Metamorphosing DanteAppropriations, Manipulations, and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-First CenturiesVienna: Turia + Kant, 2010
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Cite as: Teresa Prudente, ‘‘Misi me per l’alto mare aperto’: Personality and Impersonality in Virginia Woolf’s Reading of Dante’s Allegorical Language’, 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. 253–67 <>

‘Misi me per l’alto mare aperto’Personality and Impersonality in Virginia Woolf’s Reading of Dante’s Allegorical LanguageTeresa Prudente ORCID


Although Dante’s influence on modernism has been widely explored and examined from different points of view, the aspects of Virginia Woolf’s relationship with the Florentine author have not yet been extensively considered. Woolf’s use of Dante is certainly less evident and ponderous than that of authors such as T.S. Eliot and James Joyce; nonetheless, this connection should not be disregarded, since Woolf’s reading of Dante and her meditations on his work are inextricably fused with her creative process. As I will show in this essay, Woolf’s appreciation of Dante is closely connected to major features of her narrative experimentation, ranging from her conception of the structure and design of the literary work to her reflections concerning the meaning and function of literary language.

Woolf read Dante, and in particular the Commedia, throughout her life, presumably beginning with an English translation and later, when she had acquired a certain command of Italian, shifting to the original text. In addition to the annotations in her reading notebooks, Woolf’s considerations on her reading of Dante permeate her diary, often mingling with her reflections about her own writing. It is this osmotic penetration of Dante’s work into Woolf’s creative process which I intend to explore.


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