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Experiencing the Afterlife

Experiencing the Afterlife

Soul and Body in Dante and Medieval Culture

Manuele Gragnolati

“Engaging the Divine Comedy in a dialogue with noncanonical popular works of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century spirituality as well as with the learned high culture traditions of philosophy and theology, Manuele Gragnolati searchingly illuminates the anthropological underpinnings of Dante’s eschatological vision. Experiencing the Afterlife is exemplary in modeling an interdisciplinary approach to Dante’s poem and demonstrating how a richly contextualized reading can breathe new life into old questions.” —Teodolinda Barolini, Columbia University

“Gragnolati deals with central problems and contradictions in medieval eschatology with great learning and commendable clarity. He places Dante’s uniquely complex vision of these issues in a rich context, both popular and learned. His insightful reading of the importance of the body in Dante’s poem leads to a new understanding of the role of the pilgrim’s body in Paradiso, thereby challenging conventional readings.” —Rachel Jacoff, Wellesley College

“Gragnolati takes a fresh, unusual, and stimulating approach to questions regarding the shaping effect of certain aspects of medieval culture on Dante, particularly in regard to the development of the idea of Purgatory. He provides comparisons and insights that have not been made in previous scholarship.” —Christopher Kleinhenz, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Experiencing the Afterlife provides the first sustained analysis of popular, vernacular depictions of the afterlife written in Italy before the Divine Comedy by authors such as Uguccione da Lodi, Giacomino da Verona, and Bonvesin da la Riva. Manuele Gragnolati uses his readings of these poets to provide a new interpretation of Dante’s work. Combining elements from several disciplines, he investigates the richness of high medieval eschatology and the concept of personal identity it expresses. Gragnolati is particularly concerned with how the notions of body and pain characteristic of medieval spirituality and devotion inform the eschatological representations of the time, especially in their paradoxical urge to stress at once the physical experience of the separated soul and the final necessity of bodily resurrection.

By integrating lesser known texts and scholarship from other disciplines into the specialized field of Dante studies, Gragnolati sheds new light on some of the most vigorously debated and crucial questions raised by the Divine Comedy, including the embryological discourse of Purgatorio 25, the relation between the soul’s experience of pain in Purgatory and the devotion that late medieval culture expressed towards Christ’s suffering, and the significance of the audacious vision of resurrected bodies that Dante the pilgrim enjoys at the end of his journey. At the same time, Gragnolati brings these questions back into contemporary discussions of medieval eschatology and opens new perspectives for current and future work on embodiment and identity.

Scholars and students of Dante and Italian studies, as well as those in medieval history, religion, culture, and art history will be rewarded by the fresh insights contained in Experiencing the Afterlife.

ISBN: 978-0-268-02964-7
298 pages
Publication Year: 2005

“Highly recommended.” — Choice

“Manuele Gragnolati’s lively and engaging book shines new light on the debate about the role of the body in the Divine Comedy’s conception of personal identity . . . An illuminating analysis of a theme central to the Divine Comedy. It is, in short, an important contribution to Dante scholarship.” — Medium Aevum

“In his fine book, Manuele Gragnolati expertly explores the many issues and tensions that shaped the connections between grave, body, soul, and immortality. . . . Gragnolati’s analyses provide a cultural context for the central innovation in Dante’s vision of eschatological experience: the soul’s generation of an aerial body when the fleshly body dies. . . . wide-ranging yet precisely focused, Experiencing the Afterlife is an excellent companion to the other thought-provoking volumes in Notre Dame’s Devers Series in Dante Studies.” — Speculum

“Experiencing the Afterlife studies the ontological status and value of the human body in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italy, in formal theology, in high literary culture, and in more popularizing literature. . . . This book makes a valuable contribution to Dante studies, medieval studies, Italian cultural and literary history, and the history of theology. Each new publication in the Devers Series in Dante Studies is a cause for celebration, and Experiencing the Afterlife is a superb addition.” — Church History

*Manuele Gragnolati* is University Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow in Italian at Somerville College, Oxford.
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Experiencing the Afterlife

