Dante's Works


Dante wrote his first work, the Vita nuova (or New Life), during the years 1292-93, when the poet was in his late twenties. In the Vita nuova Dante collects poems written in the previous decade and provides them with prose commentary. The work is written in Italian. The story line follows Dante’s own life, from his first encounter with Beatrice to her death, and the poetry he wrote along the way. Most poems are introduced by a few paragraphs in prose, in which Dante explains the situation from which the poem arose. He then includes the full text of the poem, followed by a brief discussion of the poem’s structure. The English translation used on this website by Andrew Frisardi divides the Vita nuova into 31 chapters; other editors have structured the Vita Nuova differently, dividing it into 42 chapters. The Vita nuova is as much a work about poetry as it is about love.

These are the terms we will define during the course of our reading:

  • prosimetrum
  • memory
  • libello or ‘little book’
  • razos and vidas: some examples
  • incipit
  • rubric
  • (self-)commentary
  • autobiography
  • numerology
  • sonnet
  • canzone
  • ballata
  • screen lady
  • allegory
  • icon