Reviews: Rite of Passage in the Narratives of Dante and Joyce

“A very forceful and original reading of Dante and Joyce, of the notion of an intertext linking them, and of the problematic of literary rebirth through literary immersion and resurrection. What is remarkable is Fraser’s almost equal expertise in both critical fields.” – Jean Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania

“Jennifer Fraser’s study provides more than simply another contribution to our understanding of Joyce’s sources; rather, her work joins the ranks of memorable totalizing “keys” to Joyce’s work. Joyce’s reading and writing of Dante’s relationship with Virgil has allowed Fraser to identify a new category of intertextuality, one that she terms initiatory. Joyce’s fascination with Virgil’s maternal mentoring of the poet provides significant insights into the Commedia. Her knowledge of Italian not only serves her analysis of the Commedia but also enables her to present Dante’s poem as Joyce would have read it.  Fraser has ingeniously frames the whole background with the metaphor of a diptych, or medieval hinged, double-paneled iconography: on the one side, Dante’s Commedia (superimposed on Virgil’s Aeneid) and on the other, Joyce’s Ulysses. “The hinge that links these writing tables one upon the other is initiation,” or transformation from pilgrim to poet. As Dante reads Virgil, so Joyce reads Dante. The whole is a provocative, elaborately plotted-out influence study, embodying womb-death imagery in a new and profoundly creative psycho-mythic interpretation.” – Zack Bowen, University of Miami

“the book opens up a veritable ocean of unexplored connections, allusions, patterns and visions, altering the reader’s perception of the relationship between these authors, these works and these deeply pondered, much discussed literary transformations.”) – Dr. Heather Webb, Assistant Professor of Italian, Department of French and Italian, The Ohio State University

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