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The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the Divine Comedy

4.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226702698
ISBN-10: 0226702693
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“In no sense is this just another Cliffs Notes approach to Dante. In my view, this guide to Dante’s poetry is clearly the very best single book available for any student or interested general reader. The commentary and structure of the guide constitute a very impressive work of scholarship in that it admirably fulfills its goal of presenting Dante’s poem in all of its complexity without reductionism. Raffa has managed to hit exactly the right balance between providing information to readers and challenging them to use sources and Dante scholarship to come to grips with the meaning of the poem.”

(Peter Bondanella, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, Film Studies, and Italian, Indiana University 2008-12-04)

Danteworlds—the book and the website—makes the Comedy’s universal message accessible and meaningful to all readers. In his superbly written and always engaging presentation of the three realms of the afterlife Guy Raffa displays the rare ability to see, as it were, both the forest and the trees, capturing the grand outlines and shape of Dante’s poem as well as identifying and providing incisive commentary on its myriad components—people, places, events, themes. Not only will first-time readers of the Comedy appreciate Raffa’s meticulous overview, but seasoned scholars will also profit from his many critical insights. Danteworlds will have a major impact on the ways we read, teach, and study the Comedy.”

(Christopher Kleinhenz, Carol Mason Kirk Professor Emeritus of Italian, University of Wisconsin-Madison 2009-01-06)

"This useful study guide, aimed at the student or non-specialist reader, provides a detailed canto-by-canto summary of the Divine Comedy, together with explanations of the many literary, mythological, historical, and political allusions throughout the poem."
(Medium Aevum)

 “Raffa’s volume, whose apt title captures the panoramic nature of his enterprise, makes comprehensible the nexus between the topographical journey undertaken by the poem’s protagonist. . . . At the same time, Raffa does not ignore the poet’s sources, and the overview of precursorial visions of the afterlife provided at the commencement of the volume help to elucidate the original features of the Comedy’s conceptual framework. . . . Under the author’s skillful guidance, the world of Dante’s creative output is lucidly explored and engagingly presented.”
(Forum Italicum)

About the Author

Guy P. Raffa is associate professor of Italian at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Danteworlds: A Reader’s Guide to the Inferno, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (May 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226702693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226702698
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,319,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dante Alghieri's Divine Comedy is one of the great classics of world literature, and a personal favorite of mine. Unfortunately, unless the reader is familiar with the Bible, Christian theology, classical mythology, and medieval Italian politics, he is going to miss many of the allusions in this great poem. Of course, it is possible to enjoy reading the Divine Comedy without knowing very much about all the people Dante encounters but it is so much better if you have a guide with you, as Dante had Virgil.
The Complete DanteWorlds by Guy P. Raffa is the perfect guide to the Divine Comedy. In this adaptation of his website, Raffa takes the reader through each section of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, explaining who every person or creature Dante encounters is and every allusion made in his poem. He clarifies some of the more obscure points in the poem and generally greatly enriches the experience of reading Dante. Don't go to Hell without it!
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This is a terrific, thought provoking guide through Dante's masterwork of poetry the Divine Comedy. Fortunate to grow up in northern Italy, I loved reading Purgatory and Hell in high school advanced Italian class and learning about the lyrical nuances and devises Dante used in this political poem. Nonetheless, Raffa's guide develops far greater flavor and understanding of the time, people, politics and history that was part of 13th Century Florence. As distant readers, we can really begin to understand his scandalous but witty depictions. We wonder how Dante managed only to be exiled and not roasted like our friend Giordano Bruno; or how Hell, Purgatory and Heaven managed to escape all who wished to obliterate the text. This is a must own for any would be scholar of Dante and of anyone who wishes to discover or rediscover the beauty of Dante's mind and speech. University of Chicago Press and Guy Raffa have brought us a wonderful examination that could not have been imagined before the age of computers. I happily anticipate other literary treasures the information age and scholars in love with their subjects will provide. And I look fondly to rereading Raffa's The Complete Danteworlds side by side the original text.
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Two years ago, I thought it high time to undertake Dante's Commedia. Having a doctorate in philosophy, and more recently having steeped myself in Classical Literature and Mythology, I was still insufficiently girded to proceed beyond the first few Cantos.
Flipping through critical books on the library's shelves, I encountered Raffa's book along with two others and headed home. Within days, it was immediately apparent that THIS was THE book I myself needed to catapult myself over whatever obstacles which I had perceived there to be. Indeed I purchased a copy through Amazon of which I made photocopies of a few pages for a young student. Next I purchased for him his own copy.
At the same time,I had ordered another book by a notable and widely respected academic company; it was a compilation of essays about Dante, his life, his time, his sources and his legacy. Raffa's book, however, rendered Dante accessible for the beginning student. I recommend it highly.

R. A. Sheehan, Ph.D.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Liked this book because it delivered on its promise to provide context and perspective for The Divine Comedy to a Dante novice.
I would recommend.
Each level was discussed separately with a summary provided, details about the individuals met, their backgrounds and the allusions used
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Guy Raffa’s The Complete Danteworlds is an excellent entry text for coming to terms with the forbidding world of Medieval Florentine/Italian history and politics as well as an excellent book for explaining Dante’s Divine Comedy.

It appears to have been written with educators, high school teachers at least, in mind, for at the end of each chapter there are a list of study questions.

The writing is clear but occasionally condescending—there are several instance in which Mr. Raffa speaks down to the reader by offering information on biblical references that anyone with a passing acquaintance of Western intellectual history would have, or could easily look up. For this reason this book has lost one star in its rating. There may, of course, be those who miss these references but how could they be interested in Dante? Personal opinion, but, really, how can you be interested in the Divine Comedy without at least an intellectual interest in religion?

Excepting the above, mild, criticism this is an excellent work and a very good entry point for any reader interested in digging deeper into Dante than the text.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Expanding this U. of Texas, Austin, professor's web project, this commentary seeks to expand the shorter notes appended to translations of the Commedia with a standalone volume able to supplement a reader's encounter with the considerable amount of erudition needed to comprehend the epic. Combining cross-referenced encounters with characters as they appear (and then may reappear or be mentioned again) and allusions to the formidable themes from classical and Christian learning Dante amasses and incorporates into his narrative, this guide also adds significant verses with Raffa's own translation, and helpful study questions that might spark class discussion or stimulate essay topics.

Raffa adds not only paraphrase and definitions. He integrates early commentaries on the poem and a context from previous medieval otherworldly visions. This enriches for readers a sense of how previous readers regarded Dante's use of tropes. It also shows how he managed to distinguish his poem from its time and place, and how he used his own genius to further perfect his 100 cantos.

The amount of data can overwhelm, so Raffa makes sure to try to balance the necessary information with a consistent pace, sometimes slowing down to take in perplexing issues such as Beatrice's explanation for moon spots in the Paradiso. Many readers focus on the earlier segments, so while the Inferno gains many translations and guidebooks (note Raffa published his own book for part one separately), the Purgatorio gets less attention as readership falls away, and often Paradiso less assistance for modern audiences still. So, awareness of the "poetics of failure" as the poet writes verse even as he laments his inability to convey the wonders of heaven, helps.
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