explaining Dantephobia by Biblonia


Surely there must be a circle in Hell reserved for literary critics who maliciously misread Dante.

John Carey’s discussion of Dante Alighieri in his latest book, A Little History of Poetry (Yale, 2020) has little on fairness, while being quite big on latter-day moralism. To wildly paraphrase Ben Johnson, A Little History has, at least in its depiction of the Florentine poet, small balance and lesse grace.

This is by no means a review of A Little History but simply a response to Carey’s cursory treatment, or shouldI say, mistreatment of Dante in the book (pp. 25-8). Chapter 5, ‘Continental Masters of the Middle Ages, Dante, [Arnaut] Daniel, Petrarch, Villon’, to which the discussion of Dante is confined, begins ex abrupto:

“Of all world-famous poets, none is less likely to appeal to the modern reader than Dante Alighieri (c. 1265-1321). This is not just because his poetry is soaked…

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