Byron’s Catholic Dante

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Abstract

This essay spotlights Byron’s emphasis on Dante’s Catholicism in The Prophecy of Dante. It demonstrates how unusual this was in an age that studiously avoided that Catholicism. It argues that in this distinctive approach to Italy’s ‘national’ poet we learn something fundamental about how and why Byron read not just Dante but Italian literature generally. Byron did not turn to Italian literature - as many of his contemporaries did - in order to recreate it, transform it, appropriate it for a political cause or ‘party’, domesticate it, ‘Romanticise’ it - or even to Byronise it, as has been argued. He often ended up doing these things, but Byron’s engagement with Dante’s Catholicism in The Prophecy shows how keenly he looked to Italian literary models for ways of recreating, transforming - Italianising - his own writing. For a brief but striking moment, this results in a ‘Byronic Hero’ moving on from bearing alienation, painful memory and the desire for revenge and into a Catholicism-inspired resisting of self, relinquishing of the will and yielding to ‘Great God’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-18
Number of pages16
JournalThe Byron Journal
Volume50
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

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