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Divine Dialectic: Dante's Incarnational Poetry. .

Guy P. Raffa. Divine Dialectic: Dante's Incarnational Poetry.

(Toronto Italian Series.) Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 2001. xii + 254 pp. index. $55. ISBN: 0-8020-4856-0.

This volume is structured, significantly, with an introduction and three chapters. Chapter 1 has two sections, while chapters 2 and 3 have four sections each.

The introduction sets the thesis clearly in that this study intends to prove, and it does, that in Dante's Commedia, incarnation is not only the goal of the journey itself, but also that "the poem is dialectically structured and conceived" (3). In the course of the study, Raffa will demonstrate that Dante not only intended to employ his deep belief in incarnarional rheology and that this is a "key to writing and reading the Commedia" but also "a foundation for the dialectical approach to knowledge and being in the lives of his readers" (4). This is a novel approach, at least in book form. The introduction goes on to provide an analysis and justification of this reading acknowledging the rich scholarship on the question of incarnation theology.

Chapter 1 entitled "Divine Dialectic: Incarnational Failure and Parody," divided into two sections, makes the case that Dante's incarnational dialectic is "manque" in the Vita Nuova, but successful in its parody in the Inferno. Though this chapter is well argued, rich in scholarly references, and sound in its critical analysis, one might add that this same dialectical approach could be used in the duality of Beatrice as woman-goddess. Thus, even in the Vita Nuova this incarnational dialectic is plausible, especially through the use of allegory.

Chapter 2, entitled "Incarnational Dialectic Writ Large," containing four sections, is most useful and inventive because it provides the links between the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso, for the author's main thesis. Chapter 3, entitled "Dante's Incarnational Dialectic of Martyrdom and Mission," is also subdivided into four sections. This makes the numerical subdivision an example of, paradoxically, incarnational dialectic, namely: introduction (1) + chapter 1 and two sections (1+2) + chapter 2 and four sections (1+4) + chapter 3 and four sections (1+4). The totality adds up to fourteen (1+13). Given that one and three are divine numbers while two and four are earthly numbers, we have a mixture of the earthly and the divine. I do not know if the author intended this, but I do know that this chapter and the dissertation on the terragon is the most compelling for the author's thesis. The most stimulating dialectical coupling is the binomial BrunettoCacciaguida, mission-martyrdom and vice-versa, accor ding to Dante's own rhetorical devices and perceptions. This book is commendable for it being daring and Dantean in the truest sense of the word.
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Author:Di Scipio, Giuseppe C.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2003
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