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Binding the Book: Hermeneutics and Manuscript Production in Paradiso 33

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020

John Ahern*
Affiliation:
Stanford University, Stanford, California

Abstract

Twice in the Comedy's last canto Dante refers to the binding of texts. The Sibyl's “light leaves” (lines 64-66) point to the danger of not binding texts: when the order of pages is lost, the text s meaning (sentenza) also vanishes. Medieval thinkers distinguished between the sequential perception (sensus) and the simultaneous perception (sententia) of a poem s elements. Because Dante released the poem in fascicles over a period of ten or more years, he needed to remind the reader in the last fascicle to bind the pages into a single volume. The final book image (85-90) indirectly performs this task. Appearing at the moment when the reader is at last able to pass from the poem s sensus to its sententia, these lines employ book binding as a metaphor for the perception of the text in its entirety. Their unusually polysemous language implies a triple analogy. God, poet, and reader are all artificers of a heavenly volume.

Type
Research Article
Information
PMLA , Volume 97 , Issue 5 , October 1982 , pp. 800 - 809
Copyright
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 1952

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