Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9780226071091 Published December 2013
E-book $7.00 to $32.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226071121 Published December 2013

Dante and the Limits of the Law

Justin Steinberg

Justin Steinberg

240 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2013
Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9780226071091 Published December 2013
E-book $7.00 to $32.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226071121 Published December 2013
In Dante and the Limits of the Law, Justin Steinberg offers the first comprehensive study of the legal structure crucial to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Steinberg reveals how Dante imagines an afterlife dominated by elaborate laws, hierarchical jurisdictions, and rationalized punishments and rewards. Steinberg makes the compelling case that Dante deliberately exploits this highly-structured legal system to explore the phenomenon of exceptions to it, introducing Dante to crucial current debates about literature’s relation to law, exceptionality, and sovereignty.
 
Examining how Dante probes the limits of the law in this juridical otherworld, Steinberg argues that exceptions were vital to the medieval legal order and that Dante’s otherworld represents an ideal “system of exception.” Yet Dante saw this system as threatened on earth by the dual crises of church and Empire—the abuses and overreaching of the popes and the absence of an effective Holy Roman Emperor. In his imagination of the afterlife, Steinberg shows, Dante seeks to address this gap between the universal validity of Roman law and the lack of a sovereign power to enforce it. Exploring the institutional role of disgrace, the entwined phenomena of judicial discretion and artistic freedom, medieval ideas about privilege and immunity, and the place of judgment in the poem, this is an elegantly argued book that persuasively brings to life Dante’s sense of justice.
Giuseppe Mazzotta, Yale University
“Written with grit and polemical brio, Justin Steinberg’s book takes readers into the technical world of medieval legal conventions as they appear and even shape the vast and detailed legal system of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Filling a substantial lacuna in the critical bibliography of the poem, the cogent and absolutely persuasive Dante and the Limits of the Law makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the poem.”
Nancy J. Vickers, Bryn Mawr College
“At once magisterial and cutting edge, Dante and the Limits of the Law reconsiders Dante’s Commedia through the prisms of both informed close reading and broad knowledge of historical context. Situating the poem within the legal culture of its day, Justin Steinberg persuasively illuminates a text driven by an understanding of justice, indeed structured by a meting out of punishment and reward.  Steinberg’s work, both here and in his earlier Accounting for Dante, clearly places him at the forefront of new scholarship in the field.”
Graham Hammill, author of The Mosaic Constitution Political Theology and Imagination from Machiavell
Dante and the Limits of the Law gives us a picture of Dante whose relation to the law is not doctrinal but fundamentally critical and inventive. In Justin Steinberg’s expert reading, Dante probes the limits of the law to give us a sophisticated and unique reflection on punishment, liberty, contracts, and legal privilege, and on the relation of all of these to vernacular literature. Impressive and elegantly argued, this book persuasively brings to life Dante’s sense of justice and legal crisis as well as the highly experimental nature of his poetry.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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