Dante and the history of literary criticism

  • August 20, 2013
Dante and the history of literary criticism

Claudia Tardelli Terry has contributed to a forthcoming book which examines how Dante commentaries have contributed to the advancement of literary criticism.

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has contributed to a forthcoming book which examines how Dante commentaries have contributed to the advancement of literary criticism.

Interpreting Dante: Essays on the Traditions of Dante Commentary, co-edited by Paola Nasti and Claudia Rossignoli, gathers essays by prominent scholars of the Dante commentary tradition to discuss the significance of this tradition for the study of the Divine Comedy, its broad impact on the history of ideas, and its contribution to the development of literary criticism.

The book, which is published in December by Notre Dame University Press, shows how Dante commentaries illustrate the evolution of notions of “literariness” and literature, genre and style, intertextuality and influence, literary histories, traditions and canons, authorship and readerships, paratexts and textual materiality.

Gates Cambridge Scholar Claudia Tardelli Terry [2010] is author of an essay which is in part based on her PhD research in Italian.

She says: “Since early texts of Dante’s Commedia started to circulate, the whole text, or parts of it, were frequently accompanied by text transcriptions, glosses and notes, which now offer today’s readers of the poem a vast wealth of exegetical contributions, interpretations and suggestions. These contributions are rich in historical data and continue to provide readers with both a document of reception and an interpretative aid to Dante’s Commedia. This situation is well known by Dante’s scholars, and is illustrated by the fact that a large number of manuscripts incorporating glosses and commentaries on the poem have been kept. However, whilst these commentaries contain important data they must be subjected to careful interpretation because the textual tradition of each commentary has not always been studied in the depth it deserves and there are problems with the editions, most nineteenth-century, that we currently have.”

A paper by Claudia was published in an international journal before she started her PhD at Cambridge and now in her final year she has published three more contributions in peer review journals. She has also been involved in various talks and has recently organised a panel on Dante’s commentators at the Society for Italian Studies Biennial Conference held at the University of Durham in July 2013.

Her current research focuses on an evaluation of Francesco da Buti’s commentary on Dante’s Commedia. It is one of the most important critical evaluations of Dante written in Pisa at the end of the 14th Century and gives an insight into the historical and cultural context in which the commentator composed his work. Claudia says: “The ancient commentaries should be considered and valued as independent works, finally releasing them from centuries of subordination to the poem, in a way that places them into a well defined and precise genre.”

Claudia is also working to bring Buti’s commentary new edition to completion by also editing the glosses to Purgatorio and Paradiso, having already completed the Inferno edition during her research at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, where she studied before coming to Cambridge.

She has been passionate about Dante’s Comedy since she started to study it during high school in Tuscany at the age of 16. She then decided to read Medieval Italian at the University of Pisa and Italian Philology at the Scuola Normale Superiore, and from there to pursue her academic research at Cambridge.

At Cambridge, she has been able to work with Professor Baranski, who is among the world’s leading authorities on Dante, medieval Italian literature and medieval poetics.

Claudia adds: “I will be forever grateful to the Cambridge Trust for its generosity and for the opportunity it has given me to conduct my research in an University renowned for its excellence.”

Picture credit: dan and www.freedigitalphotos.net

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