Interpreting Dante’s “Commedia”: competing approaches

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This article first addresses the emphasis on the truth of the literal sense of Dante’s Commedia in twentieth-century scholarship, whether the poem is con-ceived as a mystical vision (Bruno Nardi, 1884-1968), figural fulfillment (Erich Auerbach, 1892-1957), or allegory of the theologians (Charles S. Singleton, 1909-1985; and Robert Hollander, 1933-2021). Secondly, it analyses the interpretative approach of the French Dominican scholars Pierre Mandonnet (1858-1936) and Joachim Berthier (1848-1924), who draw on symbolic theology (and the four senses of Scripture) but, unlike Singleton and Hollander, insist that the literal sense of the poem is a “beautiful lie.” Thirdly, it shows how literalist approaches underpin key twentieth-century discussions of Dante’s theology, contribute to broader secularizing trends in Dante Studies, and represent a rupture with the seven-hundred-year-long commentary tradition on the poem as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Number of pages32
JournalBibliotheca Dantesca
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2021


  • Dante
  • Commedia
  • Theology
  • Hermeneutics
  • Interrpretation
  • Allegory
  • Bruno Nardi
  • Erich Auerbach
  • Charles S. Singleton
  • Robert Hollander
  • Pierre Mandonnet
  • Joachim Berthier


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