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La Vita Nuova

From Academic Kids

La Vita Nuova is a book of verse written by Dante Alighieri, roughly around the year of 1293. Translated from Italian, La Vita Nuova means "The New Life". It is sometimes referred to as Vita Nuova, "New Life".

History and context of La Vita Nuova

Referred to by Dante as his libello, or "little book", "The New Life" is the first of two collections of verse written by Dante in his life, with other being the Convivio. La Vita Nuova is a prosimetrum, as is the Convivio, meaning that it is a piece which is made up of both verse and prose.

Dante used each prosimetrum as a means for combining poems written over periods of roughly ten years - La Vita Nuova contains his works from before 1283 to roughly 1293, where as the Convivio contains his works from 1294 until the time of La Divina Comedia.

The structure of La Vita Nuova

A remarkable work, La Vita Nuova contains 42 brief chapters with commentaries on 25 sonnets, one ballata, and four canzoni; one canzone is left unfinished, interrupted by the death of Beatrice Portinari, Dante's life long love.

Dante's commentaries explicate each poem, placing it within the context of his life. That is to say that they present a frame story, which is not apparent from the sonnets themselves. The frame story is simple enough: it recounts Dante's first sight of Beatrice when he was nine and she eight all the way to Dante's mourning after her death, and his determination to write of her "that which has never been written of any woman".

Each separate section of commentary further refines the poet's concept of romantic love as the initial step in a spiritual development that results in the capacity for divine love. Dante's unusual approach to his piece - drawing upon personal events and experience, addressing the readers, and writing in Italian rather than Latin - marked a turning point in European poetry, where many writers abandoned highly stylized forms of writing for a simpler style.

Personality in La Vita Nuova

Dante wrote the work at the suggestion of his friend, the poet Guido Cavalcanti, as a means of: first, collecting and publishing the lyrics dealing with Dante's love for Beatrice; second, explaining the autobiographical context of their composition; third, pointing out the expository structure of each lyric as an aid to careful reading. Accordingly each chapter typically consists of three parts, the autobiographical narrative, the lyric that resulted from those circumstances, and an analysis of the subject matter of the lyric.

Though the result is a landmark in the development of emotional autobiography (the most important advance since Saint Augustine's Confessions in the 5th century), like all medieval literature it is far removed from the modern autobiographical impulse. Moderns think that their own personalities are interesting, their actions are interesting, and their acquaintances are interesting. None of that concerned Dante. What was interesting to him, and his audience, were the emotions of noble love, how they develop, how they are expressed in verse, and how they reveal the permanent intellectual truths of the divinely created world, how, that is, love can confer blessing on the soul and bring it close to God.

Appropriately, therefore, the work does not contain any proper name, except that of Beatrice herself. Not even her surname is given, or any details that would assist readers to identify her among the many ladies of Florence: only the name "Beatrice", because that was both her actual given name and her symbolic name as the conferror of blessing. Dante does not name himself. He refers to Guido Cavalcanti only as "the first of my friends", to his own sister as "a young and noble lady ... who was related to me by the closest consanguinity", to Beatrice's brother similarly as one who "was so linked in consanguinity to the glorious lady that no-one was closer to her". The effect is that the reader cannot, as in a modern autobiography or novel, be distanced from the characters as one is distanced from one's own acquaintances. Instead, the reader is invited into the very emotional turmoil and lyric struggle of the unnamed author's own mind, and all the surrounding people in his story are seen in their relations to that mind.it:Vita Nuova ja:新生

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