Divine Comedy Annotations Query

N. Frye’s DANTE: Annotations:

La Divina Commedia. Rev. ed. Edited by C.H. Grandgent. Boston: D.C. Heath, 1933, xlii, 1003 p.

Annotated no. 917


At the end of this Canto, p. 771, Frye writes this annotation:


771.   MM: bottom three lines of  endnote 142-145, mentioning “St. Dominic was magister sacri palatii in Rome. — The interpretation of  these lines is still far from certain. It is noteworthy that of  the two parallel cantos, XI and XII, each ends with a  puzzle. At bottom of page, Frye adds extended MA:

One of  the reasons why a  poem like Dante’s is impossible today is that the Maritains & the Barths have to be kept in mutually exclusive compartments.

In interpreting Dante one comes up first against a kind of analogia rationis the distinction between visionary & discursive revelations of God. Dante concedes authority to the discursive only to be able to assume it again later; if he illustrates them properly, they will in the end become his commentators, as Solomon has the place of honour in the primary Zodiac. I suspect that this maybe the first of  his  four levels of interpretation. One then goes  on to the analogia entis and the analogia fidei, the third or moral & the second or allegorical interpretations respectively. Catholicism & Protestantism, or at least Thomism & Augustinianism, are based respectively on these. Dante being a Thomist Catholic, gives primacy to these, i.e., a mistake for  a poet, of course. Dante wants to go on to  full anagogy an analogia visionis which by restating the literal dogma as a vision destroys its dogmatic literalness. The a.e. [analogia entis] seals off the opening into the a.v. [analogia visionis] as the a.f. [analogia fidei] with its greater emphasis on the Word, doesn’t. The crux of  the whole matter is, as for Faust, the translation of Logos as Logos & not as Nous, the only other possible translation. The a.e. [analogia entis] makes this translation & is tied up in nature & reason; the a.f. [analogia fidei], by keeping Logos, provides a means of  escape. Another hypothesis would be that Dante puts the a.f. [analogia fidei] where it belongs, with the gap still sealed off by the a.e. [analogia entis]. Possibly Inferno is most profoundly  involved in the a.v. [analogia visionis], Purg. 1-28 in the a.f. [analogia fidei], Purg. 28 – Par. 9 (Beulah) in the a.e. [analogia entis], & Par. 10-33 in the a.v. [analogia visionis], which last may turn out a mystical Nirvana rather than a civilized heaven precisely because the a.e. [analogia entis] is there. Here, the  job will be plenty tough.

I am now, I hope, in the  position of Alice wondering what latitude or longitude she’s in. She not only didn’t know the answer; she didn’t know the  meaning of the words she used in the question; yet the question itself made perfect sense & was a question of profound & searching irony for one in literally mid & low earth.



This note is early, but it associates my own view of literal meaning as integritas with Dante’s view of it as symbolic in the modern logical sense. perhaps the sun ties up two parallel approaches, the poetic & discursive, related thus:

literal (personal-psychological) artefact — a.r.   person   —     logic & heroism

[sign of Mars]

allegory of science & history (symbol)   — a.e.  symbol   —     nature & reason

[sign of Jupiter]

moral myth                            — a.f .  myth *    —     faith

[sign of Saturn]

anagogy                                — a.v.  Person**   —    Logos ***

each poetic step is anagogic & each discursive one analogical.

[ *Frye’s Sigla: * ‘T’ on its side; & ** ‘T’ on its head; for an account of Frye’s sigla see Robert Denham in CW vol. 5 xlii-xliii and Michael Dolzani, “The Book of the Dead: A Skeleton Key to Northrop Frye’s Notebooks” in  Rereading Frye, The Published and Unpublished Works, Edited by David Boyd and Imre Salusinszky, U of T Press, 1999, p. 21]



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