& REVIEWS NOTES
Dante Alighieri, Rime, a cura di Domenico De Robertis, voll. 5 (“I documenti”, voll. I-II, pp. IX-LX, 431; 435-991; “Introduzione”, voll. III-IV , pp. 9-722, 723-1237; V,
“Testi”, pp. 9-595), Firenze, Casa Editrice Le Lettere, 2002.
Credo di essere un privilegiato per avere sullo scrittoio, ricevuti in omaggio, i cinque volumi delle Rime di Dante curate da Domenico De Robertis: mi ritengo tale perché questa monumentale opera vient de paraître (è stata pubblicata alla fine di giugno) e forse
è appena arrivata in libreria, per cui sento il dovere di segnalarla a tutti i dantisti e agli italianisti in generale, assidui lettori degli Annali d‟Italianistica. Dico ―segnalare‖ e non
―recensire‖ perché lascio questo compito a chi ha maggiori compentenze per farlo, e se
anche le avessi non ci sarebbe materialmente il tempo di esaminare le 2800 e più pagine complessive di questi volumi, pagine in cui, se ne può essere certi, non v‘è una riga superflua.
Grandi erano le aspettative, perché la meritoria edizione di Barbi, poi l‘aggiornamento di Pernicone e in seguito l‘edizione di Contini, impegnata sul versante del commento e non su quello ecdotico, avevano fatto il loro tempo: anche in filologia il tempo passa per erodere, benché sembri procedere con maggior lentezza che per altri lavori umani. E l‘attesa è venuta crescendo per circa mezzo secolo, cioè fin da quando nel 1957 Domenico De Robertis ebbe l‘incarico dalla Società Dantesca di censire i manoscritti delle rime dantesche in vista di un‘edizione, e specialmente da quando
cominciò ad annunciare i primi risultati di questo immenso lavoro nel Censimento dei
manoscritti delle rime di Dante, pubblicato negli ―Studi Danteschi‖ tra il 1960 e il 1970. Imprese del genere hanno elementi da ―scommessa‖, non solo per dominare una materia
così vasta e complessa ma anche per vivere il tempo necessario per portarle a termine, e purtroppo non è facile fare piani di longevità. Il curatore ha avuto la buona fortuna di vincere entrambe le difficoltà, e con quest‘opera ci invita a partecipare di essa.
I primi due volumi offrono il regesto e la descrizione dei manoscritti e delle stampe fino alla ristampa della Giuntina del 1532. Il primo volume de ―I documenti‖ copre le sedi Austin-Firenze (Collezione del Marchese Paolo Ginori Venturi Lisci); e il secondo volume le sedi Genova-Wien. Segue una sezione dedicata ai manoscritti perduti o irreperibili, e quindi la sezione per le stampe. Chiudono il volume gli indici, curati da Giuseppe Marrani: indici dei nomi e delle opere anonime, dei copisti, e delle rime non dantesche, dei manoscritti non descritti, e infine delle rime di Dante e dei suoi corrispondenti ―secondo l‘ordine di Dante ‘21‖ (ossia del testo critico pubblicato dalla Società Dantesca nel 1921). Inutile dire che la completezza del censimento e la descrizione dei manoscritti costituisce uno strumento di lavoro fondamentale per chi si occupa della poesia del Due e del Trecento, e sarà decisamente il lavoro più affidabile venendo da uno studioso unanimemente ritenuto il massimo esperto in materia.
