourteenth century. The work gained universal acclaim and came to be known as La Divina Commedia, or The Divine Comedy. Giuseppe Mazzotta brings Dante and his masterpiece to life in this exploration of the man, his cultural milieu, and his endlessly fascinating works. Based on Mazzotta's highly popular Yale course, this book offers a critical reading of The Divine Comedy and selected other works by Dante. Through an analysis of Dante's autobiographical Vita nuova, Mazzotta establishes the poetic and political circumstances of The Divine Comedy. He situates the three sections of the poem--Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise--within the intellectual and social context of the late Middle Ages, and he explores the political, philosophical, and theological topics with which Dante was particularly concerned.

The Worlds of Petrarch

by Giuseppe Mazzotta

At the center of Petrarch's vision, announcing a new way of seeing the world, was the individual, a sense of the self that would one day become the center of modernity as well. This self, however, seemed to be fragmented in Petrarch's work, divided among the worlds of philosophy, faith, and love of the classics, politics, art, and religion, of Italy, France, Greece, and Rome. In recent decades scholars have explored each of these worlds in depth. In this work, Giuseppe Mazzotta shows for the first time how all these fragmentary explorations relate to each other, how these separate worlds are part of a common vision. Written in a clear and passionate style, The Worlds of Petrarch takes us into the politics of culture, the poetic imagination, into history and ethics, art and music, rhetoric and theology. With this encyclopedic strategy, Mazzotta is able to demonstrate that the self for Petrarch is not a unified whole but a unity of parts, and, at the same time, that culture emerges not from a consensus but from a conflict of ideas produced by opposition and dark passion. These conflicts, intrinsic to Petrarch's style of thought, lead Mazzotta to a powerful rethinking of the concepts of "fragments" and "unity" and, finally, to a new understanding of the relationship between them. Essential to students of Medieval and Renaissance literature, this book will engage anyone interested in the development of modernity as it has evolved in culture and is understood today.

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