Desire and Death, or Francesca and Guido Cavalcanti: Inferno 5 in Its Lyric Context

Bernardo Lecture Series, No. 9

By Teodolinda Barolini
Edited by Sandro Sticca

Subjects: Medieval Studies, Italian Studies, Classics
Series: The Bernardo Lecture Series
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9781586841294, 56 pages, January 2001

Explores the lyric context of Inferno 5.


Desire and Death, or Francesca and Guido Cavalcanti: Inferno 5 in Its Lyric Context is the ninth in a series of publications occasioned by the annual Bernardo Lecture at the Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies (CEMERS) at Binghamton University. This series offers public lectures which have been given by distinguished medieval and Renaissance scholars on topics and figures representative of these two important historical, religious, and intellectual periods.

In this essay Barolini explores the lyric context of Inferno 5, paying particular attention to how Italian lyric poets like Giacomo da Lentini, Guido delle Colonne, Guittone d'Arezzo, Guido Cavalcanti, and Dante himself had framed the issue of desire insufficiently controlled by reason. Pointing to Cavalcanti's "che la 'ntenzione per ragione vale" (from "Donna me prega") as the intertext of Dante's "che la region sommettono al talento" (Inferno 5. 39), Barolini reads Inferno 5 as a response to Cavalcanti. Moreover, by looking at the views of love evidenced in Dante's own lyrics (e. g. "Lo doloroso amor," the "rime petrose," "Io sono stato con Amore insieme," "Amor, d ache convien pur ch' io mi doglia," and "Doglia mi reca ne lo core ardire"), the essay reconstructs the complex and arduous ideological pathway that Dante traversed to reach Inferno 5.

Teodolinda Barolini is Lorenzo Da Ponte Professor of Italian and Chair of the Department of Italian at Columbia University. Currently President of the Dante Society of America, she is the author of Dante's Poets: Textuality and Truth in the Comedy and The Undivine Comedy: Detheologizing Dante.