Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Romance Languages

First Advisor

Eva Del Soldato

Abstract

Throughout the fourteenth century, Dante's Commedia was the poem of the Italian high bourgeoisie and university culture. However, the early fifteenth-century Italian humanists looked with suspicion at vernacular literature, and particularly at Dante’s work. By contrast, in that same period, a popular cult for Dante began to develop. My dissertation investigates the habits and attitudes of a great variety of early modern readers in relation to the text that today is considered the greatest literary work in the Italian language. Through a comparative investigation of the data derived from the analysis of manuscript marginalia contained in early printed copies of the Commedia, my dissertation assesses how ordinary and less-ordinary readers in the broad geographic and social Italian context read and assimilated Dante’s poem in the early modern age. My close examination of marginalia suggests that the first typographic readers used the Commedia both as a literary text that conveyed various levels of knowledge—e.g., poetry, astrology, theology, philosophy—and a work of extensive political and moral value that, especially after Charles VIII’s invasion of the Italian peninsula in 1494, assumed a prominent role in shaping the emerging Italian national consciousness. Moreover, the dissertation will show also how intellectual readers from the 17th-19th centuries, to get close to Dante’s world, used the early printed copies of the poem, at that point easily available and “cheap.” My dissertation, therefore, tells the history of the post-medieval reception of Dante as a form of diachronic material exchange by mapping the reading attitudes of men and women of different social classes that influenced the creation of modern Italian cultural identity.

Embargoed

Available to all on Sunday, September 14, 2025

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