Dante’s Convivio (or Banquet) consists of four books or trattati. Like the De vulgari eloquentia, it is unfinished. Like in the Vita nuova, Dante wrote in Italian and combines (his own) poetry and prose. The poems included are all canzoni: Voi che ‘ntendendo il terzo ciel movete, Amor che nella mente mi ragiona, and Le dolci rime d’amor, ch’io solìa (Dante intended to discuss fourteen canzoni in total, he tells us in Book 1). The Convivio is often referred to as Dante’s philosophical treatise, his auto-commento, and an encyclopedic text. A quick overview of its content makes it clear this text can be hard to describe: In Book 1, Dante explains the structure of the work (explaining the metaphor of the banquet), and makes the case for writing in Italian, not Latin. In Books 2 and 3, he explains the literal and allegorical senses of Voi che ‘ntendendo il terzo ciel movete and Amor che nella mente mi ragiona. Book 4 is about Le dolci rime d’amor, ch’io solìa and the true meaning of nobility.
These are the terms, concepts, and people we will dedicate particular attention to during our reading:
- the metaphor of the banquet
- Italian vs Latin: the reasons why to write the Convivio in Italian, and not Latin
- commentary and self-commentary
- autobiography and when it is permitted
- the four senses of interpretation
- the literal and allegorical interpretations of Voi che ‘ntendendo il terzo ciel movete
- the gentil donna
- St. Augustine
- the heavens
- the seven liberal arts
- what is an “author”?
- virtues and vices