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Rituals of Literature

Joyce, Dante, Aquinas, and the Tradition of Christian Epics

Gian Balsamo

Lewisburg Bucknell University Press

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Balsamo, Gian, 1949— Rituals of literature :

Joyce, Dante, Aquinas, and the tradition of Christian epics / Gian Balsamo. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references (p.) and index. ISBN 0-8387-5549-6 (alk. paper) 1. Joyce, James, 1882 —1941—Criticism and interpretation. 2. Dante Alighieri, 1265—1321—Criticism and interpretation. 3. Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?—1274—Influence. 4. Christian literature— History and criticism. 5. Dante Alighieri, 1265—1321—Religion. 6. Epic literature—History and criticism. 7. Joyce, James, 1882—1941—Religion. 8. Christianity and literature. 9. Literary form. I. Title. PR6019.O9Z52567 2004 823'912—dc22 2003025824


Questia School, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning.








1. Archaic Ritual


2. Dante's Literary Ritual: Contra Aquinas

3. Joyce's Literary Ritual

Closing Remarks
















far from the Tiber River. Except early in the morning, I rarely left the convent (they never gave me a key to their gate), although a Joyce conference was in progress in the vicinities of the Milite Ignoto and the secluded night life of the novices was a disappointment. William Franke came to my succor in the evening with fresh food from a nearby rosticceria and fresh insights into the

iterative order of ritual celebration. Rather than to the literary rites of my vita contemplativa, forced

on me after all by their cruelly inconsequential company, the African novices were partial to pungent, smoky liturgies and artificial paradises. When I opened the door to my terrace at dawn, the residual smoke from an unidentified and poorly cured sort of grass or leaf—distinctly not tobacco—filled my lungs, forcing me to seek temporary asylum in the drafty rooms of the Joyce conference. Around midmorning I pulled the convent's visitors' bell, whose double tinkle, timid, oval, golden, gained me access to my ventilated room and my beloved, tiny writing desk, surmounted by a colossal Catholic Bible. Back in the States, first in Chicago, then in Palo Alto, the time came for the unavoidable process of redrafting. Benefiting from the assistance and solidarity of Tom Altizer, who showed me his writings in progress, of Robert Harrison, Tom Sheehan, and Rodney Koeneke, as well as the recalcitrant guidance of John Freccero, I also completed the companion volume to the present study, Scriptural Poetics in Joyce's Finnegans Wake (2002). I recall with tenderness the novices' secret, stenchy, smoke-filled rituals of the wee hours—every paradise gets the incense it deserves. Out of a sense of frustration, wounded masculinity, or perhaps just competition, I devised then and there a kind of ritual, literary rather than pulmonary, more sacrosanct than theirs.



IN CITING WORKS IN THE NOTES OR PARENTHETICALLY IN THE TEXT, short titles have occasionally been used. Works frequently cited have been identified by the following abbreviations:

FW James Joyce. Finnegans Wake. New York: Penguin, 1976.

In Metaphysicam

Fr. M.-R. Cathala. Taurini: Patrus Marietti, 1915. Unless otherwise specified, the translations are mine.

Sancti Thomae Aquinatis. In Metaphysicam Aristotelis, cura et studio P.


James Joyce. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Penguin, 1976.


Gian Balsamo. Pruning the Genealogical Tree: Procreation and Lineage in

Literature, Law, and Religion. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1999.


Omnia, ed. Roberto Busa, vol. 3., 438—500. Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog,

1980. Unless otherwise specified, the translations are mine


Medievalium Ottaviensis. Commissio Piana. Ottawa: 1953 Unless otherwise specified, the translations are mine.


Presence. Trans. William Barden. London: Blackfriars, 1965.

U James Joyce, Ulysses. ed. Hans W. Gabler et al. New York: Vintage, 1986.

Thomas Aquinas. Quaestiones quodlibetales. In S. Thomae Aquinatis, Opera

Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologiae. Cura et Studio Instituti Studiorum

St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologiae. Vol. 58. The Eucharistic



THE PRACTICE OF BIBLICAL REVISIONISM ENGAGES JOYCE IN A DIAlogue with a literary tradition that, no less than Ulysses and Finnegans Wakebut previous to them, was profoundly informed by the poetics of Holy Scripture. This is the tradition of Christian epics, that counts among its most influential exponents Dante, Malory, Tasso, Spenser, Milton, Blake, and Goethe. Besides being an offshoot of Biblical poetics, Christian epics stem from the ashes of the Greek epic tradition. Joyce gives the tradition of Christian epics awareness of its own historical identity as a modern and distinct genre by highlighting the integrated nature of his own literary progenitors' common types and tropes.

The principal thesis argued in the present study is that the literary tradition of Christian epics is, as a whole, theological in purpose and intention. Starting from a critique of Thomas Aquinas's treatment of poetry as an "inferior doctrine, ” inadequate as such to the properly theological task of doctrinal understanding, I develop the argument that the theological quest undertaken by Christian-epic writers is antagonistic to doctrinal speculation; it neither aims at an emulation of the anagogic speculation of the Scholastic theologian (the truthfulness of whose doctrine, according to Aquinas, is inferior only to divine revelation), nor at a competition with the inspired knowledge of the humanistic poet (whose "science, ” in Albertino Mussato's words, falls from the high heavens); it is oriented, instead, toward surrogating religious liturgy by means of literary imagination.

A fundamental postulate of this thesis is that the contrast that traditionally opposes speculation to imagination in philosophical discourse, homologous to the separation between doctrine and liturgy in cultic practice, is grounded on a fallaciously noetic logic. The works of Christian-epic writers disacknowledge the separation of competencies inherent in this logic, and make the


implicit claim that the imagination of the poet may autonomously achieve a condition that, for lack of a more conventional term to signify the encroachment of liturgy upon doctrine, I shall label as the condition of intimacy with the divine. In the present study I have adopted this formulation —"intimacy with the divine”— whenever I refer to the experience of a condition which, affine with the organic absorption in horror religiosus that was experienced by the worshiper in archaic sacrifice, Christian-epic writers have displaced from the ritualized solemnity of the altar to the intimate self-collection or self-ingathering promoted in author and reader alike by the literary text. In the perspective of this claim, the works of Christian-epic writers become, for one thing, substitute loci of ritual worship, and, for another, independent means of access to the knowledge of God, a knowledge occasionally conflictual or contentious with the doctrinal affirmations of theology proper.

The present study conceives of the family tree of Christian epics as a ramification of revisionary undertakings; the successor in the line of theologico-poetic filiation exhibits a systematic "filial” reluctance to accept the primacy of the progenitor, as well as the literary-aesthetic norms established by the latter's legacy; the successor is engaged in a project of reversal of origins, aimed at a radical reassessment of the significance of his progenitor(s) in the light of his own original or inaugural contribution to the tradition of Christian epics.

The thesis that Christian epics provide their readers with original and autonomous occasions of liturgical celebration, and in these celebrations access may be found to intimacy with the divine,

has profound repercussions with regard to the practices of both theology and poetics. A few more words ought to be spent on this subject.

A translitterative rendering of Aristotle's πoωτoυς θεoλoγησαντας, Aquinas's notion of poetae theologizantes is predicated upon the presumption that poetical utterance suffers from a "deficiency in truth” (Summa 1—2, q. 101, a. 2, ad 2), which beguiles human intellect by means of mere simulacra of truth. 1 In turn, according to Aquinas, Holy Scripture is endowed with a truth excessive of the cognitive potency of human intellect. If, on the one hand, the allegorical meaning of the Bible is uncompromisingly transcendent of its historical and literal meaning, and can be


attached to the latter only in the light of divine revelation, with profane literature, on the other hand, tropic (or, more conforming to Aquinas's diction, "parabolic”) meaning is never exorbitant of a passage's literal meaning; to Aquinas, tropic or parabolic meaning is the figure of speech immediately inherent in the literal utterance. Profanely self-contained, hence, secular literature is not an independent means of access to divine truth; only revelation constitutes such an access. Beneath revelation, in the hierarchical ladder of human acquisition of supernatural knowledge, stands theological speculation, which is endowed with its own special potency when it comes to the elaboration of criteria functional to the doctrinal understanding of divine things.

