La Vita Nuova Background

La Vita Nuova Background

Published in 1294, Dante Alighieri's (who is best-known for his book The Divine Comedy), La Vita Nuova (or "The New Life") is a book of both prose and verse. Across the books thirty-one poems and other prose, Dante examines and celebrates love. Along the way, Dante provides explanation and background information for each of the poems -- why he wrote it, where he wrote it, why it is important, etc. Alighieri was inspired to write La Vita Nuova (among a number of his other works), because of a young and beautiful woman he lusted after named Beatrice. Dante, of course, was unable to get with Beatrice, but his lust for her is still nonetheless felt throughout the book (in one poem, Dante mentions that "A word, or even a smile [from her]" and "the memory of which lasts only a while/ makes for strange and miraculous changes, and these/ endure forever in heart and soul and mind."

Not much is known how La Vita Nuova was received at release. Now, however, the book is widely viewed as a masterpiece and, according to poet Wallace Stevens, "one of the great documents of Christianity." Although he likes La Vita Nuova very much, Robert Pouge Harrison of The New York Review of Books called "Vita Nuova is one of the strangest vernacular works of the Middle Ages."

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