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Dante's Bones Guy P. Raffa

Dante's Bones By Guy P. Raffa

Dante's Bones by Guy P. Raffa

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Like a saint's relics, Dante's bones have been stolen, exhumed, and worshiped. Guy Raffa narrates the Florentine poet's hereafter-the physical afterlife of the writer who vividly imagined the spiritual afterlife. In the story of the bones lies the tale of Dante's evolution from Renaissance to Italian to nationalist hero, and finally global icon.

Dante's Bones Summary

Dante's Bones: How a Poet Invented Italy by Guy P. Raffa

A richly detailed graveyard history of the Florentine poet whose dead body shaped Italy from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the Risorgimento, World War I, and Mussolini's fascist dictatorship.

Dante, whose Divine Comedy gave the world its most vividly imagined story of the afterlife, endured an extraordinary afterlife of his own. Exiled in death as in life, the Florentine poet has hardly rested in peace over the centuries. Like a saint's relics, his bones have been stolen, recovered, reburied, exhumed, examined, and, above all, worshiped. Actors in this graveyard history range from Lorenzo de' Medici, Michelangelo, and Pope Leo X to the Franciscan friar who hid the bones, the stone mason who accidentally discovered them, and the opportunistic sculptor who accomplished what princes, popes, and politicians could not: delivering to Florence a precious relic of the native son it had banished.

In Dante's Bones, Guy Raffa narrates for the first time the complete course of the poet's hereafter, from his death and burial in Ravenna in 1321 to a computer-generated reconstruction of his face in 2006. Dante's posthumous adventures are inextricably tied to major historical events in Italy and its relationship to the wider world. Dante grew in stature as the contested portion of his body diminished in size from skeleton to bones, fragments, and finally dust: During the Renaissance, a political and literary hero in Florence; in the nineteenth century, the ancestral father and prophet of Italy; a nationalist symbol under fascism and amid two world wars; and finally the global icon we know today.

Dante's Bones Reviews

Dante Alighieri changed literature forever by reimagining the afterlife, and Dante's Bones now captures Dante's afterlife in a way that has never been done. Adeptly guiding us through medieval politics as well as modern science, Guy Raffa achieves the elusive accomplishment of vividly bringing Dante to life through his death. -- Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club
Dante's Bones is at once a vivid retelling of Dante's fortunes in the centuries following his death and an important work of historical scholarship. Guy Raffa's deft prose illuminates the enduring contest over the great poet's mortal remains, providing a remarkable instance-by turns comical, deadly serious, and always captivating-of the appropriation of literary genius for political and cultural purposes. -- Albert Ascoli, author of Dante and the Making of a Modern Author
Dante's Bones is an enormous gift to readers and scholars of the poet and Italian history. With intensive scholarship in a wide variety of fields as his loom, Raffa has woven a fascinating tapestry out of 700 years of guarding, stealing, hiding, maintaining, studying, celebrating, debating, and claiming the material form and symbolic meaning of Dante's remains. -- Arielle Saiber, author of Measured Words
Raffa tells the remarkable story of Dante's afterlife, by turns grotesque, lively and farcical, as the loss and recovery of his bones intertwines with the tempestuous fate of Italy. -- Barbara Newman * London Review of Books *
In fiction and in fact, Dante Alighieri has been influencing the world order for centuries. Just how he's achieved global-icon stature is the subject of Guy P. Raffa's fascinating, comprehensive new book. -- Jenny McPhee * Air Mail *
Fascinating...In tracing the history of Dante's bones, Raffa also provides an illuminating exploration of Italian nationalism and political thought. * Publishers Weekly *
Pulling together many threads of Dante's story, Raffa offers an engaging, informative, and original account of the material culture of the poet's epic body of work. Highly recommended. * Library Journal *
Learned, literate, and quite entertaining...Raffa's tale touches on art and architecture, forensic science, war, public spectacle, political machination, literary trends, body snatching, air raids, and more...An excellent book for anyone with an interest in Dante, the arc of Italian history, or merely an historical adventure well told. * StrategyPage *
An intensively researched, gripping story of Dante's lively bones that also tells a brisk history of modern Italy. Raffa keeps a detached historian's eye on how Italian political figures used Dante to justify their own vision of the nation, the race, and the culture...Fascinating. -- Kelly Scott Franklin * Law and Liberty *
Details the path that Dante's remains trod in his physical afterlife, from the time of his death to the present, and of the people who wanted a piece of him for themselves...Has the marks of a detective story. -- John M. DeJak * Chronicles *
Meeting the challenge of invigorating historical events with whodunit tones of intrigue, Guy P. Raffa's Dante's Bones delivers a fairly adventurous tale. -- Patrick James Dunagan * Rain Taxi *
As Guy Raffa charts in his beautiful book Dante's Bones, Dante's corporeal afterlife is its own story. -- Candida Moss * Daily Beast *
A fascinating narrative of translation (literal), cultural appropriation, and myth making. Dante becomes a humanist ideal, a nineteenth-century prophet, and hence father for Italy, and abstraction to which all political persuasions have sought to harness themselves. The actual travails of Dante's remains also make for fascinating reading. -- Daragh O'Connell * Annali d'Italianistica *

About Guy P. Raffa

Guy P. Raffa is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His previous books include The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the Divine Comedy and Divine Dialectic: Dante's Incarnational Poetry. His work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and highlighted in the New Yorker and Los Angeles Times. His website is

Additional information

Dante's Bones: How a Poet Invented Italy by Guy P. Raffa
Harvard University Press
Winner of AATI Book Awards (United States).
Book picture is for illustrative purposes only, actual binding, cover or edition may vary.
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