Prolific culture critic and novelist Wilson (The Victorians) tackles one of the central literary and spiritual figures of Western civilization in this crowded and uneven study. As Wilson notes, for Anglo-American readers, Dante (1265–1321) remains something of an acquired taste; 30% of modern Italian comes from him, but his celebrated terza rima is difficult to render in English. His allegorical imagination is difficult to decode. His relationship to young Beatrice Portinari strikes us today as far too idealized. Despite these factors, Wilson's learned discourse does much to show Dante's relevance: how he fuses sacred and profane love; how his turbulent times featured new contact between the West and the Arab world; how the Courtly Love tradition, with ecstatic adultery as one of its ideals, is strikingly contemporary-sounding; how the high priests of modernism, Eliot and Pound, placed Dante at the center of their respective poetic universes. The title hints at but one aspect of Wilson's book. If this subject were adhered to with greater discipline, with less repetition and rambling, the book would be more accessible. 24 pages of color illus. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2011 Release date: 10/01/2011 Genre: Nonfiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.