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Dante Alighieri’s long poem The Divine Comedy has been one of the foundational texts of European literature for over 700 years. Yet many mysteries still remain about the symbolism of this richly layered literary work, which has been interpreted in many different ways over the centuries.

The Unexpected Dante brings together five leading scholars who offer fresh perspectives on the meanings and reception of The Divine Comedy. Some investigate Dante’s intentions by exploring the poem’s esoteric allusions to topics ranging from musical instruments to Roman law. Others examine the poem’s long afterlife and reception in the United States, with chapters showcasing new discoveries about Nicolaus de Laurentii’s 1481 edition of Commedia and the creative contemporary adaptations that have relocated Dante’s visions of heaven and hell to urban American settings.

This study also includes a guide that showcases selected treasures from the extensive Dante collections at the Library of Congress, illustrating the depth and variety of The Divine Comedy’s global influence. The Unexpected Dante is thus a boon to both Dante scholars and aficionados of this literary masterpiece.

Published by Bucknell University Press in association with the Library of Congress. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.


Dante Alighieri, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Cato, Sandow Birk, Musical instruments, Incunabula, Nicolaus de Laurentii, Commedia, Roman Law, The Divine Commedy, European Literature, art, literary studies, cultural studies


This collection copyright © 2022 by the Library of Congress Individual chapters copyright © 2022 in the names of their authors All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Please contact Bucknell University Press, Hildreth-Mirza Hall, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837-2005. The only exception to this prohibition is “fair use” as defined by U.S. copyright law.


224 pages





The Unexpected Dante: Perspectives on the Divine Comedy