The protohumanists of the late Middle Ages adopted an opposite stance in dealing with this subject. When Albertino Mussato maintains that poetic inspiration falls from the sky, he means that poetic inspiration may find its own justification, as well as derive an imprimatur for the veracity of its own utterances, in the authority of God himself. Mussato's opinions will influence both Petrarca and Boccaccio, and evolve eventually into a general agreement among Renaissance poets and poeticians concerning the theological potency of profane literature. In spite of many appearances to the contrary, however, there still subsists an analogy between Aquinas's science of the intellect and Mussato's science of inspiration: both lead ultimately to a doctrinal and anagogic knowledge of divine things.

The present study shows that the Christian-epic vision and experience of the divine differs both from the Scholastic and the protohumanistic position, when it comes to the manners of cognition as well as to the intended object of cognition.

The difference separating the Christian-epic vision and experience of the divine from doctrinal and anagogic knowledge lies principally not so much in the literary as in the liturgical character of Christian epics. The original argument that the flourishing of Christian epics corresponds to the advent of a secular dimension in the ritual anamnesis of the Cross is variously and repeatedly developed by Thomas Altizer in History as Apocalypse, Genesis and Apocalypse, and The Genesis of God. But if the separation of Dante and Joyce (a certain Dante and a certain Joyce, as we shall see) from the dogmatics of the Scholastics and from


the poetics of the humanists is to be grounded on the liturgical character of their Christian-epic writings, and if this secular kind of liturgy is to affirm, as stated above, an intimacy with the divine analogous with the organic absorption in horror religiosus obtained in archaic sacrifice, then one ought to be able to answer in the affirmative

the following question: Can an epic work constitute a form of liturgy?

The rituals of religious cult found forms of enactment in literary (and theatrical) representation prior to the Christian era. This fundamental insight we owe to Nietzsche, specifically the Nietzsche of The Birth of Tragedy. It was primarily through the popular diffusion of Attic tragedy (the mystery cults embracing only a restricted number of adherents among the Greek population) that the genuine nature of archaic sacrifice and of scapegoating was reintroduced among the Greeks, centuries after Hesiod's and Homer's promotion of a contrary movement of secularization and politicization of cultic culture. It will be only in tragic representation, moreover, that the Greeks' collective imagination will be enabled to discover, in figures such as Oedipus or Antigone, the fundamental identity between the sacred victim of sacrifice and the profane victim of ritual scapegoating—a fundamental identity anticipating, as we shall discuss, its own typological resolution in the Christian Eucharist.

The acquisition of intimacy with the divine is direct and experiential in the practice of archaic sacrifice, whereas anagogic knowledge is mediated and intellectual in the practice of doctrinal speculation. The finality of these two activities is also different; to the manducatory event of Thomistic transubstantiation in the Eucharist, made aseptic by doctrine, one must oppose the sacrificial experience of the covenant in blood, a direct emanation of the rite inaugurated by Moses in Exodus 24. The sacrificial tradition of Christianity is characterized by the separation between the doctrinal codification of the Eucharistic rite on the one hand and the synergy of its spontaneous, individual experience on the other. Pseudo-Paul, author of the Letter to the Hebrews, is traditionally considered the source of the hiatus separating, in the celebration of the Eucharist, the doctrinal understanding of the nature of Christ's death from the liturgical experience of Jesus's Crucifixion. However, the prevailing interpretation of Hebrews 10.8, according to which Jesus' death is the metaphoric


and proleptic "true form” of a kingdom still-to-come, is only one of two possible interpretations. The alternative interpretation promotes instead the understanding of Crucifixion as the full actualization of the kingdom-to-come, that very actualization that is delineated, according to some interpreters, in Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians (5.17, 6.16) or in Paul's Letter to the Galatians (3.23—29.) 2

In the former case, Crucifixion is intended as a once-for-all event, irrepeatable; the human experience of the covenantal sacrifice in blood is presumed to have reached its full fruition and ultimate closure in the historical event of Crucifixion; the Eucharistic celebration of Crucifixion is reduced to an act of anamnesis, consumed via the metaphoric ingestion of the sacrificial victim. In the case of the latter interpretation, Jesus' death affects the worshiper as an experiential rather than virtual repetition, as an actual blood-shedding; intimacy with the divine is lived through in its organic immediacy; the kingdom has not yet to come, it is already here.

As we shall see, a qualified defense of this latter, heterodox interpretation of pseudo- Paul's Letter to the Hebrews (reflected, as I said, in the eschatology of Paul's Letter to the Galatians and Second Letter to the Corinthians) must be complemented by a deconstruction of Aquinas's doctrine of Eucharistic transubstantiation by concomitance (concomitantia). Aquinas's doctrine of concomitance is based on the three following tenets: (1) the doctrine of transubstantiation explains the miracle of the Eucharist; (2) the presence of Jesus in the consecrated species of the Eucharist is neither real nor symbolic, because the reality of sensory experience and the

symbolism of imaginary and/or intellectual experience are homogenous to the human mind, hence rationally explainable, and the Eucharist is not; (3) the ontological presence of Jesus in the consecrated species occurs "by concomitance.” This final principle is based in turn on the following syllogism: (a) according to the doctrine of hypostasis, wherever Jesus' body is, one finds also his divinity; (b) Jesus' body is in the consecrated species; (c) hence, by concomitance, his divinity is there too.

This sort of divine presence in the consecrated species is a presence by omission. Jesus Christ does not die in the celebration of the Eucharist, according to Aquinas; having died once, he


is now and forever gloriosum et impassibile (Summa 3, q. 77, a. 1, responsio); he neither changes nor is changed by the celebration of sacrifice. Aquinas's Eucharist of transubstantiation is a table-rite, a formal act of manducation. On the contrary, as we shall discuss, the kind of sacrificial rite concordant with the individual self-collection or self-ingathering obtained in the liturgical locus of Christian epics may be experienced by the worshiper as organically concrete, no less organically concrete than the mental and sensory experience undergone by the audience at a Greek amphitheater.

However, in consideration of the fact that the present study sets the intimacy with the divine obtained via literary self-ingathering in competition with the anagogic and doctrinal reach of theological speculation, it is important that these organic experiences of sacrificial blood-shedding (which the following discussions stipulate as being homogeneous with the poetics of individual self-ingathering), be kept rigorously distinct from purely sensory experiences of the body, or even from the subhuman manifestations of maenadic frenzy and loss of conscious individuality that were induced in part of the audience by the climactic denouement of a Greek tragedy. As Marx's phenomenological intuition sensed very early in his philosophic career, there is an experience of the senses that is "theoretical”; there are human senses that act like "theoreticians” of perception. When they have evolved into a properly "human” apparatus, argues the young Marx, echoing certain fundamental tenets from Vico's Scienza nuova, our senses have the ability to attend to their experience in such a way that they appropriate and subordinate nature to human ends and interests. "[These senses] relate themselves to the thing for the sake of the thing, but the thing itself [has become] an objective human relation to itself and to man.” 3 Once all reductive connotations of sensory and hallucinatory experience are bracketed away from our discussion of the organic concreteness of the sacrificial rite, it still remains that this concreteness pertains to organic physiology—the sacrificial victim is such only insofar as it is comestible, in sum. Yet, this is a special, "theoretical” physiology, capable of translating the experience of theophagy into "an objective human relation.”

