The Divine Comedy’s Construction of its Audience in Paradiso 2.1-18

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Paradiso 2’s sustained direct address warns readers unprepared for its complexities to “turn back to see your shores again…for perhaps losing me, you would be lost,” but then offers the “other few” who crave “the bread of angels” the promise of a marvel that would rival the deeds of the mythological hero Jason. I will argue that, by appearing to impose this choice on its readers, this direct address in fact activates the craving for the bread of angels (for who, by obeying the interpretive imperative to make such a decision, would not also be one who thereby does choose to pursue the bread that is promised in return for this obedience?). In other words, the very act of interpreting the representation of readers as divided into those who are capable of allegorical interpretation and those who are not constructs and activates the will of a single readership for the Divine Comedy and, consequently, challenges us to provide an articulation of what it means even to read or to misread the Divine Comedy.
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