Dante's Divine Comedy: A Biography

The life and times of Dante’s soaring poetic allegory of the soul’s redemptive journey toward God


Published (US):
Nov 5, 2024
Published (UK):
Jan 7, 2025
5.5 x 8.5 in.
16 b/w illus.
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Written during his exile from Florence in the early 1300s, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy describes the poet’s travels through hell, purgatory, and paradise, exploring the state of the human soul after death. His poema sacro, sacred poem, profoundly influenced Renaissance writers and artists such as Giovanni Boccaccio and Sandro Botticelli and was venerated by modern critics including Erich Auerbach and Harold Bloom. Dante’s “Divine Comedy” narrates the remarkable reception of Dante’s masterpiece, one of the most consequential religious books ever written.

Tracing the many afterlives of Dante’s epic poem, Joseph Luzzi shows how it left its mark on the work of such legendary authors as John Milton, Mary Shelley, and James Joyce while serving as a source of inspiration for writers like Primo Levi and Antonio Gramsci as they faced the most extreme forms of political oppression. He charts how the dialogue between religious and secular ideas in The Divine Comedy has shaped issues ranging from changing conceptions of women’s identity and debates about censorship to the role of canonical literature in popular culture.

An intimate portrait of a work that has challenged and inspired generations of readers, Dante’s “Divine Comedy” reveals how Dante’s strikingly original and controversial vision of the afterlife can help us define our spiritual beliefs, better understand ourselves, and navigate the complexities of modern life.