The fact that the sacrificial victim is bodily ingested by the worshiper entails that it must then be bodily expelled, the way the


corpus or body-dogmatics of the Church assimilates its saints and excommunicates its heretics, but also, principally, the physiologic way the human body ingests nutriments and defecates wastes. This consideration has profound implications vis-à- vis the phenomenological relation at play between mind and body (or between intellect and

sensory experience) in the acquisition of intimacy with the divine. "[Metaphysics] derives its arguments [and principles] primarily from the inner modifications of the mind meditating on it, and only secondarily from the things standing in front of it, ” Vico remarks in book 2 of the Scienza nuova. Nourished by sensory experience—the senses being the human mind's "sole ways” of interiorizing the "things” standing in front of it—the mind gives birth in turn to these things' metaphysics, i.e., their "meaning and passion.” 4 As we shall see, some of the best pages of Joyce's Finnegans Wake are devoted to the peculiar liturgy of this complex metaphysical interplay between interiority and exteriority, more precisely between that which is outside the human body, that which is inside the mind, and the privileged corpus of Christian sacrifice that enters (and exits) the body in order to nourish the mind.

This introductory digression on the concreteness of the sacrificial experience has served to clarify why neither Aquinas's science of the intellect nor the protohumanists' science of the imagination could satisfy the authors of Christian epics in their drive to achieve a condition of intimacy with the divine.

The early Dante of the Convivio was still clearly attuned, both in his practice as poet and as poetician, with the conception of poetry promoted by the protohumanists. To him, the human mind was the divine component of the soul, its supreme desire being the acquisition of divine knowledge; the mind would satisfy this desire—and achieve, in so doing, beatitude here on earth — through the ascensional noetic process that leads to the "perfection of reason.” 5 But the later Dante, author of the Commedia, becomes a prophetic poet. The identification of poet and prophet goes back to the ancient Romans' identification of their poets with vates, and also to Albertus Magnus's explicit theological elaboration of the consequences of such identification. 6 It is this notion of vates that Dante has in mind in the De monarchia, when he alternates the designation of Virgil as vates with that of "our poet.” 7 The later Dante turns an essential feature from the


Homeric and Virgilian epic tradition, the journey to the underworld, into a fundamental axis in the constitution of the tradition of Christian epics. This journey becomes the imprimatur whereby tradition authorizes the poet to assume a revelatory or prophetic stance; his verses are now informed by a poetics of revelation, pervaded by vetero- and neotestamentary types and tropes. In Scriptural Poetics in Joyce's Finnegans Wake, I have anchored such a poetics of revelation to a revisionistic repetition of emblematic Biblical types. 8 In Joyce as well as in Dante, the artistic practice of this poetics of revelation entails a radical and unorthodox redefinition of the manners and the object of religious knowledge—a redefinition that, orbiting an original comprehension of the position of the inquirer with respect to the object of inquiry, allows one to posit Biblical revisionism as a category pertinent to the making as well as the understanding of profane literature.

Joyce embraces and gives further elaboration to Dante's legacy. The Joyce of Finnegans Wake does not even shy away from the most radical requirement of the Dantean legacy, i.e., that the poet truly undertake the journey to the underworld, and deliver the vision received therein as an act of personal testimony. My discussion of the Eucharistic transfiguration of the man of letters in Finnegans Wake, and of his simultaneous personification of the fictional character and the historical self of the author, is devoted to this poetics of testimony.

At the close of these introductory remarks, I should emphasize the following consideration:

Joyce's twofold personification of author and character short-circuits at once two divergent literary traditions, namely, the Flaubertian tradition establishing an irreconcilable separation between author and character, and the pseudo-Proustian tradition positing a biographic congruence between author and character (the latter tradition, to which Marcel Proust, a sworn enemy of the biographical criticism à la Sainte- Beuve, never subscribed, is in truth a paradoxical offshoot of Flaubert's famous pronouncement: Madame Bovary, c'est moi). As we shall see, Joyce solves the

literary and existential conundrum of his own participation in the necropolitan journey narrated in Finnegans Wake by means of one of his most memorable inventions, that of a sacrificial meal whereby he—


author and character, creator and creature, father and son— bodily ingests his own corpus scribendi, the cadaver of his own profane scripture. With this distinctively literary liturgy Joyce inaugurates an intense and surprising dialogue between the tradition of Christian epics and its modernist agenda.



Archaic Ritual



works whose fundamental generic connotations were established by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey; more precisely, it is bound to refer to the segment of this corpus that includes works related to Christian culture and Christian tradition. Virgil's Aeneid is conventionally considered the bridge between the worlds of pagan and Christian epics; its presentation of the Roman empire, intended as the realization of the future history preordained in the Elysian Fields—Dante's "life- giving Rome”—was later interpreted as a prophetic foreshadowing of Christendom, and appropriated as such by the Christian epic tradition. 1

When discussing the theology of Christian epics, however, one is naturally predisposed to broach

a subject of much greater complexity and specificity. The proposition that a literary work related to the culture and tradition of Christianity deals with matters pertinent to the cult, religion, or revelation of the God of the New Testament states the obvious; yet, it amounts to a very different rationale to posit that a certain epic work is theological in purpose and intention.

Can a literary work trespass upon the boundaries of theological discourse? Can a poet claim for

himself or herself the prerogatives of the theologian? This is an ancient controversy that saw a moment of culmination at the end of the Middle Ages. In his commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics, Thomas Aquinas praised those poetae theologizantes who treated of the "principles

of things” through the lessons of mythology (In Metaphysicam liber 1, lectio 3, § 55). Yet, the

participial adjective


theologizans, never mind how translitteratively close to Aristotle's diction (theologésantas), seems

to convey only a cautiously qualified, almost suspicious kind of praise on the part of the princeps

theologorum—especially if one considers that, before Aquinas, the great poet-philosophers of the twelfth century, from Bernardus Silvestris to Alain de Lille to John of Salisbury, were already systematically undertaking the fusion of poetic intuition and noetic cognition; the spirit of such

endeavor will eventually find felicitous expression in Giovanni Boccaccio's declaration that, given

a proper subject, "theology is nothing else but a poetry of God” [La teologia niun'altra cosa è che una poesia di Dio]. 2

Poeta theologus versus poeta theologizans: our discussion will show that the alternative between these two epithets bespeaks the contrast that opposes, in cultic practice, doctrine to liturgy, and, in philosophical discourse, speculation to imagination.

Aquinas cannot conceive of the poet as a fellow theologian because poetry can be doctrinal and philosophical only in an imperfect and hybrid way. The poetic art presents itself as a ratio factibilium, i.e., a cognitive doctrine (ratio, cogitatio) applicable to things (such as, in the case of poetry, versification) that can be made by man (faciendi, factibilium)—things that, therefore, stand in a relation of contiguity with the artifacts of the "vulgar” arts. 3 Poetry, let us not forget, is not included either among the "noble” arts of the Trivium (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric) or among those of the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy). Aquinas can therefore problematize the knowledge that comes through poetry as infima doctrina, an inferior doctrine that cannot compete with the theological understanding provided by the pure speculation of theology. 4

The contrast between "poet-theologian” and "theologizing poet” may be seen as a contrast between doctrine and liturgy on the one hand, and speculation and imagination on the other. The conflict at the heart of the controversy regarding the theological status of poetry may be described as a contrast between the knowledge of the divine that comes through doctrinal speculation and the intimacy with the divine that comes through the imaginative experience of religious ritual. This is a far-reaching argument requiring a sound and laborious demonstration. However, the demonstration of the complementarity between poetry,


liturgy, and intimacy with the divine shall only be our first step, considering that the declared aim of the present discussion is the study of the theological thrust of a very special kind of poetry, i.e., Christian epics.