Il secondo volume in due tomi costituisce la ―Introduzione‖ in cui viene esaminata la tradizione dei testi. Il primo tomo contiene un solo capitolo dal titolo ―La grande tradizione‖, in cui si stabiliscono i rapporti genetici e di parentela tra i manoscritti in
famiglie e delle famiglie tra di loro. È il lavoro più delicato dell‘ecdotica sul quale poi si Annali d‟italianistica 20 (2002)
460 Annali d‟italianistica 20 (2002)
costruisce l‘edizione. Il secondo tomo contiene otto capitoli: II) ―le canzoni del ‗Convivio‘‖ ; III) ―Le rime sparse‖; IV) ―La tradizione estravagante delle rime della ‗Vita Nova‘‖; V) ―Problemi di attribuzione: certezze, accertamenti, dubbi‖; VI) ―La tradizione editoriale‖; VII) ―L‘ordinamento delle rime‖; VIII) ―Criteri generali d‘edizione e veste formale‖; IX) ―I codici descritti‖. Si tratta della parte più importante di tutta l‘opera perché l‘edizione dipende dalle conclusioni raggiunte in questa sede. De Robertis non costruisce alcuno stemma, essendo impossibile mettere sullo stesso piano tradizioni unitarie così diverse come quella della Vita nova e del Convivio rispetto a quello delle
Rime; ciò non significa che l‘edizione di ogni componimento non sia ―critica‖.
Il terzo volume è dedicato all‘edizione. Intanto l‘ordine dei componimenti è quello discusso nel cap. VII dell‘Introduzione, ed è diverso da quello proposto da altri editori. Ogni componimento ha una premessa filologica e gli apparati, pur essendo ―strettamente negativi‖, sono di facile consultazione. Non sono pochi i componimenti ―restituiti a Dante‖, a cominciare dalla canzone ―Aï faus ris‖. Manca il commento propriamente letterario, ma a prepararlo attende lo stesso De Robertis: lo attendiamo.
Una recensore impegnato troverà illuminazioni, conferme e potrà anche dissentire su qualche decisione, come accade per tutti i lavori di questa mole e che più si avvicinano alla perfezione; ma è sicuro che da questo lavoro nessuno potrà prescindere. Il tempo dirà, ma per il momento si ha l‘impressione d‘avere sul tavolo di lavoro un‘opera di importanza epocale per gli studi danteschi. Per questo gli Annali d‟Italianistica hanno
voluto segnalarlo tempestivamente.
Paolo Cherchi, University of Chicago
Dante and His Translators: Dante Alighieri, Inferno, translated by Robert
Hollander and Jean Hollander; introduction and notes by Robert Hollander, New York: Doubleday, 2000, pp. 634.
Not one single year goes by, or so it seems, without the publication of a new English translation of one of Dante‘s works. Let us just make very brief references to some of the translations of the so-called minor works of Dante: Dante‘s lyrics poems (Joseph Tusiani, Brooklyn: LEGAS, 1992; 2000); the translation of Dante‘s Vita nuova with facing Italian
text (Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 1995); the two translations of Monarchia (Prue
Shaw, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995; Richard Kay, Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1998); and the Fiore (Christopher Kleinhenz and Santa Casciani,
Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 2000).
As far as the Comedy is concerned, counting only what I have in my personal library, I can list the following: 1993, Dante‟s Inferno: Translations by Twenty Contemporary
Poets (Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press), with notes (169-99) but no Italian text; 1994, The
Inferno of Dante, A Verse Translation by Robert Pinsky, illustrated by Michael Mazur,
with Notes by Nicole Pinsky (377-427), foreword by John Freccero (xi-xix; New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux), with facing Italian text; 1996, The Divine Comedy of Dante
Alighieri, vol. 1, Inferno (New York: Oxford UP), edited and translated by Robert M.
Durling, notes by Ronald L. Martinez and Robert M. Durling (a massive volume of 654 pages); 2000, Purgatorio, a new verse translation by W. S. Merwin (New York: Knopf), with facing Italian text and notes (333-59). Finally, at the conclusion of the second
Annali d‟italianistica 20 (2002) 461
millennium of the Christian era, there appears Robert and Jean Hollander‘s new translation of Dante‘s Inferno, with an introduction, facing Italian text, and notes.
