Dante and the Making of a Modern Author

Cambridge University Press
Free sample

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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About 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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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Mar 13, 2008
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Pages
400
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ISBN
9781139470704
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / European / General
Literary Criticism / General
Poetry / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Focusing on major authors and problems from the Italian fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, from Petrarch and Boccaccio to Machiavelli, Ariosto and Tasso, A Local Habitation and a Name examines the unstable dialectic of "reality" and "imagination," as well as of "history" and "literature." Albert Ascoli identifies and interprets the ways in which literary texts are shaped by and serve the purposes of multiple, intertwined historical discourses and circumstances, and he equally probes the function of such texts in constructing, interpreting, critiquing, and effacing the histories in which they are embedded. Throughout, he poses the theoretical and methodological question of how formal analysis and literary forms can at once resist and further the historicist enterprise.

Along the way Ascoli interrogates the mechanisms of historical periodization that have governed for so long our study of what is sometimes called the "Renaissance," sometimes the early modern period. He also addresses the period's own unstable version of the literature/history opposition, the place of gendered discourse in the construction of historical narratives (and vice versa), the elaborate formal strategies by which poets and intellectuals negotiate their relations to power, and, finally, the way in which proper names (of authors, works, and exemplary characters) serve as points of negotiation between individual identity and social order in the Renaissance.

The book brings to culmination two decades of a major scholar's thinking about some of the most important figures and questions that shaped the Renaissance, with emphasis on the question of history, both the historical context of literature and the writing of literary history.

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