Introduction: Reading Paradiso Out of Time



This introductory chapter, which outlines the ‘plot’ of Paradiso, sets out the difficulties of reading Dante’s Paradiso for a modern, who, even if sympathetic to Christian belief, is distant from Dante’s frames of reference. It approaches the text by considering how the text presents everything in non-material, spiritual, and allegorical terms, a contrast to the mode of Inferno or Paradiso. It must present the immaterial, and the invisible, in material terms, which accord with the medieval practice of reading sacred texts ‘anagogically’. The contradiction between wanting to present the non-material and needing the materiality of real life is seen to mark Paradiso: does the poem make ‘spirits matter’? The argument of the book is that though the contradiction proves indissoluble, Dante does make the non-material speak, uniquely.


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