One can easily understand the motivations that prompt recognized poets such as Pinsky and Merwin to put themselves to the test in rendering in English what Kenneth Clark called humankind‘s greatest philosophical poem and what has become the greatest best-seller ever right after the Bible. At the same time, one cannot help but ask what reasons might prompt accomplished Dante scholars not only to provide a commentary to the Comedy, which is obviously the scholar‘s task, but to embark on a journey as perilous as that of rendering in English Dante‘s Comedy, which — let us not forget — has been
called Divine for longer than four centuries (by Ludovico Dolce in 1555), thus making its translation in any language, as it were, rank among one of the many human impossibilia.
Unquestionably, what spurs poets and scholars to confront themselves with Dante‘s
Comedy is neither hubris nor humility but rather their devotion to and their love for the great poet. And to all such poets and scholars all readers are much indebted.
The genesis of the new translation, with commentary, by Robert and Jean Hollander is sufficiently described at the book‘s beginning (―Note on the Translation‖ vii-ix).
Making their own what Montaigne says of his Essays, the two translators state: ―Reader,
this is an honest book‖ (vii). Such straightforwardness is so unusual and striking that the
readers who are not immediately won over by it may be at least disarmed by whatever prejudices they might have at first. The readers‘ benevolence is further conquered by the additional disclaimers that follow: ―This is not Dante, but an approximation [...]‖; ―Every translation begins and ends with failure‖ (vii); and finally, at the conclusion of the ―Note‖: ―It is our hope that the reader will find this translation a helpful image to the untranslatable magnificence of Dante‘s poem‖ (ix). In brief, the translation is viewed as a means to approach Dante himself in the Italian text, available to the reader next to the English version.
The two translators‘ ―Note‖ provides further information worth the readers‘ attention: ―The accuracy of the translation from the Italian text established by Giorgio Petrocchi [...] has been primarily my [Robert Hollander‘s] responsibility, its sound as English verse primarily that of the poet Jean Hollander [...]‖ (vii). That the two translators view their translation as poetry, in fact, is reiterated shortly below in the same introduction (―a new verse translation‖ vii); the same epithet (―A verse translation‖) also appears on the volume‘s dust jacket, although it does not appear as part of the book‘s title.
Further comments in the ―Note‖ emphasize the introductory statement concerning the book‘s honesty. Thus credit is given to several Italian commentaries, especially that of Francesco Mazzoni and Bosco/Reggio, to the paraphrases provided by H. E. Tozer (1901), and to an earlier translation begun by Patrick Creagh and Robert Hollander. Moreover, the Hollanders profess their debt not only to Singleton‘s but also to Sinclair‘s translation (New York: Oxford UP, 1939). Such a straightforward avowal cannot but be much appreciated; at the same time, the two translators take it upon themselves to make Singleton recognize what he failed to do in his translation of the Comedy, as we read at
the end of the first volume of Singleton‘s six-volume translation and commentary: ―[...] I
have constantly kept before me a considerable number of other English translations [...]. I have incurred a great debt which, regretfully, cannot be acknowledged in any detail‖ (Inferno 1, ―Note‖ 372). What no honest teacher and no honest scholar would consider
permissible — namely, consulting and borrowing without quoting — Singleton thought
he could do, and in fact he did without being faulted by his few reviewers. (E.g.: Morton
462 Annali d‟italianistica 20 (2002)
W. Bloomfield, Speculum 48 : 127-29; Speculum 51 : 116; Speculum 52
: 644-45; also: C. B. Beall, Comparative Literature 28 (1976): 164-65.)
Strengthened by a temporal perspective, a review essay of Singleton‘s six-volume Divine
Comedy appeared in Annali d‟italianistica 8 : 104-14, penned by Rocco Montano,
who, among many other comments, reflects negatively on Singleton‘s prose rendering of Dante‘s masterpiece: ―[...] una prosa preoccupata della fedeltà ma del tutto incurante di rendere le sfumature formali, ritmiche, le variazioni del linguaggio, che pur fanno parte della poesia di un‘opera [...]‖ 105.)
