Andrea Celli

Oct 11, 2023

Dante and the Mediterranean Comedy

From Muslim Spain to Post-Colonial Italy

Palgrave Macmillan 2022

In Dante and the Mediterranean Comedy: From Muslim Spain to Post-Colonial Italy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), Andrea Celli explores the complex ways in which Dante’s Comedy could be considered ‘Mediterranean,’ ranging widely from Orientalist scholarship to prison wall graffiti in Palermo. He presents both a history of criticism that explores the 20th-century debates around Dante and Islam as well as a novel approach to interrogating Mediterranean possibilities in the reception and appropriation of Dante’s poem. Celli’s Mediterranean Dante is neither given over to the ‘clash of civilizations’ model nor to the idealized notion of a cultural melting pot, but instead to a nuanced perspective that moves beyond traditional binaries and paradigms. In a medieval mode, he draws attention to the possible use of Islamic sources in the punishment of Muhammad in Inferno 28 and explores affinities between Ibn Hazm’s 11th-century Andalusian work Ring of the Dove and Dante’s Vita Nuova. With an orientation to reception, he dwells at length on the 17th-century drawings and grafitti on the prison walls of the Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri in Palermo that see a blending of high and low culture and connect Dante to broader Mediterranean culture in early modern Sicily. Dante and the Mediterranean Comedy breaks new ground in assembling such materials and critical perspectives; it urges us to both read the Comedy through the heuristic tool of the Mediterranean and to read the field of Mediterranean studies through Dante.

Akash Kumar is Assistant Professor of Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on medieval Italian literature through the lens of Mediterranean and global culture, from the history of science to the origins of popular phenomena such as the game of chess. Recent work on a global Dante has appeared in the volume Migrants Shaping Europe, Past and Present (Manchester UP, 2022), MLN (2022), and the Blackwell Companion to World Literature (2020). Akash also serves as Editor of Dante Notes, the digital publication of the Dante Society of America.

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