Dante and Violence
Domestic, Civic, Cosmic
344 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 7 b&w illustrations
Hardcover | 9780268200640 | April 2021
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268200664 | April 2021
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268200633 | April 2021
This study explores how Dante represents violence in the Comedy and reveals the connection between contemporary private and public violence and civic and canon law violations.
Although a number of articles have addressed particular aspects of violence in discrete parts of Dante’s oeuvre, a systematic treatment of violence in the Commedia is lacking. This ambitious overview of violence in Dante’s literary works and his world examines cases of violence in the domestic, communal, and cosmic spheres while taking into account medieval legal approaches to rights and human freedom that resonate with the economy of justice developed in the Commedia. Exploring medieval concerns with violence both in the home and in just war theory, as well as the Christian theology of the Incarnation and Redemption, Brenda Deen Schildgen examines violence in connection to the natural rights theory expounded by canon lawyers beginning in the twelfth century. Partially due to the increased attention to its Greco-Roman cultural legacy, the twelfth-century Renaissance produced a number of startling intellectual developments, including the emergence of codified canon law and a renewed interest in civil law based on Justinian’s sixth-century Corpus juris civilis. Schildgen argues that, in addition to “divine justice,” Dante explores how the human system of justice, as exemplified in both canon and civil law and based on natural law and legal concepts of human freedom, was consistently violated in the society of his era. At the same time, the redemptive violence of the Crucifixion, understood by Dante as the free act of God in choosing the Incarnation and death on the cross, provides the model for self-sacrifice for the communal good. This study, primarily focused on Dante’s representation of his contemporary reality, demonstrates that the punishments and rewards in Dante’s heaven and hell, while ostensibly a staging of his vision of eternal justice, may in fact be a direct appeal to his readers to recognize the crimes that pervade their own world.
Dante and Violence will have a wide readership, including students and scholars of Dante, medieval culture, violence, and peace studies.
Brenda Deen Schildgen is distinguished professor emerita of comparative literature at the University of California, Davis. Her previous books include Divine Providence: A History; The Bible, Virgil, Orosius, Augustine, and Dante and Dante and the Orient.
“Dante and Violence directly engages with important recent studies and the related domains of medieval legal, political, and religious thought. Close reading of passages from Dante and cross-references to episodes or figures from his work help to demonstrate how and why the explanations of contemporary medieval thought inform the analysis of the poema sacro.” —Catherine Keen, author of Dante and the City
"Schildgen has written a groundbreaking study of Dante and violence. Dante and Violence will be of value to all those interested in a great thinker’s views on a paramount and enduring topic—one whose relevance, moreover, never diminishes." —Teodolinda Barolini, editor of Dante's Lyric Poetry
"Schildgen takes on a seemingly obvious aspect of Dante’s Commedia, acknowledging the many ways his subject requires grisly treatments. But rather than simply offering another account of violent punishment in the poem, she examines how 'the Commedia represents interpersonal, collective, and cosmic violence or coercion in three spheres of the poet’s historic world.'" —Choice