What is surprising and also refreshing, therefore, is that the Hollanders state categorically Singleton‘s debt to Sinclair‘s translation, although Singleton never acknowledges any of the borrowings he admits to in general terms. The Hollanders write: ―To his [Singleton‘s] credit, his changes [of Sinclair‘s translation] are usually for the better; to his blame is his failure to acknowledge the frequency of his exact coincidence with Sinclair‖ (viii). The paragraph concludes with a forceful statement: ―Let there be no mistake: the reason our translation seems to reflect Singleton‘s, to the extent that it does, is that ours, on occasion, and Singleton‘s, almost always, are both deeply indebted to
Before verifying Singleton‘s and the Hollanders‘ debt to Sinclair, one might find it worthwhile trying to determine whether Sinclair, whose translation appeared in 1939, is indebted to any of his many predecessors. The fact is that Sinclair recognizes his ―indebtedness to the commentaries‖ of many Italian, American, and British scholars, including the Temple editors (Sinclair‘s 1977 reprint, Inferno, ―Preface‖ 11-12); as to his
translation, however, although he acknowledges borrowing ―an occasional phrase from
one or other‖ of his predecessors (Inferno, ―Preface‖ 9), Sinclair singles out none, thus
giving the impression that he hardly owes any debt to anyone, and regrettably proposing the same strategy of concealment to be followed a few decades later by Singleton.
And yet, Sinclair‘s indebtedness to the previous translators of Dante has already been recognized and outlined by scholars, primarily Gilbert F. Cunningham. In his two-volume study titled The Divine Comedy in English: A Critical Bibliography, vol. 1, 1782-
1900; vol. 2, 1901-1966 (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1965 and 1967), Cunningham
establishes Sinclair‘s debt to (just to name a few of Dante‘s prose translators) Charles Eliot Norton (―Sinclair‘s version is nearer to Norton‘s [1891-92] than to any other [...]‖
2:164) and the Temple Classics‘ translators (2:166). At the same time, Cunningham reminds us that Norton himself ―praises the prose versions of Carlyle, Dugdale [Purgatorio 1883], and Butler [Purg.1880; Par. 1891; Inf. 1892], and acknowledges his
indebtedness to the latter [...]‖ (1:160). Thus, as far as the Inferno translation is concerned,
the ancestral lineage links, in very broad lines, Singleton not only to Sinclair but also to Norton, Dugdale, Butler, and ultimately to John Aitken Carlyle (1801-1879), the younger brother of Thomas Carlyle. J. A. Carlyle‘s translation first appeared in 1849 and then in 1867 with some revisions and corrections (Cunningham 1:56); finally, with ―less than a hundred changes‖ by H. Oelsner, Carlyle‘s translation ―now forms the first volume of the Temple Classics edition [first appeared in 1900] of the Divine Comedy‖ (Cunningham 1:51). Cunningham‘s concluding lines on J. A. Carlyle‘s translation should be etched in stone: ―Like Cary [Inf. 1805-07; The Vision 1814] and Longfellow , Carlyle has
earned the right to have his name permanently linked with that of Dante among the English-speaking peoples‖ (1:51).
Annali d‟italianistica 20 (2002) 463
This same very illustrious ancestry, whether acknowledged or unacknowledged, can thus be claimed, at least to a certain extent, by Robert and Jean Hollander‘s translation of the Inferno. The following quotation of the beginning of the Inferno (1:1-9) will help the
reader understand the extent to which four translators, spanning two centuries, are inextricably linked together.
In the middle of the journey of our life I came / to myself in a dark wood where the straight / way was lost.
Ah! How hard a thing it is to tell what a wild,/ and rough, and stubborn wood this was, which / in my thought renews the fear!