Were one to take for granted, at this stage in our discussion, that the imagination of the poet duplicates or emulates the imagination of the ritual worshiper, one would still be left with two fundamental questions: Can it be legitimately claimed that the contrast between doctrine and liturgy is manifest in the separation between theology proper and Christian epics? Can it be legitimately claimed (as the title of this chapter suggests) that the tradition of Christian epics conveys and elaborates, intentionally and purposefully, an autonomous theological vision—a vision independent from, even antagonistic to "theology proper?”

In order to answer these questions, I shall present a detailed analysis of the origins of rite and doctrine in the archaic communities that saw the birth of the (Greek) epic genre. This analysis will be followed with a detailed study of the development of rite and doctrine in early Christianity. The history of these two parallel developments will enable me to argue that the narratives of the institution of the Eucharistic rite in early Christianity sanctioned a separation between rite and doctrine instrumental to the proselytizing interests of the Roman Curia. This separation is reflected, as we shall see, in the divergence between the theological tendency toward the constitution of a singular corpus of religious doctrine, distinct and separated from previous polytheistic and monotheistic credence by the hiatus of Crucifixion, and the establishment of a liturgical tradition which Crucifixion itself sets in a line of qualified continuity with pre-Christian covenantal practices. This divergence, in turn, corresponds to two opposite theological visions, one informed by the systematic practice of a speculative codification of Christian doctrine, and the other informed by the practice of a ritual representation, commemoration, and/or reenactment of Crucifixion.

I shall maintain, in agreement with a position expressed by Thomas Altizer in History as Apocalypse, Genesis and Apocalypse, and The Genesis of God, that, in the absence of an adequate liturgical tradition, the theological vision informed by the anamnesis of the Cross finds

its most powerful voices in the poets of Christian epics, from Virgil to Malory and Dante, from


Tasso to Spenser, from Milton to Blake and Goethe: a tradition of imaginative poiesis and revisionary innovation that will culminate in the profane liturgies enacted in James Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.5

The notion of a "tradition of revisionary innovation” reads like a contradiction in terms, since the term "tradition” usually defines morae and rationes, as well as communal attitudes oriented rather toward the preservation, the conservation, the repetition of past ethical principles, past religious views, past aesthetic criteria, past customs and values, than toward their innovation. However, in the evolution of the tradition of Christian epics one sees the epigone "fathering” his own precursors through a strategy of aesthetic and doctrinal revisions; one might say that the phenomenon of intertextual filiation manifests itself in the manners of a conflict-in-continuity. The genealogy of Christian epics from Virgil to Joyce may be intended as a sequence of revisionary projects, each project endowed with a specific theological filiation and a distinct poetic rebellion against the authority of the precursor.

Harold Bloom describes the passage from Spenser to Milton, for instance, as affected by the interplay of these four elements: (1) revisionism; (2) theological derivation; (3) epic purpose; (4) "filial” rebellion. This passage, writes Bloom, incorporates "the crucial revisionary ratio by which Paradise Lost distances itself from its most dangerous precursor, The Faerie Queene, for Spenser had achieved a national romance, of epic greatness, in the vernacular, and in the service of moral and theological beliefs not far from Milton's own.” 6

In A Map of Misreadings, Bloom defines the act or moment of dissent as the specific phase in the "scene of writing” when the successor in the poetic line of descent overcomes the precursor's spiritual primacy, paternal condescension, and, above all, "absolute firstness” or precedence; in so doing, the successor establishes himself and his work as the novel, paradoxical origin at the end of the line, as the arche manifesting itself at the pinnacle of the genealogical and typological tree of intertextual descent. 7 One of my tasks in what follows will be to demonstrate that the paradoxical character of such a novel origin, of such a reversal of chronological primacy, is a consequence of the apocalyptic


logic, and more precisely, in the present study, of the apocalyptic temporality inherent in the tradition of Christian epics.


The fundamental religious rite among the ancient Greeks is called thysia, and consists of the sacrifice of a victim to the gods. The thysia includes a sequence of distinct procedures: the procession escorting the victim to the altar, the consecration of the victim through prayer and codified ceremonies, the killing and butchery of the victim, the divination from the victim's viscera, the offering of parts of the victim on the altar fire, the consumption of the viscera by the clerical and political elite participating to the sacrifice, and lastly, the distribution and consumption of the meat. 8

According to Jean-Pierre Vernant, this sequence of procedures "permit[s] the slaughter of an animal under such conditions that violence seems excluded and the slaying is unequivocally imbued with a characteristic that distinguishes it from murder.” 9 In this theory of the thysia,

sacrifice determines the gods' and men's place in the universe, by assigning distinct parts of the victim to the former and the latter. Furthermore, the distribution and consumption of meat and viscera according to social rank reflects social stratification and contributes to its enforcement as

well; it entails therefore the establishment of a clerical and civil hierarchy and the confirmation of

a political status quo within a given community. This delicate balance of human order could be

destroyed, according to Vernant, by the violence of the victim's slaughter, which is, at once, too brutal and bestial in its execution, and too god-like in its giving of holy nourishment and its taking of natural life, to be easily reconciled with the political civility of the rite. This is why Marcel Detienne, whose views are analogous with Vernant's, maintains that the slaying of the victim is executed "dans un climat de prudence inquiète” [in an atmosphere of uneasy prudence].” 10

One might say that Detienne and Vernant have elaborated a theory of sacrifice as a consecration of the political status quo. The major shortcoming of this theory consists of a refusal to address the mystical and liturgical components of Greek sacrifice.


Detienne and Vernant reduce the sacrifice of the victim to a set of symbolic operations, designated to celebrate and perpetuate the participation to civilized life "of a community that learned to repudiate the violence of cannibalistic murder intrinsic to human sacrifice” (of which the thysia is, after all, a simulacrum). 11 As in all liturgical procedures, anamnesis is at play within this particular acceptation of the thysia, but it is a recollection or commemoration that denies the essence itself of sacrifice. Any such attempt to reduce religious ritual to a confirmation and perpetuation of the current social structure must be logically grounded upon a culinary version of sacrifice, a version that stresses the moment of "manducation, ” i.e., the communal meal, at the expense of the equally essential moment of the sacrificial covenant, or blood alliance.

Only an approach capable of commemorating sacrifice as an ascetic experience of archaic imagination can do justice to the dialectical convergence between blood alliance and communal meal. Sacrifice is not only the symbolic moment of confirmation, perpetuation, and, in certain circumstances, perpetration of the hierarchical structure of a social organization; it is also the ceremony that opens the horizon of possibility for legal arbitration in the court of law and for commodity exchange in the market place. But the disclosure of this positive horizon of communal possibility corresponds to a decidedly private and negative experience of sacrifice, namely, the very experience inaugurating the ethical criterion of individual responsibility.

