Flash or Effulgence? Mental Illumination in Dante’s Paradiso 33.141

  • Richard Kay
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Medieval studies are largely based on texts. Medievalists consequently rely on editors, and especially philologists, to provide accurate, correct texts as the indispensable foundation on which to build any interpretation. But, paradoxically, such is not always the case, for sometimes context overrides text, as when a translator follows the sense of a whole passage and ignores the literal meaning of an inconvenient word. Although word-loving editors are, of course, quick to cry “Traduttore—traditore!” sometimes they are wrong because their text has given the wrong word. The present note documents just such a case, in which a crucial word at the end of Dante’s Divine Comedy (henceforth abbreviated in text as Comedy) has long been tacitly and correctly emended by translators in defiance of the established text.


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  1. 1.
    See Richard Kay, “Dante in Ecstasy: Paradiso 33 and Bernard of Clairvaux,” Medieval Studies 66 (2004): n6.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Dante Alighieri, La Commedia secondo l’antica vulgata, ed. Giorgio Petrocchi, 4 vols. (Milan: Mondadori, 1966–1967), 4:557, at Par. 33.141.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    see Paul Maas, Textual Criticism, trans. Barbara Flower (Oxford: Clarendon, 1958).Google Scholar
  4. 29.
    Christian Trottmann, La vision béatifique des disputes scholastiques à sa définition par Benoit XII, Bibliothèque des écoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome 289 (Rome: école française de Rome, 1995), p. 15.Google Scholar
  5. 30.
    see Etienne Gilson, The Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard, trans. A.H.C. Downes, Cistercian Studies Series 120 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1990).Google Scholar

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© Stephanie Hayes-Healy 2005

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  • Richard Kay

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