Commentary and Ideology

Dante in the Renaissance

Commentary and Ideology

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 3 photographs Published: November 1992

Author: Deborah Parker

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Pre-Modern Studies > Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Dante's Divine Comedy played a dual role in its relation to Italian Renaissance culture, actively shaping the fabric of that culture and, at the same time, being shaped by it. This productive relationship is examined in Commentary and Ideology, Deborah Parker's thorough compendium on the reception of Dante's chief work. By studying the social and historical circumstances under which commentaries on Dante were produced, the author clarifies the critical tradition of commentary and explains the ways in which this important body of material can be used in interpreting Dante's poem.
Parker begins by tracing the criticism of Dante commentaries from the nineteenth century to the present and then examines the tradition of commentary from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. She shows how the civic, institutional, and social commitments of commentators shaped their response to the Comedy, and how commentators tried to use the poem as an authoritative source for various kinds of social legitimation. Parker discusses how different commentators dealt with a deeply political section of the poem: the damnation of Brutus and Cassius.
The scope and importance of Commentary and Ideology will command the attention of a broad group of scholars, including Italian specialists on Dante, late medievalists, students and professionals in early modern European literature, bibliographers, critical theorists, historians of literary criticism and theory, and cultural and intellectual historians.


“Parker provides us with richly textured information on and interpretations of early modern Dante exegesis. . . . No student of sixteenth-century Italian cultural and intellectual history should miss this book.” — William J. Kennedy , Renaissance Quarterly

"Commentary and Ideology makes a timely appearance into the theoretical discussions of today. Parker's work is informed by such theorists as Jauss and Bakhtin and by new developments in bibliographic studies, and this offers a perspective on her material which is both original and truly exciting." — Craig William Kellendorf, Texas A & M University

"Parker's vision is subtle and nuanced, and it offers richly textured insights into the dynamics of reception that take account of received opinion, communities of readership, registers of response, and unconscious as well as conscious interpretative choices. Parker's book stands in a class by itself in the study of Dante reception." — William J. Kennedy, Cornell University

"The vast corpus of medieval commentary on Dante has for far too long been either ignored, misunderstood, marginalised, or read for supposedly significant details, which wrenched from their context, have been made to serve needs of modern editors and critics—needs which are very different from those of the original commentators. It is time that this corpus was seen whole and in its proper historical context. Deborah Parker's book represents a major step in that direction. It should be read not just by Dantists but by anyone with an interest in medieval hermeneutics." — Alastair Minnis, University of York

"This book's shift in focus from criticism itself to the nature of its interpretive legacy has now made possible—perhaps 'necessary' is the better word—whole new lines of scholarly and critical thinking. The book's method, a kind of new philology, represents an important and innovative approach to reading." — Jerome McGann, University of Virginia


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Deborah Parker is Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia.

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Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1281-9
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