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Dante: The Story of His Life
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Marco Santagata's Dante: The Story of His Life illuminates one of the world's supreme poets from many angles--writer, philosopher, father, courtier, political partisan. Santagata brings together a vast body of Italian scholarship on Dante's medieval world, untangles a complex web of family and political relationships for English readers, and shows how the composition of the Commedia was influenced by local and regional politics.Santagata traces Dante's attempts to establish himself in Florentine society as a man of both letters and action. He raises the intriguing possibility that Dante translated an illness, thought by some to be epilepsy, into an intensely physical phenomenology of love in the Vita Nova. Most importantly, Santagata highlights Dante's constant need to readjust his political stance--his involvement with the pro-Papacy Guelph faction as well as his network of patrons--in response to unfolding events. Linking these shifts to the changing ethical and political convictions expressed in the Commedia, Santagata reveals the paradoxical achievement of Dante's masterpiece: a unified, universal poem nonetheless intimately entwined with the day-to-day dealings of its author.The most striking facet of Dante's personality was a belief in his unique destiny. In every aspect of his life--his birth under the sign of Gemini, falling in love with Beatrice, banishment from Florence--Dante glimpsed the shadow of his fate. This idea, cultivated by the poet in his youth, grew into the conviction that God had invested him with the prophetic mission of saving humanity.
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About the Author

Marco Santagata is Professor of Italian Literature at the University of Pisa.

Reviews

Full of useful information and explanations of a very complicated time, well worth reading for its bold claims and wealth of historical evidence, this book constructs a novel, strong reading of Dante as political actor.--Alison Cornish, University of Michigan Definitely recommended, it will make my best non-fiction of the year list for sure.--Tyler Cowen"Marginal Revolution" (03/26/2016) A superb intellectual biography of Dante.--Ian Thomson"The Tablet" (05/05/2016) This sumptuous volume by Marco Santagata offers the reader a richly documented and often gripping account of the development, peregrinations, and shifting fortunes of the celebrated poet Durante (Dante) Alighieri.--Diana Glenn"Australian Book Review" (05/01/2016)" It is lively and a pleasure to read.--Simon West"The Australian" (05/07/2016) Santagata has written an impressive new biography that takes into consideration every bit of reliable and semireliable information available to us about Dante s life, from his birth in Florence in 1265 to his death in Ravenna in 1321 If you are looking for the most thorough, factually based account of Dante s life and times to date, Santagata is your man.--Robert Pogue Harrison"New York Review of Books" (10/27/2016)" Both specialized readers and the general public will benefit from this account of Dante Alighieri's life as a man of letters and of political action. A welcome addition to the catalogue of intellectual biographies of Dante available in English.--Simone Marchesi, Princeton University This sumptuous volume by Marco Santagata...offers the reader a richly documented and often gripping account of the development, peregrinations, and shifting fortunes of the celebrated poet Durante (Dante) Alighieri.--Diana Glenn"Australian Book Review" (05/01/2016) Santagata does a thorough and highly engaging job of bringing politics and social pressures of 13th-century Florence to the page in this very readable biography that doesn't scrimp on scholarly research...Even more fascinating is the way the author reveals Dante's intense interest in political systems, philosophy, and in the makeup of the universe, all shown to be at the very heart of the imposing poetic figure.--Herman Sutter"Library Journal (starred review)" (04/15/2016) Santagata has written a book that any reader interested in Dante will find absorbing, richly informative and very thought-provoking...With their well-known fondness for literary biography, [English readers] will surely be grateful for this bold, vigorous and invigorating account of Dante's life and times.--Prue Shaw"Times Higher Education" (05/12/2016) Santagata...has written an impressive new biography that takes into consideration every bit of reliable and semireliable information available to us about Dante's life, from his birth in Florence in 1265 to his death in Ravenna in 1321...If you are looking for the most thorough, factually based account of Dante's life and times to date, Santagata is your man.--Robert Pogue Harrison"New York Review of Books" (10/27/2016) Marco Santagata's Dante: The Story of His Life deconstructs the great poet with humor, aplomb and deep learning. I have never read any book which makes such complete sense of the vital continuum between Dante the man, and the projected self of the Convivio, Vita Nuova and Commedia...There is much humor in Santagata's exposure of the violent contradictions in Dante's character, all set against the background of his times. If you have a tendency to muddle Guelfs and Ghibellines, look no further than this lucid book.--A. N. Wilson"Times Literary Supplement" (11/23/2016) This biography will be most useful and enjoyable to those who already have a familiarity with the Comedy and want a more nuanced view of its place in Italian history...Santagata's book is a catalogue of contingencies, which will both introduce the reader to the political situation of the Italian peninsula in Dante's time and show how that context assists us in reading the poem.--Kyle Skinner"New Criterion" (09/01/2016) Santagata not only constructs an impressively detailed account of Dante's actual life but uses that account to interpret and make sense of the Comedy...The result is a remarkably innovative probing of his life and work.--Peter Hainsworth"Times Literary Supplement" (10/14/2016) Reading Marco Santagata's fascinating new biography, the reader is soon forced to acknowledge that one of the cornerstones of Western literature [The Divine Comedy], a poem considered sublime and universal, is the product of vicious factionalism and packed with local scandal...It's the biography's evocation of the factional world of the time and the values sustaining it that throws light on the great poem and helps us to read it with fresh awareness...Elegantly translated by Richard Dixon, Santagata's biography avoids the quarrels among critics that sometimes dominate Dante studies.--Tim Parks"London Review of Books" (07/14/2016) This substantial work incorporates all the most recent Dantean scholarship. There is much to chew upon, since Dante lived at the very center of his city's political life...Santagata, thoroughly steeped in the politics and genealogies of the period, gives the best account I have ever read of Dante in his historical context...You will never read an account clearer than Santagata's. Nor will you read a more convincing description of how Dante changed his mind, quite fundamentally, about the political issues which confronted him (Pope vs Emperor) and the deep religious questions which underpin his work...This is a wonderful book. Even if you have not read Dante you will be gripped by its account of one of the most extraordinary figures in the history of literature, and one of the most dramatic periods of European history. If you are a Dantean, it will be your invaluable companion forever.--A. N. Wilson"The Spectator" (05/21/2016) To the ranks of the best popular biographies of the great Florentine poet Dante Alighieri...is added Marco Santagata's Dante... [Santagata] tells it with a fiercely learned calm and energy throughout... As with all first-rate author biographies, the book will propel readers straight back to Dante's own works, which is right where they should end up in any case.--Steve Donoghue"Open Letters Monthly" (04/03/2016) Marco Santagata s Dante: The Story of His Life deconstructs the great poet with humor, aplomb and deep learning. I have never read any book which makes such complete sense of the vital continuum between Dante the man, and the projected self of the Convivio, Vita Nuova and Commedia There is much humor in Santagata s exposure of the violent contradictions in Dante s character, all set against the background of his times. If you have a tendency to muddle Guelfs and Ghibellines, look no further than this lucid book.--A. N. Wilson"Times Literary Supplement" (11/23/2016)" Reading Marco Santagata s fascinating new biography, the reader is soon forced to acknowledge that one of the cornerstones of Western literature [The Divine Comedy], a poem considered sublime and universal, is the product of vicious factionalism and packed with local scandal It s the biography s evocation of the factional world of the time and the values sustaining it that throws light on the great poem and helps us to read it with fresh awareness Elegantly translated by Richard Dixon, Santagata s biography avoids the quarrels among critics that sometimes dominate Dante studies.--Tim Parks"London Review of Books" (07/14/2016)"

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