Dante and Epicurus
A Dualistic Vision of Secular and Spiritual Fulfilment

George Corbett

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Dante Alighieri
Italian poet
 10 other titles

(341-270 BCE)
Athenian philosopher

Italian Perspectives 25

Legenda: Oxford, 2013
£45.00 ($89.50 US)    202pp
ISBN: 978-1-907975-79-0

Dante and Epicurus seem poles apart. Dante, a committed Christian, depicted in the Commedia a vision of the afterlife and God’s divine justice. Epicurus, a pagan philosopher, taught that the soul is mortal and that all religion is vain superstition. And yet Epicurus is, for Dante, not only the quintessential heretic but an ethical ally. The key to this apparent paradox lies in the heterodox dualism – between man’s two goals of secular felicity and spiritual beatitude – at the heart of Dante’s ethical, political and theological thought.

Corbett’s full-length treatment of Dante’s reception and polemical representation of Epicurus addresses a major gap in the scholarship. Furthermore the study’s focus on fault lines in Dante’s vision of the afterlife – where the theological tensions implicit in his dualism surface – opens a new way to read the Commedia as a whole in dualistic terms.

George Corbett is Junior Research Fellow of Trinity College, and Affiliated Lecturer of the Department of Italian, the University of Cambridge.


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