The communal meal of sacrifice is a moment of incorporation of the vital principle of the victim,

which is consecrated and turned into a symbolic warrant of fertility, prosperity, legitimacy, dynastic supremacy and continuity, etc. This ritual, whose meaning and operations may be properly defined as symbolic, and which can be identified with "positive cult”—i.e., a rite, as Émile Durkheim would have it, that regulates and organizes the "positive and bilateral rapport” between the worshiper and the "religious forces”—is made possible only by the moment of the blood alliance, whose logic transcends not only that of symbolic representation, but also the contractual logic intrinsic to the communal meal. 12 Social and civil life are made possible by the participation

in the communal meal of a subject whose sense of responsibility originates from an ascetic

experience external to


(and virtually subversive of) contractual norms and communal codes. As Durkheim indicated in Formes élémentaires de la pensée religieuse, the positive cult of institutionalized religion is made possible only when practiced by a worshiper who has learned the "ascetic way” of individual responsibility; this lesson is learned through the "negative cult” introducing the worshiper "to renunciation, to abnegation, to self-detachment.” 13

Before representing or symbolizing the communion of a collective meal in the eyes of the Greeks, and the sanction as well of the social order and political status quo, the thysia manifests itself as a double offering. The thysia is, first of all, the human offering of a victim to the god, an offering, however, that is at once, simultaneously, the grateful acceptance or reception of the sacrificial victim given to the rite officiant by the god itself. One might also say that the thysia is a giving back to the god, a restitution, of the victim whose possession comes from and ultimately belongs to the god. The blood alliance intrinsic to this double offering is a giving and taking of blood based on renunciation: on the one hand, a renunciation on the part of the god, who gives, as a compounded gift, the life that is being offered in sacrifice to him or to her; on the other hand, a renunciation on the part of the officiant, who offers to the god the life that the god has presented him (or her, in the case of the Bacchic and Maenadic sacrifice) with.

In the successive communal moment of the meal, this abysmal give-and-take of blood—wherein the taker is always a giver, and whereby the god's gift of life is always identical with the celebrant's offering of death—establishes, through manducation, the blood alliance of dynasty, lineage, fertility, institutional power, and social hierarchy within the community. But it remains, as we shall see better further on, that the blood alliance is a profoundly solitary and ascetic experience, to be contrasted with the collective rite of the communal meal. If the dialectic convergence between the ascetic and the social moment of the thysia—between, that is, the blood alliance and the communal meal—is possible at all, it is because the participants to the thysia have been turned into responsible subjects; they have been initiated to the imperatives of renunciation, abnegation, privation, and abstinence through their rapport of double exchange—a giving that is al


ways a receiving—with the responsive subject whom their sacrificial offering is meant to satisfy.


This is not just one among other possible ascetic experiences but, rather, the primal type of ascetic experience for archaic imagination. The order of symbolic discourse adopted by Detienne and Vernant in their interpretation of the Greek thysia is inadequate when it comes to explaining the alliance of the blood, i.e., the exchange of a double offering whose abysmal nature entails, prima facie, a virtual negation of all contractual and societal norms of exchange. To the sacrificial stage of the altar, and to the social stage of the court of law and the market place as well, the blood alliance brings a responsible subject, a subject capable of individual responsibility; only through the ascetic experience of a satisfaction (the satisfaction of a gift of life and holy nourishment) obtainable through renunciation (the renunciation inherent in an offering of death and nourishment to the god), the participant to the thysia becomes predisposed to the civilized sharing of the communal meal.

To Detienne's and Vernant's conservative interpretation of the thysia as a liturgical moment of positive cult, Walter Burkert opposes an interpretation of the thysia centered on the individual and negative experience of the divine. According to Burkert, the very aim of the ritualistic sacrifice is to display the victim's slaughter; the killing of the victim and the frightful feelings aroused by this killing among the participants are the sacral center of the rite. "The worshiper experiences the god most powerfully in the deadly blow of the axe, the gush of the blood and the burning of thigh bones.” 15 The religious feelings inspired by the mysterium tremendum, augustum et fascinans of the thysia would then derive from the participant's identification of sacrifice with the murder of the victim. 16 Burkert's approach shifts the focus of analysis from the external sphere of ritualized and collective procedures to the internal sphere of individual, spiritual and/or emotional response.

An effort of explicit codification of the main doctrinal aspects of the thysia was only undertaken,

among the Greeks, by certain narrow circles, such as the Pythagoreans and the Orphics, whose religious interests were in opposition to the dominant sacrificial customs. 17 A great deal of what we know about the common heritage of the Greek sacrificial system is derived, hence,


from dissenting sources, sources which were predisposed to magnify the connotations of social containment intrinsic to the thysia, at the expense of the mystical dimension of the thysia's individual experience.

The disciples of Pythagoras refuse to eat the meat of the sacrifice, and accept as sacrificial food only cereal cakes and honey, burnt on the altar together with the incense. This refusal of partaking of the meat of sacrifice goes hand in hand with the Pythagoreans' aims of social reform and individual asceticism.

Orphism is analogous to Pythagoreanism in its mystical renunciation to the sacrificial meat, but, contrary to the disciples of Pythagoras, the Orphic disciple is a marginal individual, a wanderer separated from his own community. The Orphic view perceives in the sacrifice of living victims the constitution of an abject separation between men and gods. By feeding of flesh destined to putrefaction, the participants to the thysia acknowledge their own mortality and irremediable separation from the immortals; by consuming only pure nutriments, such as honey and cereals (the same nutriments offered to the gods in the Orphic liturgy), Orpheus chooses instead the path of mystical elevation—literally, the path of the altar's smoke—rather than the opposite path of putrefaction. 18

The third way of dissention pertains, finally, to the devotees of Dionysus, who appear to follow an opposite path of degradation through the bestial practice of homophagy, i.e., the devouring of living creatures, occasionally of human beings, in order to evade the politico—religious condition of civilized life in the polis. 19

The geometrical correspondences between the mystical elevation of the Orphics (an upward or skyward orientation), the brutal degradation of the Dionysians (a downward or bestial orientation), and the middle way of the celebrants of the thysia (the way of the Attic polis) will come à propos in the next section, when it will be a matter of establishing the typological affinity between Christian and Greek sacrifice. My hypothesis that there is affinity between the Greek thysia and the Christian Crucifixion goes counter to the Detienne-Vernant line of interpretation, based on a "sacrificial scheme” whose fundamental elements "are highly modified from one civilization to another, or from one case to another within the same culture.” 20 And there would certainly be evident disaffinity between the thysia and Crucifixion, if


one were to assimilate—quite erroneously—both the former and the latter sacrifice to Vernant's theory of the "silence of the myths.”


According to the theory of "the silence of the myths, ” the classical authors, particularly Hesiod in his account of the first sacrifice by Prometheus, and Homer as well, in his reduction of Odysseus's frequent libations and hecatombs to civil and quasi- secular functions, leave systematically under silence the slaying of the victim of sacrifice. 21 Leaving aside, for the time being, the influential role exercised by Hesiod and Homer in the imposition of a poetics of secularization and politicization of ritual sacrifice, it may be argued that this "silence of the myths”

is, strictly speaking, nothing but a dramatic omission, a leaving-out that corresponds to a conventional requisite for proper representation.

An emblematic exclusion of ritual bloodshed is found, for instance, in the stage representation of the Oresteia by Aeschylus, an author historically closer to us than Hesiod and Homer. Aeschylus's "silence” corresponds to a leaving-out of all sacrificial murders, from that of Iphigenia, required of Agamemnon by the oracle, to that of Agamemnon, who expiates the sacrifice of his daughter, and to the murder of Clytemnestra and Aeghistus as well, whereby Orestes appeases the spirit of his and Iphigenia's father. Such a dramatic omission can be more effectively attributed to an archaic notion of the limits of representation— admittedly, a dynamic notion in rapid evolution between Homer's times and the times of Attic tragedy—rather than to the dimension of secularized ritual and to the purpose of social containment intrinsic to the Detienne-Vernant theory of the Greek "sacrificial scheme.”

