'What most intrigues me is the complex adventure of Dante and his sources, whereby every old or received parchment becomes a script for his dazzling pageant, a new account of everything old.' Hawkins, a student of John Freccero and presently a professor at Yale Divinity School, thus tantalizes us with the insights of this study, a passionate testimony to the three decades he has loved and wrestled with the Comedy. Renewed by fresh translation generation after generation, it draws poetically and theologically upon Scripture, Ovid, Virgil, Augustine, and Benedict, and so invites exploration into a genius who is also a poet and a theologian reactivates the tradition he holds dear. Hawkins is concerned with the ways Dante works within a complex religious tradition, at times boldly reshaping it within his project of literary creation. As Hawkins states (referring to Kierkegaard's essay 'Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle'), 'the apostle passes on a tradition, the genius makes one up. The apostle cares only about the truth of the message, the genius about its beauty and originality. The apostle is uniquely concerned about the Word that is proclaimed, while the genius is seductive, courting our wonder and forcing our admiration.Nonetheless, the Dante I have come to know.thoroughly collapses these two identities into one: he is Apostle-Genius, Theologus-Poeta
An Eighth Day View:
This book explores the wide range of Dante's reading and the extent to which he transformed what he read, whether in the biblical canon, in the ancient Latin poets, in such Christian authorities as Augustine or Benedict, or in the "book of the world"--the globe traversed by pilgrims and navigators.
The author argues that the exceptional independence and strength of Dante's forceful stance vis-a-vis other authors, amply on display in both the "Commedia" and so-called minor works, is informed by a deep knowledge of the Christian Scriptures. The Bible in question is not only the canonical text and its authoritative commentaries but also the Bible as experienced in sermon and liturgy, hymn and song, fresco and illumination, or even in the aphorisms of everyday speech.
The "Commedia" took shape against the panorama of this divine narrative. In chapters devoted to Virgil and Ovid, the author explores strategies of allusion and citation, showing how Dante reinterprets these authors in the light of biblical revelation, correcting their vision and reorienting their understanding of history or human love. Dante finds his authority for making these interpretive moves in a "scriptural self" that is constructed over the course of the "Commedia."
That biblical selfhood enables him to choose among various classical and Christian traditions, to manipulate arguments and time lines, and to forge imaginary links between the ancient world and his own "modern "uso."" He rewrites Scripture by reactivating it, by writing it again. To the inspired parchments of the Old and New Testaments he boldly adds his own "testamental" postscript.