We only infer that it's Florence because at one point there is a description of a river that crosses by it and which Dante uses because he has had an inspiration, words come to him with the same kind of strength and naturalness with which the waters of the river flow, that's the implied meaning of that association or description of the landscape, there's a river and fantastic words came to me which I jotted down which I wanted to remember, it's the turning in point in poetic terms of the Vita nuova.
When he addresses the -- he understands that to write poetry -- he writes the famous line, "Women who have intellect of love. It was never written -- that kind of perception was never really part of the understanding--of the warehouse of the poetic imagination.
What does Dante do? It's a little bit abstract. It's a kind of an enigmatic account that he gives and this is unlike Augustine.
It begins with a reference to the book of memory. In that part of the book of my memory, within which little has been written, I find words which I cannot go on repeating and all, but I would just transcribe some sentences, the meanings of them, so he understands that here we have, first of all, it's a book of memory, not necessarily an act of retrospection and memory it has a number of other implications and dangers.
What are the implications? Well, Dante is writing this, he's about 25, 24; it's a provisional retrospection of his growth as a poet.
He certainly knows that memories of the mother, as you know of the Muses, this is the famous myth, right? There's the old Greek myth that memory, Mnemosyne, lay with Jupiter for nine successive nights and from their copulations the nine muses came into being, so Memories, the Mother, which means that art is always an act of memory; a way of remembering, an act of remembrance, we could say. It has also some dangers that Dante will go on reflecting about. It's that if you go on getting caught in the activity of memory you run a serious risk, the risk of changing your sense of life and your sense of reality into the phantasms of memory because that's what memory is.
It's called, as you know, the eye of the imagination.
That's the famous description of memory. The Greeks, of course, used to put memory in the heart, and in fact as you know, the ancient Greeks used to put memory in the heart. In fact, as you know, in Italian we still do say--or in Spanish, recordarse, which really has the etymology, in English record, that's the etymology of the heart we remember.
But in the Middle Ages it's already part of the imagination; it's called the eye of the imagination which means that it has a visionary component to it. This explains the emphasis of dreams, vision, strange apparitions with which this text is punctuated from the beginning to the end. Dante, I repeat, understands that there is a danger to memory and the danger of memory is the transformation of experience into a phantasmatic reality; the whole living in the world.
It's like you're always looking backwards and you're not Janus-like, you don't look in all directions, you don't look ahead and Dante will turn against memory. The second thing that we get from that little exordium of--in that part of the book of my memory, we know that Dante's placed himself--I find words which have been the inscriptions of memory, I'm not going to repeat them all, but only some of them. We know that Dante has casted himself as the editor of his own book, that's the double poise.
This is the double structure of this little text of his. First of all it's a double-- has duplicity all over, this text has, it's a book of poetry and it's a book of prose. It's not an unusual structure: Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy is written like that.
Dante also writes other texts like that, but what are the implications? Well, there's a lyrical self who has been in the throes of a great passion for Beatrice, who struggles sometimes with his inspiration, who waits. And that's the problem he has, that one of the crises that he has is that he's always waiting for words to come to him, he's always waiting for Beatrice to say hello to him, there is a way in which he casts himself as the passive, a passive protagonist, weak-willed, unable, believing that the will can direct him wherever the will wants and that's another problem that we are really going to talk about.
Then, finally he understands that he better get out of that mode, and in effect, and I will say this by making you turn, just talking about the formal structure now, the whole text is written in the past mode, the whole text in that part of the book of memory; a commemoration of a great event in the private life of Dante, the love which he doesn't even know what it is, he doesn't even know the woman, he doesn't even know what the passion is and part of what the tension of this text is, to ponder what it is that the passion means and what it is that it's doing to him and to his mind.
But by the end of the--in Chapter XLII, which by the way, let it be said in passing, its division in numbers is completely arbitrary. We don't know, that's not the way books were written, codices were written in Dante's time, it was a continuous -- to say page something, page something, people really believe, but the modern editors have made it controversially into XLII, so this should be XXX, and I agree with that. Let me read the last passage, the last paragraph which is not poetry now, ends with prose.
With a voice of reflection prose functions as the work of reflections on the lyrical inspirations, on the immediacy of the lyrical voice, so that's the double voice. I'm an editor and I'm a poet at the same time; sometimes the editing, the notes that he writes, say nothing about the poem. They try to--sometimes he goes on into formal mechanical description about love, this sonnet is divided into two parts, that doesn't really add much to the inner life, to our understanding of the inner life of the protagonist.