Let us focus for a moment on the tragic genre of the Attic theatrical tradition. Violence was never enacted on the Greek stage, not because violent murder was not a central moment in innumerable classical myths, but because the fright and dread aroused by violent death were to be the effect of the "structure


of the events” (according, at least, to Aristotle) rather than of "spectacle” and "external apparatus.” 22 If one can detect a typological disaffinity in the passage from the representation of sacrificial murder on the Attic stage to the Scriptural representation of Crucifixion, the discretion of the former making a stark contrast with the explicitness of the latter, such a disaffinity must be attributed primarily to an evolution or, more properly, to a dissimilarity in the prevailing manners of representation, rather than to two heterogeneous "sacrificial schemes.” And if one were to object that the murder represented (or, rather, dissimulated) on the Greek stage is to be kept conceptually separated from the ritual killing celebrated in front of the altar, and that therefore my thesis of a "dramatic omission” could not fully account for the laconic silence found in mythical narrations of holy sacrifice among the Greeks, such an objection could be easily challenged, as we are presently going to see, in light of the overwhelming analogies linking Greek tragedy and Greek religious ritual.

As John Sallis remarks in Crossings, the type of the Greek tragic hero exhibits the connotations of the pharmakon, that is, the contradictory duality "reunion/dismemberment, healing/killing” that one finds described in historically attested rituals (as opposed to literary or mythical representations) of pharmakeia. 23 The individuals expelled from the polis as pharmakoi or scapegoats "were all that was vile and disgusting” in the eyes of the community—slaves, beggars, criminals, figures ritualistically burdened with the sins of the community, who were expelled by stoning, or stoned to death at times, to purify the polis. 24 There is an evident relation of contiguity between sacrifice proper, celebrated in front of the altar, and pharmakeia, celebrated in the streets of the polis, a contiguity to be found in the presence of a victim, in the separation of the victim from the community, in the restoration of social cohesion determined both by the pharmakeia and by the thysia, and, in general, in the religious character of both rites. However affine in religious character, though, these two rites' fundamental tenors are opposite in nature, insofar as the consecrated victim of the thysia must be consumed by the celebrants in order to assimilate its vital principle, while the scapegoat, loaded with sins, crimes, and guilts, treated and dealt with therefore as spiritually infective, must be expelled by and from the community. 25


Moreover, an evident relation of typological affinity may be established between the rite of pharmakeia and the Greek tragic genre. This can be seen especially well in the mythical (rather

than historically attested) representations of pharmakeia, wherein it is not the lowly that are expelled from the polis, but the king. As Daniel Ogden points out, in both historically attested rituals and representations of myth "a link (of the scapegoat) with the opposite status can be made, ” to the extent that in some mythical representations the king is expelled "dressed as a slave, ” while some attested rituals describe "the lowly real life scapegoat [being] fed like a king before his expulsion.” It is agreed, Ogden writes, "that kings and the assorted lowly individuals actually attested as pharmakoi have in common an exterior- ness or marginality to society.” 26 The figure of King Oedipus is the emblematic example of a mythical representation of the pharmakon, the "lonely marginal at the top” who must be expelled to bring the pollution away from the city. 27 If the Dionysian dismemberment is only metaphorical in the tragedy of Oedipus, the communal healing and the restoration of social cohesion brought about by Oedipus's self- mutilation and expulsion from the city constitute the transposition to the stage of a ritualistic effect.

Contrary to the scapegoat's destiny of irremediable abjection, which makes, as observed earlier, the religious tenor of the pharmakeia opposite in nature to that of the thysia, the fate of Oedipus undergoes an astounding mutation in Sophocles's version of his story, from guilt-ridden scapegoat in Oedipus the King to consecrated victim in Oedipus at Colonus. Further on, this mutation shall enable us to derive a relevant element of affinity between the Greek victim/scapegoat and the victim of Crucifixion, whose flesh and blood are consumed in the Eucharist. For the time being, I shall limit myself to mentioning an observation by Walter Burkert regarding Deutero-Isaiah's prophecies of the Suffering Servant's atoning death: the scapegoat "may be marked by a touching ambivalence, despised and worshiped at the same time. This has been elaborated, most of all, in the Christian tradition.” 28


Two alternative typologies in the explication of the origin and institution of the Eucharist are found in early Christian writings.


One may be attributed to Luke and Paul, and treats "the original meal-setting of the Eucharist” as a commemoration of the Last Supper and of the meals shared with Christ after his Resurrection. 29 Another typological scheme may be attributed to Mark and Matthew, and treats the remote type of cultic sacrifice as the origination of the Christian rite. Whereas the Luke-Paul typology cites Jeremiah's prophecy of the "new covenant, ” whereby God "will put [His] Teaching into the inmost being [of the House of Israel] and inscribe it upon their heart, ” the Mark-Matthew typology refers the origin of the rite to Moses's dashing of "the blood of the covenant” on the people around the altar. 30

Raymond Moloney remarks in The Eucharist that "the whole development of the Mark-Matthew tradition has been drawn into a theology of sacrifice.” 31 A deconstructive appraisal of Moloney's remark, and of the Scriptural and historical analysis that sustains it, is in order at the present juncture. In this section it will be a matter of assessing the fundamental connotations regarding the origin and propagation of the cultic practice of the Eucharist among the early Christian communities, so as to ascertain whether a typological affinity or disaffinity prevails with respect to previous religious rituals. As we shall see, the decision as to whether or not the civilized meal- setting of the Eucharist may be assimilated to a blood covenant, and whether or not this blood covenant must be considered only a formal and figural representation, or rather an experiential reenactment of ritual sacrifice, depends on the conflictual and problematic relation established by the early Christian communities with their original religious establishment.

According to Hebrew tradition, the victim of temple sacrifice, to be partly burned on the altar as an

offering to God, and partly consumed as the communal meal that cut the covenant, was considered an embodiment of holiness; it could not be conceived, therefore, as a carrier of collective sins, nor as an agent of expurgation of collective sins, two roles imposed instead on the scapegoat. 32 In the times of Jesus, cultic practice among the Hebrews was relegated to the Temple, while out of the Temple ancient rites tended to assume a profane meaning. In the particular case of the sacrificial meal, whose two conventional moments were the offering to God and the subsequent ratification of a double covenant (with God and, at once, among men), out of the Temple


it was the secular side of the latter moment (i.e., the ratification of pacts, contracts, and alliances among men) that tended to prevail in its legal purposes—purposes which, incidentally, could be attained not only through the breaking of the bread but also through alternative manners of ratification, such as handshakes or gift exchanges. 33

The early Christians were therefore to encounter three major obstacles in the apprehension of the meal-setting of the Eucharist as blood sacrifice. First of all, the Eucharistic meal could only be consumed outside the Temple, yet the expiation of debts toward God was to assume a substantial priority in the Eucharistic meal, over and above the ratification of legal, contractual, and communal pacts. Second, the traditional burning of the bloody parts of the sacrificial victim was substituted by the Eucharistic offering of grains and grapes—very much, incidentally, in the manner of the Greek Orphics. Third, once they overcame their original revulsion toward the horror of Crucifixion and started identifying Calvary as the originary locus of the blood sacrifice, the early Christians had to account for a divine victim who manifested itself with the expurgating attributes of the scapegoat. A prophetic contribution to this third and most fundamental act of cultic imagination came certainly, as suggested earlier, from Deutero-Isaiah's prophecies of the Suffering Servant and his atoning death: 34

We accounted him plagued, Smitten and afflicted by God; But he was wounded because of our sins, Crushed because of our iniquities. He bore the chastisement that made us whole, And by his bruises we were healed. 35

Closer to the Christian era, and canonical only in the Roman Catholic, Greek, and Slavonic

Bibles, the writings identified as Wisdom of Solomon further stimulated the cultic imagination of

Christ's atoning death: "The ungodly

reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, ”

Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;


for if the righteous man is God's child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.

