The Vita nuova is based on Dante’s desire to combine religious and secular erotic culture. In his libello Dante solves the tension between these two cultures with a syncretic attitude. This talk will analyze a few specific passages showing how, throughout the Vita nuova, these two cultures are continually intertwined. Indeed, the most influential studies conducted on the Vita nuova in the last century have emphasized the presence of each of these two cultures. These two lines, quite consolidated in studies on the Vita nuova, have given enormous results on both sides. However, it has been recognized that some of these readings have often limited to a single intertextual connection (Vita nuova – model/source) what is, in fact, much more complex. This talk intends to move in this direction and to analyze the diverse ways in which, in the Vita nuova, religious and secular culture come into connection.
The first part of the talk will focus on the Aristotelian quotations of Vn, 25,2 and 41,6, and on other passages where an intertextual presence of Aristotle has been supposed (such as the quotation from Homer in Vn 2). Rather than demonstrating Dante’s direct knowledge of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (the “secular” text par excellence in Florence as showed by Brunetto’s Tresor), Dante’s mentions of Aristotle show instead the poet’s familiarity with some well-known Aristotelian compilationes, such as the Auctoritates Aristotelis, as well as with texts designed for lay recipients and deeply imbued with religious culture, such as De regimine principum by Augustinian Egidio Romano. However, it is not argued that the Auctoritates are the precise source of Dante’s text; rather, this part wants to show the importance of the study of compilations to shed light on Dante’s initial approach to Aristotle.
In the second part, the talk will focus on the Latin phrase pronounced by the spirit of life in Vn, 2.4, showing how the “Deus” Love is constructed according to a para-christological model. The attribution of “force” (fortior me), if compared to the treatment of this virtue given by the texts of moral-didactic literature known in Dante’s Florence, shows Dante’s precise choice to make Scripture the central aspect of his work. Finally, the definition of Love as “fortis” allows us to investigate a fundamental attribute of Beatrice — who was generated by Love: her role as Imago Dei.
Finally, the talk compares the notion of Beatrice as Imago Dei that emerges from the Vita nuova with the notion of Imago Dei that emerges from some unpublished quodllibetal questions discussed in the Franciscan convent of Santa Croce in the 1290s. This connection, besides shedding light on the value of Dante’s operation in the Florentine context of the Nineties, will give a more precise meaning to the well-known passage of Dante’s Convivio (II, XII, 7), in which the author declares to have participated at “disputazioni delli filosofanti” in the “scuole delli religiosi.”
Lorenzo Dell’Oso is a fourth year PhD candidate in Italian Studies and a University Presidential Fellow for Humanities. He graduated from University of Pavia (BA, MA) and University of Notre Dame (MA). His main interests are Dante and Medieval cultural history. His PhD dissertation focuses on Dante’s intellectual formation in Florence during the 1290s. His other interests include Italian print culture, the works by Giambattista Vico, and Italian Cinema.
Originally published at italianstudies.nd.edu.