He decides that he has to go and meet her, that's the last vision. I need to do more research and find out what I really can say about this woman. So he will stop. That's what I call an unfinished, an inevitably unfinished narrative.
Accordingly, if it be the pleasure of Him through whom all things live that my life continue for a few more years, I hope to write of her that which has never been written before of any other woman. And that it may please the One who is the Lord of graciousness that my soul ascend to behold the glory of its lady, that is, of that blessed Beatrice who in glory contemplates the countenance of the One qui est per omnia secula benedictus" -- and to all times blessed, and ends with a pun on, again, on Beatrice.
What is the most important--to me the most important point of this paragraph, the intrusion of the verb of the future. The only time you find it in the narrative, "I hope.
Richard Kay, "Dante's Swift and Strong: Essays on Inferno XV" (Book Review) We have misread the canto by taking Virgil's reference to Sodom (Inferno XI. higtesolachild.cf: Dante's Swift and Strong: Essays on Inferno XV (): Richard Kay: Books.
This is the preamble to something more which I cannot really contain, so memory is abandoned, the work ends with an image, and within the horizon of the future. This is really very important. The limitations of memory are--can be understood only from this point of view because hope, as you know, when you think of hope, hope grammatically--this is what is the future. He says I hope to write, there's no future there, I hope that's the present.
But hope grammatically is a verb, those of you who have studied a little bit of Latin, remember, always take the future participle. I hope that I will do this; I hope I would have done this; it doesn't work. I wished I had done that, but so it takes all--it's a verb of the future.
It is literally also in substantial terms, it's a virtue. This is a--to say "I hope" is a theological virtue, hope which always implies the future. It says that the past is not really over and done with because once you include, or you intrude the category of hope, you really believe you can change the meaning of the past. That things may be happening that whereby all your past errors, all your past mistakes can be seen and will be seen in a new life, so much then for this question of destruction. I repeat, we have prose and poetry, we have the voice of the lover, and we have the voice of the editor, we have a text of memory that at the same time turns against itself, points out the limitations of memory, and opens to the future through hope, and you have this idea that something amazing is going to happen.
Something that, though nothing concrete is being given, everything will take place within the self. It's the moment where Dante abandons Augustine. We began by saying, I began by saying that the mode, the rhetorical mode that Dante really follows is Augustine's Confessions which is a text of retrospection and ends with a commentary of Genesis, Dante ends with what we call a prolepsis, a weird word that's not so weird, but all that means, a projection to the future; autobiography has this kind of future dimension and cannot be contained.
In other words, it's not over and done with. The mode which, just to make this really intelligible to you, the kind of text that is most like what Dante has written in the Vita nuova is really Joyce who writes The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. That's the way you can really--if you cannot have a conversion, if you cannot die as Augustine says you have to do when you write, write an autobiography, in order to come back as a new man and be able to write your life story and find out the meaning of your life, then what you can do is write about yourself with a kind of temporal distance that is brought by time.
I'm no longer the young man I used to be, but I do know those passions. I remove myself from them in exactly the same way Joyce does it with The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man which ends with the projection of going to the--descending into the smithy of this whole and writing, and then forge the epic of the future.
That's really the--it ends with a project for the future so this is a kind of a mode of autobiographical writing that Dante really prepares and puts forth. What happens in this text, so much for the--this--you--by the way you can stop me at any point as I'm talking if you want me to clarify things or we can leave a little bit at the end. What happens in the text? It's a love story. It's a love story of a young man who meets, at the age of nine, meets a young woman who is roughly the same age, he says she's in her ninth year, doesn't even know who she is but feels a kind of bliss. Then he sees her again nine years later, so we know that there is a kind of numerical symbolism running through.
The number for Beatrice is three, , a Trinitarian number, she comes-- she reappears and is convinced that this is going to be the love of his life, but he doesn't even know what love is. He does not know what love is, what he does know at the beginning, and this is what part of the whole--the economy of this narrative really focuses on trying to ponder what love may be.
The culture of the Middle Ages is filled with literature of love. This could be viewed as one of the many love books of the Middle Ages, and in case some of you may be looking already for a topic for your paper, you could write about the love books of the Middle Ages. What are the other love books, the famous love books of the Middle Ages, which are completely different from the love books of the Middle Ages coming before.