Dante's Two Beloveds


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Ethics and Erotics in the "Divine Comedy"

Olivia Holmes

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Re-examining key passages in Dante’s oeuvre in the light of the crucial issue of moral choice, this book provides a new thematic framework for interpreting the Divine Comedy. Olivia Holmes shows how Dante articulated the relationship between the human and the divine as an erotic choice between two attractive women—Beatrice and the “other woman.”  Investigating the traditions and archetypes that contributed to the formation of Dante’s two beloveds, Holmes shows how Dante brilliantly overlaid and combined these paradigms in his poem.  In doing so he re-imagined the two women as not merely oppositional condensations of apparently conflicting cultural traditions but also complementary versions of the same. This visionary insight sheds new light on Dante’s corpus and on the essential paradox at the poem’s heart: the unabashed eroticism of Dante’s turn away from the earthly in favor of the divine.

Olivia Holmes is visiting associate professor of Italian, Dartmouth College. Her previous book, Assembling the Lyric Self, won the American Association of Italian Studies Book Award in 2000. She lives in Hanover, NH.

“This superlative study of Dante shows the signs of long study and contemplation, honing and refining. Holmes offers a persuasive and original interpretation.”—F. Regina Psaki, University of Oregon

Dante’s Two Beloveds maintains a rare balance between the philological and semiological perspective. Holmes makes an important contribution to Dante studies.”—Simone Marchesi, Princeton University

“Olivia Holmes’ study is an investigation into a fundamental topic for scholars and readers of Dante … illuminating fundamental aspects of Dante’s religious and literary culture … clear, comprehensive and engaging … This book has a rare quality for a Dante publication: is it a good, interesting, scholarly account that is also comprehensible to the general public.” - Paola Nasti, Times Higher Education

"Holmes perseveres in evaluating Dante's thought not on the basis of a single perspective, but open to Dante's wonderful polysemy, she engages the elaborate and varied nature of Dante's many beloveds."—Jason Houston, Renaissance Quarterly

"In a series of tightly focused and densely argued chapters, [Holmes] reads Dante's epic as an 'allegory of erotic choice between a primary beloved and a seductive other woman, and of true love triumphant. . . .' This is an impressively original and thought-provoking piece of work, required reading for serious students of Dante. Ambitious upper-division undergraduates through faculty."—Choice

‘Dante’s ‘kaleidoscope of shifting references’ is impressive overall and provides a fascinating new thematic framework for interpreting the Comedy.

Chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 by Choice Magazine
ISBN: 9780300125429
Publication Date: November 11, 2008
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4