So bitter is it, that scarcely more is death: but / to treat of the good that I there found, I will / relate the other things that I discerned./
[In the above quotation, the slash indicates the end of the line, which equals the width of the page; in Carlyle‘s translation available in the Temple Classics, each terzina,
but not each verse, starts a new paragraph.]
In the middle of the journey of our life I came / to myself within a dark wood where the straight / way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell of / that wood, savage and harsh and dense, the thought / of which renews my fear! So bitter is it that death / is hardly more. But to give account of the good / which I found there I will tell of the other things / I noted there./
[Sinclair marks a new paragraph, indenting the text, only two or three times per page; the above slashes indicate the end of the line, which equals the width of the page in Sinclair‘s
prose rendering. These same comments apply also to Singleton‘s prose translation.]
Midway in the journey of our life I found / myself in a dark wood, for the straight way / was lost. Ah, how hard it is to tell what that wood was, wild, rugged, harsh; the very / thought of it renews the fear! It is so bitter / that death is hardly more so. But, to treat of / the good that I found in it, I will tell of the / other things I saw there./
[The term ―midway‖ appears in Cary‘s translation — ―In the midway of this our
mortal life‖ — and also in Longfellow‘s: ―Midway upon the journey of our life.‖]
Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.
Ah, how hard it is to tell
the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh —
the very thought of it renews my fear!
It is so bitter death is hardly more so.
But to set forth the good I found
I will recount the other things I saw.
What can be briefly said about these four translations is that, once their authors decide to pursue accuracy and readability above any other characteristic — and such was,
according to Cunningham, the goal of Carlyle (1:47), Butler (1:148-52), Norton (1:160),
464 Annali d‟italianistica 20 (2002)
and Sinclair (2:166) —, then the translation is, as Singleton rightly points out, ―doomed to display a coincidence of phraseology with other translations at every turn, and it would be a mistake to seek to avoid this and try to make one‘s effort strictly ‗original‘‖ (The
Divine Comedy, trans. with a comm. by Charles S. Singleton, Inferno, vol. 1, Italian Text
and Translation, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1970, ―Note‖ 372).
Thus, unavoidably linked to such an illustrious translators‘ lineage, the Hollanders‘ ―verse translation‖ can lay claim to accuracy as well readability. At the same time, the two translators, by linking their work to at least two of the prose translations mentioned above — Singleton‘s and Sinclair‘s — seem to invite the readers to ask a question for
which I have been unable to find an answer in their volume, namely: How can the Hollanders‘ rendering of the Inferno be called ―a verse translation‖ while at the same
time pursuing not only ―maximum readability with complete fidelity‖ (dust jacket) but also a direct connection with two prose translations? Among recent translators of the Inferno in verse, Robert Pinsky, for instance, premises his work with a ―Translator‘s Note‖ in which he lays down the principles of his poetic rendering (xxi-xxiv). Other
fairly recent translators — e.g., Mark Musa, Allen Mandelbaum, and even the twenty
contemporary poets of Dante‟s Inferno of the Ecco Press — offer some guidelines as to
what kind of verse the reader might expect. Since the Hollanders‘ translation is not terza
rima, any modified rhyme scheme thereof (Pinsky), or blank verse (Musa; Mandelbaum), it is perhaps free verse. I, for one, would have certainly welcomed some explanations about the kind of verse the Hollanders employ or the poetic principles at work in their translation.
And yet, although the two translators have not sought, regrettably, to shed any light on the poetic principles concerning the art of translation they have pursued, their ―new verse translation‖ lays claim to another merit that furthers that of fidelity; namely, it is a line-by-line rendering of Dante‘s poem. Here I must add that the Hollanders‘ decision to
provide a line-by-line rendering makes their translation far preferable, both poetically and visually, to that of Singleton and Sinclair, whose prose renderings fill so densely each inch of their pages as if they sought to exorcize totally Dante‘s poeticality from the
unaware reader‘s mind. I would also like to add that the Hollanders‘ decision to render Dante‘s terzina line by line is also preferable, at least in this reviewer‘s mind, to Robert M. Durling‘s prose translation of the Inferno, which, while beginning a new paragraph
for each terzina, does not do so at each line of Dante‘s original. At the same time, Durling‘s decision to start a new paragraph at each new terzina is preferable to
Singleton‘s and Sinclair‘s prose translations, which typically contain no more than three
spatial and visual breaks per page.
