Dante and the Orient (Illinois Medieval Studies)

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9780252027130: Dante and the Orient (Illinois Medieval Studies)

Probing Dante's knowledge of empirical geography, use of crusade rhetoric, and fascination with the world beyond European borders, Brenda Deen Schildgen offers an alluring new perspective on Dante's utopian imagination, political motivations, and literary intentions in the "Commedia" and other works. In the meticulously researched "Dante and the Orient", Schildgen argues that Dante's treatment of the East enabled him to use the rhetoric employed in crusade narratives and other travel literature to oppose the military and polemic goals of the Crusades and to plead for the reformation of both church and state. Schildgen asserts Dante's knowledge of the East by detailing his grasp of empirical geography and mapmaking, which were consistent with the current theories of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. But Dante thwarts cartographical traditions and the conventions of the crusade narrative by substituting a metaphorical journey for a literal pilgrimage, thereby shifting the emphasis away from the material sight of scriptural places used in other crusade and pilgrimage narratives.Blending sound historical research with innovative contemporary thought, Schildgen illustrates how Dante's unique adoption of crusade rhetoric grants him the role of prophet. Mindful of the lands beyond European borders - but without 'orientalizing' or 'exoticizing' them - he questions the concept of salvation outside Christian lands and launches a fiery poetic missive at a crisis-ridden and decadent Latin world that does not live up to its proclaimed ideals. In Dante's keen regard for the East, its wonders become symbols for the grandeur of God and the beauty of the divine realm.

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"This learned and highly original book should convince skeptics that [Dante's interest in the Orient] is vitally important to any attempt at a thorough understanding of Dante's writings and thought... The author ranges widely and skillfully across Dante's texts and their historical and intellectual context, and includes some thought-provoking rejoinders on less carefully nuanced critiques of 'Orientalism' in Dante's work. Highly recommended." -- Choice "A fresh and important contribution to Dante studies." -- Virginia Quarterly Review ADVANCE PRAISE "Schildgen's book breaks genuinely new ground in Dante scholarship... Both her exploration of the medieval background and her detailed readings of Dante's texts are entirely original and unprecedented in the field." -- Steven Botterill, author of Dante and the Mystical Tradition

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