Soul and Body in Dante and Medieval Culture

Manuele Gragnolati

 Experiencing the Afterlife: Soul and Body in Dante and Medieval Culture
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

“Engaging the Divine Comedy in a dialogue with noncanonical popular works of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century spirituality as well as with the learned high culture traditions of philosophy and theology, Manuele Gragnolati searchingly illuminates the anthropological underpinnings of Dante’s eschatological vision. Experiencing the Afterlife is exemplary in modeling an interdisciplinary approach to Dante’s poem and demonstrating how a richly contextualized reading can breathe new life into old questions.” —Teodolinda Barolini, Columbia University

“Gragnolati deals with central problems and contradictions in medieval eschatology with great learning and commendable clarity. He places Dante’s uniquely complex vision of these issues in a rich context, both popular and learned. His insightful reading of the importance of the body in Dante’s poem leads to a new understanding of the role of the pilgrim’s body in Paradiso, thereby challenging conventional readings.” —Rachel Jacoff, Wellesley College

“Gragnolati takes a fresh, unusual, and stimulating approach to questions regarding the shaping effect of certain aspects of medieval culture on Dante, particularly in regard to the development of the idea of Purgatory. He provides comparisons and insights that have not been made in previous scholarship.” —Christopher Kleinhenz, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Experiencing the Afterlife provides the first sustained analysis of popular, vernacular depictions of the afterlife written in Italy before the Divine Comedy by authors such as Uguccione da Lodi, Giacomino da Verona, and Bonvesin da la Riva. Manuele Gragnolati uses his readings of these poets to provide a new interpretation of Dante’s work. Combining elements from several disciplines, he investigates the richness of high medieval eschatology and the concept of personal identity it expresses. Gragnolati is particularly concerned with how the notions of body and pain characteristic of medieval spirituality and devotion inform the eschatological representations of the time, especially in their paradoxical urge to stress at once the physical experience of the separated soul and the final necessity of bodily resurrection.

By integrating lesser known texts and scholarship from other disciplines into the specialized field of Dante studies, Gragnolati sheds new light on some of the most vigorously debated and crucial questions raised by the Divine Comedy, including the embryological discourse of Purgatorio 25, the relation between the soul’s experience of pain in Purgatory and the devotion that late medieval culture expressed towards Christ’s suffering, and the significance of the audacious vision of resurrected bodies that Dante the pilgrim enjoys at the end of his journey. At the same time, Gragnolati brings these questions back into contemporary discussions of medieval eschatology and opens new perspectives for current and future work on embodiment and identity.

Scholars and students of Dante and Italian studies, as well as those in medieval history, religion, culture, and art history will be rewarded by the fresh insights contained in Experiencing the Afterlife.

ISBN: 978-0-268-02964-7

298 pages

“Highly recommended.” — Choice

“Manuele Gragnolati’s lively and engaging book shines new light on the debate about the role of the body in the Divine Comedy’s conception of personal identity . . . An illuminating analysis of a theme central to the Divine Comedy. It is, in short, an important contribution to Dante scholarship.” — Medium Aevum

“In his fine book, Manuele Gragnolati expertly explores the many issues and tensions that shaped the connections between grave, body, soul, and immortality. . . . Gragnolati’s analyses provide a cultural context for the central innovation in Dante’s vision of eschatological experience: the soul’s generation of an aerial body when the fleshly body dies. . . . wide-ranging yet precisely focused, Experiencing the Afterlife is an excellent companion to the other thought-provoking volumes in Notre Dame’s Devers Series in Dante Studies.” — Speculum

“Experiencing the Afterlife studies the ontological status and value of the human body in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italy, in formal theology, in high literary culture, and in more popularizing literature. . . . This book makes a valuable contribution to Dante studies, medieval studies, Italian cultural and literary history, and the history of theology. Each new publication in the Devers Series in Dante Studies is a cause for celebration, and Experiencing the Afterlife is a superb addition.” — Church History

The William and Katherine Devers Series in Dante and Medieval Italian Literature