The reference to Durling‘s translation of the Inferno is of paramount importance
because the accompanying commentary (penned by Martinez and Durling) cannot but constitute a term of comparison for that of Robert Hollander, just as Singleton‘s is for these two recent volumes.
With the publication of so many commentaries in English in the 1970s (Singleton), in the 1980s (Mark Musa, whose work in part appeared in the 1970s and now replaces the venerable Dorothy Sayers‘s terza rima translation in the Penguin Series; Allen
Mandelbaum), and finally in the 1990s (Durling/Martinez; Hollander), English-speaking people have at their disposal a wealth of information that by far surpasses what is available to the French and German readers and that, in fact, compares well to the countless commentaries available to the Italian public. The commentaries to Dante‘s
Annali d‟italianistica 20 (2002) 465
Comedy listed immediately above, despite their differences in approach, are all highly commendable and informative, whether the first-time reader of Dante relies exclusively on a single commentary or the veteran and consummate scholar consults several or all of them. The attributes of the commentaries by Singleton and Musa, because of the lapse of time since their first appearance, are well-known. Although Musa‘s glosses may strike us
at times as subjective, they are far less so than those of the Dorothy Sayers‘s Penguin edition that Musa‘s volumes have replaced. (To Musa‘s merit, his blank-verse translation
is also arranged in triplets, which read smoothly and also commend themselves for their originality.) In contrast to Musa‘s, Singleton‘s three-volume commentary is striking, on
the one hand, for its lack of aesthetic and hermeneutical interpretations of the text, and, on the other, for the wealth of information, including countless quotations of primary sources, that provide the reader with the essential historical, textual, philosophical, and also theological elements needed to the text‘s proper understanding. The fact that the
information provided by Singleton is by and large already available in Italian commentaries, either through bibliographic references or direct quotations of primary sources (e.g., Scartazzini-Vandelli) hardly detracts from the usefulness of the information he provides in his commentary. In spite of, or precisely because of, its brevity, Mandelbaum‘s glosses, written in collaboration with several Dante scholars, are always extremely useful and in most instances very satisfactory for either classroom use with undergraduate students or the first-time reader of the Comedy.
The two commentaries that have appeared in the second half of the 1990s — i.e.,
Martinez/Durling‘s and Hollander‘s — belong, however, in a totally different category.
While providing much of the background information already available in Singleton‘s commentary, the extensive glosses penned by Martinez/Durling (further enhanced by ―Additional Notes‖ 551-83) and by Robert Hollander fill the interpretive and exegetical gaps present in Singleton‘s commentary. Both commentaries, in fact, seek to go beyond the positivistic nature of Singleton‘s work, and both offer, put simply, much food for thought, drawn from their authors‘ vast knowledge of American and European Dante
scholarship, which they have tested over several decades of classroom teaching and personal research.
