Dante Alighieri from absence to stony presence: building memories in nineteenth-century Florence
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Anne O'Connor (2012) 'Dante Alighieri from Absence to Stony Presence: Building Memories in Nineteenth-Century Florence'. Italian Studies, 67 (3):307-335.
The Dante narrative is one of the key narratives of nineteenth-century Italy in the self-fashioning of Italian patriotism. This article looks at the momentum behind the project to commemorate Dante in Florence in the early decades of the nineteenth century; it also considers the effect of the outsider gaze on remedying the absence of reminders of the poet in the city; and the beginnings of the utilization of Dante for political and national purposes. It addresses the memorial cult of Dante within a proto-nationalist framework, a cult which was led by Italians, but to which awareness of foreign commentary made an important contribution. The project of raising a monument to Dante in Florence in the pre-unification period provides a case study for the close examination of many entangled concerns. An examination of monuments in the formative stages of the Risorgimento reveals their extreme potency and ability to provide concrete examples of how collective myths and memories are mapped onto a landscape. Furthermore, the monument to Dante in Santa Croce shows how politics, ideology and literature combined to bring the project to fruition and to contribute to the evolving nineteenth-century Dante narrative.