Metamorphosing DanteAppropriations, Manipulations, and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-First CenturiesVienna: Turia + Kant, 2010
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Cite as: Manuela Marchesini, ‘From Giorgio Agamben’s Italian Category of ‘Comedy’ to ‘Profanation’ as the Political Task of Modernity: Ingravallo’s Soaring Descent, or Dante according to Carlo Emilio Gadda’, in Metamorphosing Dante: Appropriations, Manipulations, and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, ed. by Manuele Gragnolati, Fabio Camilletti, and Fabian Lampart, Cultural Inquiry, 2 (Vienna: Turia + Kant, 2010), pp. 285–303 <https://doi.org/10.25620/ci-02_17>

From Giorgio Agamben’s Italian Category of ‘Comedy’ to ‘Profanation’ as the Political Task of ModernityIngravallo’s Soaring Descent, or Dante according to Carlo Emilio GaddaManuela Marchesini

Keywords: Alighieri, Dante – Divina Commedia; productive reception; Italian literature; Gadda, Carlo Emilio –Pasticiaccio

In a 1996 essay entitled ‘Comedìa’, Giorgio Agamben argues that Dante’s title accounts for the comic but reparable ontological split of the Christian Middle Ages, which is intrinsically opposed to the tragic, irreparable conflict proper to ancient classical theatre. The Italian philosopher leaves aside the traditional explanations of comedy (a sad beginning with a felicitous ending, a mixed literary style). He finds Dante’s ‘poema sacro’ to be a ‘comedy’ because its Christian framework allows for redemption, the reconciliation of the Adamic fracture, which was unavailable to classical culture. At the core of the Comedy lies the ‘comic’ experience of Dante the Pilgrim: ‘the justification of the culprit’, instead of the ‘tragic culpability of the innocent’ characteristic of Virgil’s Aeneas. Dante’s firm position within a medieval Christian context makes Dante the Pilgrim’s adventure ‘parodic’, according to Agamben, instead of ‘figural’, as Auerbach claimed. The composition of the ontological split, he continues, warrants the anti-tragic quality of Christian life on earth. Christ has come to wash away humankind’s sins, thereby mending an ontological fracture that dates back to the Adamic fall. Now humankind can be redeemed and made one again. In contrast, in ancient Greek culture the split between maschera and persona was in principle not amendable, and as such it marked the birth of theatre. For Dante the Pilgrim therefore, Agamben continues, getting ready to face Heaven as he does in Purg. XXXI means not only acknowledging his own sins, showing contrition, and being subject to cleansing, but also dropping the tragic pretences which Oedipus had nurtured in favour of the natural innocence to which the Christian human being can be restored.

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