Free Will and the Subjective Agency of Women in Dante's Commedia
Free Will, defined by Dante's Virgilio as the noble power to guide and constrain the soul's natural inclination and desires (Purg 18.73), holds a place of central concern in the Commedia. Elaborating on Marco Lombardo's discourse, the roman poet asserts that it is Free Will that accounts for the justice in feeling joy for doing good and misery for doing ill. While offering a general outline of the fundamental importance of Free Will in the ethical and moral rationale for the fate of departed souls, the pilgrim's first guide promises that Beatrice will provide clarity on this and other topics of particular complexity beyond the purview of his Classical pagan understanding.
This panel invites scholars to focus attention on how the Commedia explores and addresses the question of Free Will through the subjective agency of the women the poet meets throughout his journey, and especially through the critical voice of Beatrice. For in fulfilling the promise to illuminate the subject Beatrice not only offers Piccarda and Costanza's circumstances in exemplum, she also implicates Dante the pilgrim upon first encountering him in the Terrestrial Paradise. The goal is to shine a light on how Dante dramatizes the agency of women in terms that challenge paternalistic and objectifying tropes.
Given Dante's representation of the willful agency of women in the Commedia and the expression of what drives, guides or hinders even those who make reason subject to desire, the panel will explore the question of Free Will and the ethical, intellectual and poetic authorities of women in the Commedia, especially the triad of catalyzing agents of Dante's "altro viaggio," Beatrice, Lucia, and Maria.
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