(Wisdom of Solomon 1.16—2.20)

Although they still practiced the sacrificial worship of the Temple, the early Christians may have attributed more of a liturgical than a profane significance to the breaking of the bread twice mentioned in Acts 2.42—46, based on the Hebrew grace before nonliturgical meals. If this liturgical significance could not be identified yet with that of a ritual sacrifice, since even the celebration of Passover had lost its original sacrificial attributes by the first century C. E., it could certainly be assigned the character of anamnesis, as the celebration and commemoration of the

Last Supper—which character of commemoration-in-repetition is an indispensable attribute of all ritualistic and liturgic celebration, be it spontaneous or organized.

I share Moloney's opinion that "for the early Christians, their breaking of bread belonged to the sphere of `ordinary life,' distinct from the sacred sphere of the Temple.” 36 But this observation must be compounded with the consideration that the influence of Pauline writings, and especially the Letter to the Romans, was going to promote, very early in the history of Christianity, an identification of ordinary life, of a certain everyday lifestyle, with spontaneous acts of "sacrifice” and "spiritual worship.” 37 The early Christians could have therefore felt amply justified in applying a liturgical significance to their domestic breaking of the bread. The anamnesis of this breaking of the bread—which ultimately translates into an innovative typological understanding of the Hebrew offering of the grace before meals, just as the drinking of the wine does the same with respect to the table-ritual of the grace after meals—will eventually receive its full sacrificial character in the eyes of the early Christians as a consequence of their new disposition toward Calvary and Crucifixion. 38

Perceived at first as a disastrous event devoid of meaning, a


negation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, Crucifixion was eventually understood as an event of "salvific significance.” 39 Although the earliest Christological formulas, those found for instance in Acts 2.23—24, 3.13—16, ignore the salvific aspect of Crucifixion, the notion that the Passion could not be kept separated from the Resurrection came to prevail, and it became clear to the early Christians that the sanctification ensuing from Jesus's death was to be assimilated by typological analogy to a sacrificial immolation: hence, the stressing of the aspect of cultic sacrifice found in the Mark-Matthew explication of the origin and institution of the Eucharist. "The Eucharist provides the categories of ritual which were absent [from] the cross, and Calvary supplies the element of historical significance, which a table-rite on its own could not command.” 40

In disagreement with Moloney, according to whom Paul would stress, together with Luke,

principally the manducatory aspects of the Eucharist, there pertains to pseudo-Paul's Letter to the Hebrews the sanction of the identity of Christ's self-sacrifice with the fulfillment of the whole sacrificial system of Israel: "It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away

[since] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ” (Hebrews

10.4, 10.10).


We have seen how the meal setting of the Eucharist came to be assimilated to a blood-covenant, especially in the sacrificial version of the originary type of the Cross. It is time now to deal with the relation between ritual enactment and liturgical anamnesis. Should one think of the blood- covenant commemorated in the Eucharist as a figural celebration or rather an experiential enactment of the originary type? The disaccordant parallel between Eucharistic meal and Temple ritual requires that this matter be given close scrutiny. Was the Hebrew "law” of cultic, bloody sacrifice, which pseudo-Paul attacks in the Letter to the Hebrews (10.1, 8), meant to be substituted by a practice of figural celebration? Or was the sacrificial system of Israel meant to culminate, on the contrary, in the concrete repetition of Calvary whenever the Eucharistic meal was partaken of by the Christian worshiper?

We know, from Aquinas's Summa Theologiae and from Occam's Tractatus de sacramento altaris, that the Eucharist is celebrated through an effect of temporal and spatial "multi-loca


tion, ” in multis aliis altaribus [”on many other altars”]. 41 This is the effect of ubiquity whereby

Jesus, in virtue of his hypostatic nature, is substantially present as the Son of God in the accidents of the transubstantiated bread and wine, in different places at the same time, and in the same place at different times.

In his self-defense against Lanfrancus's accusation of heresy, Berengarius of Tours writes: [U]bi ait in epistola ad Hebroeos: una est ecclesiae hostia et non multae. Quomodo una et not


declared in the Letter to the Hebrews, the Host of the Church is one and not many. In what

manner, one rather than many?

sacrifice of the Church is offered in many places”]. The latter hypothesis, entertaining the notion of an entire army of incarnated Christs walking the earth, would be heretical indeed, and as such

is challenged not only by Berengarius but also, he cites, by St. Augustine himself: [Q]uando

manducamus, partes de illo facimus; per partes manducatur in sacramento, et manet integer, totus in coelo manet, integer totus in corde tuo ["When we partake of (the sacrifice), we break it up into distinct pieces; although he is manducated in the pieces of the sacrament, Christ remains nonetheless whole; he remains whole in the heaven, whole in your heart.”] The integrity of the symbol, in sum, would enter the heart of the worshiper, while the integral substance of Christ himself remains in heaven. 42

Alioquin quam in multis locis offertur sacrificium ecclesiae, multi Christi sunt ["As

Because otherwise there would be many Christs, since the

But the question remains: Is Jesus' sacrifice to be experienced, phenomenologically speaking, as

a real, concrete, bloody death, or rather staged as a commemoration of the historical—

historically and distinctly singular—event of his death? Are the worshiper's senses—from the tongue receiving the Host to the eyes observing the function to the ears listening to the canon— bound to act as passive receptacles of a sequence of symbolic acts, or are they enabled to transform their perception of the collective rite into a distinct and individual relation to the body of Christ? Are they perhaps engaged in an "objective human relation, ” as Marx would have it, appropriating and subordinating the phenomenon of celebration to their own living experience of Crucifixion? 43



Before attending to this complex matter, it is appropriate to recall the fundamental thrust of the analysis, theological, anthropological, and historical at once, developed in the present discussion; its ultimate aim is the demonstration that, in the absence of an adequate liturgical tradition, the Christian "theology of [ritual] sacrifice” (as opposed to the theology of orthodox speculative doctrine) found its most influential voices in the tradition of Christian epics. 44

The analysis of ritual sacrifice among the ancient Greeks, carried on in previous chapters, indicates that two virtually opposite versions of the thysia may be derived from two opposite understandings of the slaying procedures. When the killing of the victim is intended as a moment of violence whose importance must be minimized within the ordered progression of the ceremony, one ends up with a theory of the thysia as positive cult, as a rite of consecration of the political status quo. When the killing of the victim is intended, instead, as the core and fundamental motive of the ceremony, one ends up with a theory of the thysia as ascetic experience, as an act subversive of contractual norms and communal codes.

In the former acceptation of the thysia, the communal meal may be broken down into a sequence of procedures (procession, consecration, killing, butchery, etc.) whose contribution to the development of civilized life is understood on a metaphorical level, insofar as these procedures are all pertinent to a "homogeneous semantic circle”: a semantic circle so effective and self-

enclosed as to predispose one to the transposition of the actual blood-shedding of the sacrificial victim into the mere event of a symbolic celebration—into the staged poiesis or fabrication of a

mere signifier, if you will. 45 In other words, given a relatively advanced level of civilization, and given a relatively advanced stage of doctrinal elaboration, sacrifice would become a symbolic act of commemoration and a simulacrum of the original practice of cannibalism and human sacrifice,

a symbolic act and a simulacrum whereby and wherein the community celebrates and perpetuates the ordered progression of its own civil life.


