Humility as Paradox: Virtue and Vocation in Dante's Commedia

Teubner, Rachel, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hart, Kevin, As-Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This dissertation reconsiders the ethical value of humility, using Dante's Commedia as its source text. In both Dante studies and Anglophone feminist theology, concepts of humility have recently tended to be reductively understood either as a feigned, for strategic literary purposes, or as merely the absence of pride, as what remains when pride -- or, worse, selfhood -- has been effaced. In answer I follow the concept of humility though Dante's Commedia, finding an understanding of humility that affirms poetic vocation and identity, and furthermore affirms humanity as made in the image of God and empowered to undertake such creative vocations.

Methodologically, this project responds to the growing awareness among analytic philosophers and Dante scholars that attention to literary form yields ethical, philosophical and religious insights, by offering a literary analysis of each of the poem’s canticles, Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. Each offers a conceptual revelation of humility illustrated through the poem’s dramatization – lexically, narratively and poetically – of its paradoxes, from the reversals of pride in Inferno, to the active practices of humility in Purgatorio and finally to humility’s generative capacities in Paradiso.

This projects speaks to a contemporary concern of feminist theological discourses shaping North American Christianity today: the need to reconcile a resilient individual, communal and historical Christian identity with a robust feminist identity.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Humility, Dante
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