Also, both Robert Hollander and Martinez/Durling ought to be praised for their humility in introducing their commentaries. The two latter scholars very modestly present their commentary as a tool for ―readers approaching the poem for the first time‖ (vi), while Robert Hollander also seems to have in mind ―any first-time reader of the poem, or
any reader at all‖ (xxii). And yet, readers, beware: These two volumes constitute a first-
rate commentary comparable or even superior to most Italian commentaries, whose intended audience consists typically of high-school students (liceo, or equivalent
secondary schools). At the same time, although the authors of both commentaries rely, for their exegesis, on the centuries-old tradition of commentary commenced right after Dante‘s death, they are also very open to international and specifically North-American
Dante scholarship. Thus, just as Singleton‘s commentary can be commended for its
positivistic character and neutral information, but chided for its lack of textual hermeneutics, the abundant presence of textual hermeneutics in the two commentaries by Martinez/Durling and by Hollander guide and challenge the reader at the same time. Also, while both commentaries display an in-depth knowledge of the critical literature written in Italian (at times mediated via the six-volume Enciclopedia dantesca), secondary
sources in English seem to play a major role in the text‘s exegesis. And yet, readers
466 Annali d‟italianistica 20 (2002)
should not look for comprehensive bibliographies in either volumes: there are only 30 pages listing the secondary works cited in Hollander‘s notes (604-34) and only 16 pages
listing the ―Modern Works‖ quoted in the Martinez/Durling‘s commentary. Consequently,
exclusions of studies in either Italian or English, even of scholars who professed or profess in North America, are by necessity plentiful. For instance, although Hollander‘s bibliography lists several essays by Amilcare Iannucci, it does not contain the latter‘s
Forma ed evento nella Divina Commedia (Roma: Bulzoni, 1974), while the
Martinez/Durling‘s commentary lists no study whatsoever by the same Canadian Dante scholar. Again, Rocco Montano‘s Storia della poesia di Dante (Napoli: Quaderni di Delta,
1962) is listed by Hollander but not by Martinez-Durling; and finally, neither commentary mentions any of the Dante volumes and essays by Tibor Wlassics, Ricardo J. Quinones, and many others as well. Obviously, neither volume can be seriously faulted for these gaps in their bibliographies, apart from any considerations whether a more comprehensive use of the critical literature could have enhanced the commentators‘ exegesis. Suffice it to say, nevertheless, that these two North-American commentaries of Dante‘s Inferno provide the reader with more extensive commentaries and ampler
bibliographies than their Italian counterparts, e.g., the three-volume Divina commedia
edited by Umberto Bosco and Giovanni Reggio (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1988), referenced in both commentaries.
Finally, I would like briefly to discuss an issue that is central to the understanding of Dante‘s Comedy as a narrative, and that is also very much at the core of so much Dante criticism in Europe and America (e.g.: Teodolinda Barolini, The Undivine Comedy:
Detheologizing Dante, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992), and thus, also, of the Hollanders‘ work. Let me state the obvious: The first cantica narrates a story, to be continued in the
Purgatorio and finally concluded in the Paradiso. Divided into 34 cantos, this story‘s 34
beginnings, endings, and everything in between, because of their intrinsic nature and the work‘s manuscript character, continuously hark back and echo each other throughout the first cantica and beyond. In brief, Dante the author invites us to read his story as a narrative continuum, to be understood and pondered from beginning to end. By contrast, the Hollanders‘ Inferno (and so also that of Durling and Martinez, of Musa, and so many others, but not that of Mandelbaum and Singleton) forces the reader to stop, time and
again, 34 times. Thus, after reading Inferno 1, in Italian, English, or both (2-11), the
reader cannot continue sharing the Pilgrim‘s story narrated in Inferno 2 (22-31) without
first going through, or at least thumbing through, the eight-page commentary separating the two cantos (12-20), which are also preceded, like all the others, by a useful one-page ―Outline‖ (1; 21). One cannot but hope that the commentary, as extensive as the story
itself whose meaning it is called upon to elucidate, will not discourage the first-time reader it intends to serve.
In summary: Robert and Jean Hollander‘s new translation, with commentary, of Dante‘s Inferno (as well as that by Durling and Martinez) have much to be commended for, and both will be extremely useful not only to the first-time reader of Dante but also to the scholar. Both would have received this reviewer‘s full endorsement if their extensive commentaries had been printed at the end of the entire text of Dante‘s Inferno. As it is,
the Dantean story is regrettably slowed down by an otherwise highly commendable commentary, which, while explaining the Dantean text eminently well, time and again interrupts Dante‘s unified story, which symphonically plays out its music in the 34
closely and inextricably arranged cantos of the first cantica.
