Italian Studies Research Seminar—Triform Love: Desire as the Ordering Principle of Dante's Comedy


Location: Hesburgh Library, Special Collections Room

Christian Moevs, associate professor of Italian, University of Notre Dame

At the center of the Comedy, Virgil explains that all merit and blame is founded on how we love, and he lays out a tri-partite ordering principle, based on love, for all human action. In particular, this principle classifies love’s failure—the failure of human love to reach its intrinsic ultimate end—into the seven cardinal vices, arranged in a symmetrical grouping of 3+1+3. Virgil lays out this classification in order to explain the structure of purgatory, the place where human love is re-directed toward its ultimate supernatural end (love itself), and towards finite things in due measure. The question, then, is: Might this simple but profound 3+1+3 analysis of human love in relation to its intrinsic object, laid out at the very center of the Comedy, underlie the other two realms, as well? Might it govern the structure not only of purgatory, but of hell and paradise, too?

Moevs is an associate professor of Italian at Notre Dame. His interests include Dante, medieval Italian literature, lyric poetry and poetics, and the intersection between literature and philosophy (especially metaphysics and medieval philosophy). He is co-editor of the Devers Series in Dante Studies and a fellow of the Medieval Institute. His The Metaphysics of Dante’s Comedy (Oxford UP and American Academy of Religion, 2005) won the Modern Language Association’s Marraro Prize for Italian Studies and the American Association for Italian Studies Prize for the best book of 2005. He is currently working on a book on Dante and the medieval contemplative (mystical) tradition, for which he has won a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship.

For more information, visit the Italian Studies at Notre Dame website.