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The Poet, the Political Thinker, the Man

List Price: $19.95

August 28, 2007 | Paperback | 6.25 x 9.25, 446 Pages | ISBN 9781593761622
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"This masterly and revolutionary reconsideration of what is known of Dante's life—combined with a close and profound reading of Dante's work—restores to view the actual context in which the Divine Comedy was written." —Jill Paton Walsh, author of Knowledge of Angels

Dante is one of the towering figures in world literature, and yet many riddles and questions about his life and work persist. In the first full-length biography of him in more than twenty years, Barbara Reynolds offers provocative new ideas in every chapter. For example, many have read the Commedia as a lyrical parable about reward and punishment; Reynolds suggests that Dante was arguing against the Pope and for an Emperor as supreme secular authority of medieval Europe. Drawing from an impressive array of sources, Reynolds delivers a comprehensive analysis of the poet, placing him within the context of his culture and society to deepen our understanding of a complicated man who was irritable, opinionated, vengeful, and an extraordinary genius.

BARBARA REYNOLDS, retired lecturer of Italian at Cambridge University, finished Dorothy L. Sayers’ translation of Paradiso after Sayers’ death and translated Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Dante’s La Vita Nuova for Penguin Classics. She has also written Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul and edited The Concise Cambridge Italian Dictionary.


“Every so often a great scholar casts off conventional pedagogical restraints and rethinks their entire subject afresh. Barbara Reynolds’ new biographical study is probably the most lively and accessible introduction to Dante now available. Reynolds offers adventurous and always intriguing solutions to some ancient Dante-puzzles, and cites the best recent research, much of it her own. The book is immensely readable, not least in its presentation of Dante as master showman—in all the spatial, visual, musical, and dramatic senses of the term.” —Edward Peters, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History Emeritus at University of Pennsylvania

“This masterly and revolutionary reconsideration of what is known of Dante’s life—combined with a close and profound reading of Dante’s work—restores to view the actual context in which the Divine Comedy was written. Barbara Reynolds paints a complete picture of Dante’s difficult life and times, revealing the corruption, conflict, betrayal, wickedness and folly out of which he forged his transcendent vision of heaven and hell, and of right and wrong. The impressive scale of that vision cannot be comprehended without an appreciation of the earthy, material world from which Dante drew it. Like a latter-day Virgil, Dr Reynolds guides us to a fresh understanding of human and divine in the work of one of the world’s greatest writers.” —Jill Paton Walsh, author of Knowledge of Angels

“This highly original study of Dante and his works is the fruit of a lifetime’s devotion to both poetry and scholarship. The breadth of its vision and the depth of its understanding will excite and provoke its readers. It suggests bold solutions to enigmas that have puzzled and tantalized scholars for centuries. It makes a significant contribution to Dante studies.”—John A. Scott, University of Western Australia

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