Annali d‟italianistica 20 (2002) 467
Dino S. Cervigni, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
468 Annali d‟italianistica 20 (2002)
Edited by Dino S. Cervigni and Anne Tordi with the collaboration of
Norma Bouchard, Paolo Cherchi, Gustavo Costa, Albert N. Mancini,
Massimo Maggiari, and John P. Welle.
Augusto Fraschetti (a cura di). Roman Women. Traduzione di Linda Lappin.
Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2001. Pp. 237.
Il volume è la traduzione dall‘originale ―Roma al femminile‖ (Bari: Laterza, 1994),
ultimo esponente di una collana dedicata alle biografie di celebri donne della storia, che comprende altri quattro saggi riguardanti rispettivamente il mondo greco, il Medioevo, il Rinascimento e il Barocco. Si tratta in tutti i casi di raccolte di vari contributi, precedute da un‘introduzione generale del curatore. Nel volume in esame, l‘intera storia di Roma, dalla repubblica al tardo impero, viene ripercorsa attraverso l‘attenta e minuziosa analisi di alcuni personaggi femminili di rilievo: la vestale Claudia, protagonista del prodigio legato alla traslazione della dea Cibele a Roma, la nobile Cornelia, madre dei Gracchi, Fulvia e Licoride, rispettivamente moglie legittima e concubina del celebre Marco Antonio, Livia, moglie dell‘imperatore Augusto, Perpetua, la cristiana che narrò il proprio martirio, Elena, madre dell‘imperatore Costantino, Ipazia, filosofa vittima dell‘intolleranza dei cristiani di Alessandria e infine Melania, la ricca matrona che volle
Nell‘ambito degli studi sulla storia delle donne in Occidente, con particolare riguardo al mondo antico, il volume di Fraschetti si pone con una nuova impostazione: non più generica indagine sulla condizione femminile nell‘antichità, ampiamente
indagata a partire dagli anni ‘70 sull‘onda del movimento femminista, ma tentativo di costruire una vera e propria ―prosopografia al femminile‖ secondo i metodi e i principi dell‘indagine storica attuale, liberando il campo dai pregiudizi e dagli elementi leggendari
che hanno accompagnato per secoli alcune celebri donne del passato.
L‘introduzione generale di Augusto Fraschetti, rinnovata rispetto a quella dell‘edizione italiana, rileva chiaramente le difficoltà di tale operazione e la stessa scelta
di donne celebri ne costituisce la conseguenza più evidente. Storicamente le donne furono sempre condannate al silenzio. Nel mondo romano, in particolare, era considerato sconveniente per una donna rispettabile essere oggetto di una notorietà che oltrepassasse le mura domestiche e il ricordo dei congiunti. Le centinaia di stele funerarie, le pitture, gli oggetti muliebri restituiti dagli scavi archeologici sono quasi sempre testimonianze mute di vite per noi irrimediabilmente perdute. Attraverso fonti archeologiche e letterarie, di queste donne possiamo soltanto ricostruire la giornata-tipo, dedicata all‘assolvimento di
mansioni domestiche, o tuttalpiù l‘articolarsi delle varie fasi della vita, col passaggio dallo status di puella a quello di uxor e di matrona. Si avverte ovviamente l‘estrema
genericità di queste nozioni. Di singole donne romane e delle loro vicende biografiche si parlò esclusivamente nella misura in cui la loro vita si legò a quella di uomini celebri dell‘antichità, sorte che, soprattutto nell‘età più antica, toccava a ricche esponenti dell‘aristocrazia. Tuttavia, anche in questo caso, per le prime fasi della repubblica, più che con vere e proprie biografie, ci dobbiamo confrontare con degli exempla, con figure
paradigmatiche, divenute simboli viventi di virtù femminili. È questo il caso di Claudia,