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The University of Notre Dame From Francesca to Francesco: Transcribing the Tale of Passion from the Inferno to the Paradiso , or Thomas Aquinas as Romancier Author(s): Theresa Kenney Source: Religion & Literature, Vol. 31, No. 1, Visions of the Other World in Medieval Literature (Spring, 1999), pp. 61-73 Published by: The University of Notre Dame Stable URL: Accessed: 15/10/2009 10:56 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Term
  The University of Notre Dame From Francesca to Francesco: Transcribing the Tale of Passion from the Inferno to the Paradiso , or Thomas Aquinas as RomancierAuthor(s): Theresa KenneySource: Religion & Literature, Vol. 31, No. 1, Visions of the Other World in MedievalLiterature (Spring, 1999), pp. 61-73Published by: The University of Notre DameStable URL: Accessed: 15/10/2009 10:56 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact The University of Notre Dame  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to  Religion& Literature.  FROM FRANCESCA TO FRANCESCO: TRANSCRIBING THE TALE OF PASSION FROM THE INFERNO TO THE PARADISO, OR THOMAS AQUINAS AS ROMANCIER Theresa Kenney In Thomas Aquinas's amous paean to St. Francis n Canto 1 1 of the Paradiso, ante reverts o the issues of love and imitation that he first raises in the Inferno, Canto 5. His treatment of the theme of mimesis of love literature n the latter passage, the Pilgrim's meeting with Francesca and Paolo Malatesta, is not just famous; t is practically mythic. Taken out of the context of the whole, it has turned into operas, plays, and of course, inevitably, nto the object of literary criticism. Dante's treatment of the very same theme in the Paradiso s never discussed as such. In this episode an unlikely xponent of romantic ove and courtly virtues, Thomas Aquinas, adopts the transgressive anguage of the troubadours to describe the devotion of St. Francis o Poverty. Here the actors n the drama are not the historical overs, murdered by Francesca's husband, but figurative overs, one of whom is a real historical personage. They are, however, playing out a similar plot with similar narrative premises. There are several clues that demonstrate to the reader that in the Paradiso he dantesque memory, copious and comprehensive as it is, is reflecting upon the tale of two lovers the poet has recounted in the Inferno. Unconvincing on its own, to be sure, he alliteration f the names Francesca and Francesco and of Paolo and Poverta nevertheless s suggestive. Sugges- tive, too, is the near-identity of the names of the heroes of both tales, Francesca and Francesco. More to the point, the poet constructs the content of the two fictions through a similar und of imagery and narrative R&L 31 A (Spring 1999) 61  62 Religion & Literature expectations, as we shall see in greater detail later. Susan Noakes has already convincingly discussed several thematic and poetic parallels be- tween the infernal episode and the appearance of Thomas Aquinas as an interpretive guide in the Paradiso. he notes that in the story of Paolo and Francesca, Dante emphasizes he word punto \ his word, associated as it is with meaning and interpretation, s also central to Thomas's speech in Canto 1 1 of the Paradiso. I would add that the word also appears at a critical moment in canto 33, line 94, when Dante gazes, rapt, at the unifying vision of Christ.) It should not surprise us, then, that Dante is looking back to Inferno in the St. Francis episode in other ways as well. In the case of Paolo and Francesca as in the case of Poverty and Francis, he role of interpretation f a fiction or an image to be (or not to be) imitated s central. That Dante discusses ove itself throughout he Paradiso s a given; t is a, if not the, primary theme. The question of references to firiarruors nd Arthurian romance is, however, more specific. In The Poetry f Allusion, Rachel Jacoff and Jeffrey T. Schnapp argue for the extension of the definition of literary allusion to include dialectical, oblique, and screened allusions o other texts; implicit n their approach s the image of the self- conscious author who extends the habit of intertextuality o his own work (1-15; 208). Without attributing o Dante a superhuman self-conscious- ness, we can certainly admit on Dante's part a desire to return to certain issues or subjects n the various realms of his Comedy. he question is, why revisit the literary realm of so-called courtly love in Heaven, from which such love is excluded? Surely the poet has definitively rejected the trouba- dour tradition n the Inferno not to mention the Purgatorio). e meet Paolo and Francesca very early on and in that episode the pilgrim seems to progress beyond the obstacle to virtue their adulterous desire represents. Yet here is Thomas Aquinas elling the story of a knight and his lady whom the knight loves in his lord's absence. Are Provence and Paradise ndistin- guishable after all? A structuralist approach would wish to prove that both stories are essentially he same, but for Dante revisitation s revision. The tale of passion makes a journey along with the pilgrim. In the tale of the saint of Assisi, t is clear that Dante is doing more than recreating he connection between Provencal poetry and Francis's imagi- nation of his own life, so emphatic that to ignore it would have been impossible. Although Dante's use of this imagery s charming, t also serves his stated purpose of leading the reader from Egypt to Israel. mplicit n such a project is a progression o a new place, a change of every locus. Dante certainly plays this note with genre and image elsewhere Giuseppe  THERESA KENNEY 63 Mazzotta argues, for instance, that Canto 1 of the Purgatorio s a reverse aubade: If in the secular yrics he aube is the hour when lovers sadly part, for the pilgrim this is the time of delight when he puts off the works of darkness Desert 2-43). Just so, the tale of Francis s a regenerative eversal of courtly ove whose language is the same but whose valence is radically realigned. The call to imitatio moris, f I may so call it, remains the same; it is amor hat has changed. Francesca blames the book and the writer of it for suggesting o her the passion she conceives for her brother-in-law Paolo; n the same way, Bernard da Quintavalle and the other followers of Francis can blame he loving looks of Francis and his spouse for suggesting to them the passion they conceive for that spouse. The language, the book, the look, are exemplary, but the behavior hey incite is virtuous rather han sinful. This is not to oversimplify he tensions nherent n the poet's refiguration of the Paolo and Francesca episode: Dante deliberately echoes the lan- guage of exemplum and mimesis of adulterous desire in the illustration of the spread of Franciscanism. Yet his goal seems to be the investigation of the operation of desire itself. After all, he has just visited the heaven of Venus; he is ascending toward the Beatific Vision on the strength of ever- increasing desire. He now turns toward the early momentum and recent entropy of the mendicant orders; obviously, he problem these orders face is a lack of the boundless desire for God that St. Francis and St. Dominic demonstrated n their ives. The brilliance of Dante's solution to the poetic and didactic challenge of this situation merits comment. It is typical of his genius that he is able to exploit transgressive anguage for a corrective narrative, but Thomas's shift to plain speech signals to the reader that interpretation s necessary or the understanding of what is hidden behind such language. Dante knows his meaning is not immediately apprehen- sible; perhaps he even wishes (although his seems unlikely) o undermine the primacy of the fairy-tale ersion of Francis's ife. Nevertheless, he force of the narrative comes in large part from the literary contexts on which it draws: Francis s all the more heroic because his tale is told as a chivalric adventure of forbidden love. We know from the Inferno ow such tales incite imitation. Dante of course distinguishes his love and its imitation from that of Francesca and Paolo in several ways; significant among them is that the mediation of the book is replaced by the sight of the actual love in the lover's aces. Literature s replaced by the real, however allegorical he lady may be. The real is also replaced by the literary, or should we say the interpretative and in his discussion of Aquinas in the Paradiso, Kenelm
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