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Dante's New Life of the Book

A Philology of World Literature

Martin Eisner

Publication Date - May 2021

ISBN: 9780198869641

288 pages
8.0 x 5.3 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $25.00


Dante's Vita nuova has taken on a wide variety of different forms since its first publication in 1294. How could one work have generated such different physical forms? Through examining the work's transformations in manuscripts, printed books, translations, and adaptations, Eisner reconceives of the relationship between the work and its reception. Dante's New Life of the Book investigates how these different material manifestations participate in the work, drawing attention to its distinctive elements. Dante framed his book as an attempt to understand his own experiences through the experimental form of the book, and later scribes, editors, and translators use different material forms to embody their interpretations of Dante's collection of thirty-one poems surrounded by prose narrative and commentary. Traveling from Boccaccio's Florence to contemporary Hollywood with stops in Emerson's Cambridge, Rossetti's London, Nerval's Paris, Mandelstam's Russia, De Campos's Brazil, and Pamuk's Istanbul, this study builds on extensive archival research to show how Dante's strange poetic forms, including incomplete canzoni and sonnets with two beginnings, continue to challenge readers. Each chapter focuses on how one of these distinctive features has been treated over time, offering new perspectives on topics such as Dante's love of Beatrice, his relationship with Guido Cavalcanti, and his attraction to another woman. Numerous illustrations show the entanglement of the work's poetic form and its material survival. Eisner provides a fresh reading of Dante's innovations, demonstrating the value of this philological analysis of the work's survival in the world.


  • A fresh interpretation of Dante's first work, based on extensive archival research
  • Extensively illustrated, providing an opportunity to experience the work's varied material forms
  • Offers a different model for thinking about interactions between literary form and material survival

About the Author(s)

Martin Eisner, Chair of Romance Studies and Professor of Italian, Duke University

Martin Eisner is Professor of Italian and Chair of Romance Studies at Duke University. He is the author of Boccaccio and the Invention of Italian Literature (Cambridge, 2013) and Boccaccio: A Life in Books (Reaktion Books, forthcoming).

Table of Contents

    Prologue: A Philology of World Literature
    Part One: Interpreting Beatrice
    1. The Encounter (Postcard)
    2. The Dream (Film)
    3. The Crisis (Musical Staves)
    Part Two: Glossing Beatrice
    4. The Mouth (Marginal Gloss)
    5. The New Homer (Ultraviolet Colophon)
    6. The Interruption (Picture Frame)
    Part Three: Remembering Beatrice
    7. The Painting (Composition)
    8. The Other Woman (Collation)
    9. The Veronica (Tipped-in)