James Burge

The Skill of the Showman

Dante: The Poet, the Political Thinker, the Man

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Underlying Barbara Reynolds’s book is a big idea: that Dante’s Divina commedia was written with the intention of entertaining an audience. To some readers this may seem blindingly obvious – why else would someone write the fictional story of one man’s journey across the universe? But in the context of a book about Dante it is a refreshing observation. Entertainment is frequently the first casualty of scholarship and, to read many books about him, you would think that his great work was either a textbook on philosophy in the late Middle Ages or well-intentioned political observation wrapped up in arcane code (it does, of course, contain elements of both these things, but then that is genius for you). 

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