New York: Sheed & Ward, 1949. Octavo, original orange cloth, spine lettered in green, original dust jacket. Early owner signature and stamp to blank flyleaf, slight toning and chipping to spine, inner flap clipped but price intact, . A near-fine copy. Item #1490
"TO READ DANTE IS A JOY TO WRITE ABOUT DANTE IS A PLEASURE"
First edition of Etienne Gilson's exploration of the philosophical and theological themes underlying Dante's body of work. Increasingly scarce in dust jacket and an excellent addition to a Dante collection.
Gilson attempts to "understand and interpret Dante's own thought—not to classify him as belonging to some particular school" but Aristotle, Averroes, Bonaventure, and Aquinas are all cited frequently with Augustine, Dominic, and Francis following close behind. Gilson leans heavily on Father Mandonnet's Dante the Theologian. The short Preface acknowledges the problems inherent in adding another current to the vast ocean of Dante studies ("No one who discusses Dante can do so without remembering what distinguished expositors have said before him") and discusses the pitfalls of trying to go it alone.
The text consists of several sections: I. Dante's Clerical Vocation and Metamorphoses of Beatrice, II. Philosophy in the Banquet, III. Philosophy in the Monarchy, IV. Philosophy in the Divine Comedy. An appendix ("Eclaircissements") in five parts supplements the text along with two indexes: Index of Proper Names and Index of the Principal Questions Discussed. Gilson's consideration of Dante was not without controversy. The American Dante Bibliography for 1954 includes a citation for I.J. Semper's "Was Dante a Sensualist?" (an essay published in Catholic World) where Semper "Refutes the charge of homosexuality laid on Dante by Gilson and also the imputation of licentiousness originating with Boccaccio." The publisher's copy on the flap of the dust jacket seems to acknowledge the issue: "To clear the ground for his examination of Dante's philosophy in the Convivio, the De Monarchia and the Divina Commedia, he deals vigorously and entertainingly with the theories advanced by some critics of a purely allegorical Beatrice."