Leading scholar Albert Russell Ascoli traces the metamorphosis of Dante Alighieri - minor Florentine aristocrat, political activist and exile, amateur philosopher and theologian, daring experimental poet - into Dante, author of the Divine Comedy and perhaps the most self-consciously 'authoritative' cultural figure in the Western canon. This is the first comprehensive introduction to Dante's evolving, transformative relationship to medieval ideas of authorship and authority from the early Vita Nuova, through the unfinished treatises, The Banquet and On Vernacular Eloquence, to the works of his maturity, Monarchy and the Divine Comedy. Ascoli reveals how Dante anticipates modern notions of personalized, creative authorship and the phenomenon of 'Renaissance self-fashioning'. Unusually, the book examines Dante's career as a whole offering an important new point of access not only to the Dantean oeuvre, but also to the history and theory of authorship in the larger Italian and European tradition.

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