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The Allegory of the Vita Nuova

The Allegory of the Vita Nuova

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Published by: Yesica Ramírez on Jul 17, 2012
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06/27/2014

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The Allegory of the "Vita Nuova"Author(s): Jefferson B. FletcherSource:
Modern Philology,
Vol. 11, No. 1 (Jul., 1913), pp. 19-37Published by:
Stable URL:
Accessed: 26/09/2011 14:17
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THE ALLEGORYOF THE VITANUOVAThepurposeofthispaperistodemonstrateacontinuousalle-goryintheVitaNuova,conveyingamessagesubstantiallyidenticalwiththatof theDivina Commedia.Threegroundsof antecedentimprobabilityhave beenurgedagainstallegorical interpretationofDante's first work:(1)theverisimilitudeof theliteralstory;(2)thefacts that theincludedoccasionalpoemswerewritten atdifferenttimes,and thattheyindi-catebythemselvesnoallegorization;(3)Dante'sown distinctioninthe Convitobetweenthe"fervid andimpassioned"VitaNuova andthe"temperateandvirile"Convito.1.Assumingtherealityof Beatriceand of Dante'slovestory,Imaycontendthat,havinglater realized themoraleffectof hisexperience,he "moralized"the record ofhisexperience.Suchaprocessisnotuncommon;andbesides it isafundamental scholasticmaxim thattheendof acausalsequenceisimplicitinthebeginning.'2.Icontendthat outof aconsiderablebodyofoccasionalpoemsDantemayhave selected those whichaconnectingandexplanatoryproseby inreadingofmeaningsnot at firstintended,bytakingadvan-tageofambiguouswords,bytacitinterpolationinrecapitulation,andbynew facts orcircumstancesrelated--mightadjustto anexpostfacto allegory.And thefactthat he soenrichedtheoriginalpoemsisevident.23.Dante does notinfactsaythat theVita Nuova ismore"fervidandimpassioned"thantheConvito,butthatitsmanner oftreat-mentis.3He doessay:"Andif inthepresentwork. ...the
1"Finis estprincipiumomniumoperabilium."-Aquinas,Comm. IICor.,XII, iii;cf.Dante,Epist.x,472-74[Oxforded.].
2
SonnetsIand XXIIareinthemselvesallegorical.IntoSonnetsII,III,IV,XVII,andOdeIVtheprosereads amysterioussecondintention,andintotherecapitulationof SonnetIahighlysignificantaddition. OdeIandSonnetXIcorrespondcloselytoOdeII,and SonnetsXIX-XXII toOdeI,in theConvito,wherebothodesareinterpretedallegorically.ToSonnets VandXIVtheproseaddsasignificanceoriginallywanting,namely,the"screening"ofhistruelove,and of theanalogyof Beatriceto Christ.Therestarefitted withoutchange-thoughoftenbyadvantagetakenofambiguouswords.3Conr.,I,i,111 f.
19]1
[MODERNPHILOLOGY,
uly,
1913
 
2JEFFERSON . FLETCHERhandling'bemore virile than inthe NewLife,I donot intendtherebyto throwaslightinanyrespectuponthelatter,but rathertostrengthenthatbythis." Icontend thatifthe Convito is to"strengthen" (giovare)theVitaNuova,it can do soonlythroughitsallegoricalmethodandmessage.Ifso,theallegedobjectionturns outaconfirmation.But thetestofallegoryisin itsfitting. Assumingallegoryinthe VitaNuova,Imay proceedtotrytodecipherit.Dantewillgive,hesays,thesentenzia,2hatis,literally,thegistofthestoryof hisgraduallypurifieddesireofBeatrice,allegorically,itssignificanceinterms ofthatwhich her nameintends,towit,beatitudineor "blessedness." The words-" thegloriousladyofmymind3whowas calledBeatriceby manythatknewnot whattheywerecallingher"-are,likeothersignificantwordsinthework,designedly ambiguous.Mentemeansboth"memory"and"mind."Blessednessistheobjectofhismind.4Sheisproperly "glorious,"sinceperfectblessednessisattainableonlyin the lifeofgloryhere-after,5beingthe visionofGodasheis,"face to
face."6
Forin thislifewe seeGod,asSt.Paulsays, only "bya mirrorinenigma."'Now St.Paul'sdeclarationimplies,accordingtoAquinas,threewaysofseeingasensibleobject:(1)byactualpresenceoftheobjectintheeye,such aslight;(2) bypresencethereinoftheimageof theobject,as ofaman;(3)bypresencethereinofanimageof theimageoftheobject,as of aman in a mirror. Godaloneseeshimselffullythefirstway.Theangels, pureintelligences,seehimthesecondway.Weseehimonlythethirdway,thatis, byreflec-tion ofhisimage,itselfinvisibletous,inhis creatures.Inmiracu-lousrapture,however,some,like St.Paul,havemomentarilybeen
1Sitrattasse. IquoteWicksteed'stranslation.Jacksontranslates:"thesubjectistreated"--whichmakesmypointonlythesharper.
2
V.N., i;cf.Conv., I,ii,123-30.3Mente.".
. . .
in actuintellectusattenditurbeatitudo."''-Aquinas,Summatheol.,I,qu.xxvi,a. 2.
5
". .
.
.instatupraesentisvitaeperfectabeatitudoabhominehaberi nonpotest.....Sedpromittiturnobisa Deo beatitudoperfecta,quandoerimus sicutangeliincoelo."-Aquinas,I-II,qu.iii,a.2.6Of.Dante,Epist.x,612-18.7"Videmusnuncper speculuminaenigmate:tuneautemfacieadfaciem."-ICor.,xiiii,12.
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