But is this the case with the thysia? Certainly not, if it is true, as argued before, that ritual sacrifice among the Greeks cannot be stabilized and domesticated through doctrinal codification; if it is true, furthermore, that sacrifice is a mysterium tremendum, the magnitude (augustum) of whose mystical fascination (et fascinans) resides precisely in the shedding of the victim's blood. The actual and experiential renewal of the archaic experience of sacrificial murder occurs within the privileged and separate sphere of religious rite; within this special sphere, it permits the otherwise criminal murder of a domestic animal, an animal being "so close to man, so integrated into his universe”—a living symbol of the structure and legal organization of civil life—that its life and the usucapion of its life are virtually exorbitant of the order of legitimate sacrifice. 46

This exceptionally permissible crime, which amounts, prima facie, to a subversion of contractual norms and communal codes, actually (rather than formally) enacted at the moment of slaughter of the sacrificial victim, pertains to an intimately mystic, individual, and solitary experience, an experience that introduces archaic imagination to the notion of individual responsibility. It is in the violent and murderous, real and factual (rather than staged and symbolic) experience of sacrifice that the ancient Greek community finds the principle of individual responsibility warranting the ordered progression of its civil life—an ordered progression of civil life that certain voices of the official culture, among them Homer and Hesiod, may have appeared to analogize with the positive cult of the virtually bloodless sacrifice.

A connection of typological affinity may be drawn here between the evolution of the Greek thysia

and the affirmation of Christian liturgy. Just as the "silence” attributed to the greatest among the Greek mythmakers would have the prerogative (in the eyes of students such as Detienne and Vernant) of turning their representation of the thysia into formal celebrations of a social and political function, so it seems, as we saw earlier, that the Hebrew tradition at the birth of Christianity was also oriented toward a formal enactment of sacrifice within the Temple: a sacrifice consumed and consummated according to the codified prescriptions of the "law, ” exterior and heterogeneous, as we saw, with respect to the table rites of the grace before and after meals. 47 Not even the celebration of Passover was experienced


by the Hebrews as a truly sacrificial rite, as a convergence, more specifically, of blood alliance and communal meal. Immediately before and after the advent of Christ, we find in the Hebrews a community or a diverse set of communities that, taking for granted the horizon of possibility of their own existence and ordered reproduction, substitute the formal celebration of positive cult for the genuine experience of sacrifice.

The early Christians inaugurate a revolutionary attitude toward sacrifice by bringing the liturgy of sacrifice to the secular world outside the Temple. And this revolution returns the mystical experience of religious ritual to its original character, that of a double offering, a spontaneous giving and taking of blood based on renunciation, the primal ascetic experience whereby and wherein archaic imagination encounters the source and origin of the individual assumption of responsibility toward the other. The institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist will bring to a

culmination this age-long conflict. It is a conflict between representation and actualization, form and substance, organized and spontaneous cult, collective rite and individual participation, doctrine and liturgy, codification and imagination. It is a conflict that will ultimately manifest itself in the dichotomy between the doctrine of the sacrament of the Eucharist and the rite of consecration of the Eucharistic species.

As we shall see further on, later Christianity too will undergo the split between the codification of rite and the spontaneous experience of rite, a split that in this specific case will assume the aspect of an opposition between a doctrinary, metaphysical speculation on the one hand, and a spontaneous, factual, and imaginative experience on the other, both sides of the opposition regarding the nature of Jesus's death in the celebration of the Mass.


There are two ways of intending the hiatus that Pseudo-Paul establishes between the law of Hebrew sacrifice and the Eucharist. "Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings [and these are


offered according to the law], ” Jesus tells his Father in Hebrews 10.8, before immolating his own body in sacrifice. One way of intending this hiatus is through the view that Jesus's death brings to full actualization the "good things” of which, according to Pseudo-Paul, the Hebrew law of sacrifice "has but a shadow.” 48 The opposite apprehension of this hiatus corresponds to the view that Jesus's death is the metaphoric "true form” of "the good things to come.” 49 The former understanding calls for a repetition of Jesus's death. In this understanding, the difference of Jesus's death with respect to the death of the sacrificial victim in the Temple is set in a relation of qualified continuity with respect to the tradition of Hebrew sacrifice. The religious community has undergone the salvific transition from incomplete, "shadowy” sacrifices—dissatisfactory to God the Father—to the immolation of the true flesh-and-blood victim, the true actualization "of the good things to come.” Now the cultic enactment of the double offering, wherein, as Altizer puts it, "the worshiper and the god pass into each other, ” can be individually experienced by each and every member of the community. 50

The latter, metaphorically-driven understanding of the hiatus separating Hebrew sacrifice from the Eucharist is informed instead by radical discontinuity. The Hebrew law of sacrifice, based on the periodical immolation of animal victims in the Temple, has come to an end, to a historical termination, according to this understanding, and a new age has begun, an age inaugurated by one last and decisive sacrifice. This inaugural immolation, whereby God sacrifices His own Son, is a once-and-for-all, unrepeatable event, one that marks the end of the practice and experience of blood sacrifice, and can be commemorated only in its symbolic representation.

The understanding of Eucharist as flesh-and-blood sacrifice entails a radical subversion of earlier cultic customs, but a subversion that, deeply rooted in the archaic experience of primordial sacrifice, sprouts out of an essential relation of typological continuity, not only between Christianity and Hebraism, but also between the sacrificial rites of monotheistic and polytheistic communities. The understanding of Eucharist as symbolic representation entails instead an unconditional rupture with the past. The rite of the Eucharist becomes, in this latter case, the formal commemoration of an unrepeatable event consisting of the once


and-for-all death of the Son of God, which the believer can see represented on the stage of the

altar, but cannot live through as personal, spontaneous, experiential actualization. That which the celebration of the Eucharist cannot actually repeat and offer to the rite's participant as a concrete and individual experience is substituted, in the logic of this understanding, by that which the doctrine can offer in terms of symbolic privilege, a corpus of theological principles investing the Christian worshiper with the prerogative of a divine election which was never before made accessible to humankind.

The conflict between these two conceptions of Eucharist (and also between the two typological relations with earlier sacrificial practices entailed by these distinct understandings) comes down to two opposite views of the role of Crucifixion in the Mass. To the early Christians, those who had taken the fundamental step toward an appreciation of Crucifixion as an event of salvific significance, it is likely that the celebration of the Mass became a repetition of Calvary. It is also likely, as Moloney remarks, that this view may have been largely diffused throughout the Middle Ages. However, this view was fought against by Catholic orthodoxy, and came to be effectively marginalized through the doctrinary contributions of Thomas Aquinas. "Thomas is at pains to

point our that [the Mass] is not a repetition of Calvary, ” writes Moloney: "[In the Eucharist] Christ's death is present not in all its historical concreteness, but through its effects.” 51 Aquinas writes in

the Summa Theologiae: Celebratio autem hujus sacramenti

repraesentativa passionis Christi quae est vera ejus immolatio. ["The celebration of this sacrament is a definite image representing Christ's Passion, which (Passion) is his true sacrifice.”] And also: [S]emel oblatus est Christus. Hoc autem sacrificium exemplum est illius. ["Christ is offered once. This sacrifice is the exemplar of that (other) one (i.e., the Eucharistic sacrifice).”] (Summa 3, q. 83, a. 1, responsio, and ad 1, my emphasis.) 52

imago quaedam est


Before beginning the discussion of the ritualistic or liturgical character of Dante's Christian epic, I shall briefly summarize the


results of our previous discussion. The difference between Aquinas's theologizing poets and the vatic poet-theologians of Christian epics derives from the imperfect or inferior speculative thrust of the former's imagination and the liturgical thrust of the latter's imagination. Both forms of imagination are theological in nature insofar as they are both aimed at divine noesis; the crucial difference between the two is that, according to Aquinas, the theologizing poet translates his knowledge of the divine, afforded him by his familiarity with the lessons of mythology (In Metaphysicam, liber 1, lectio 3, § 55), into an inferior kind of speculative doctrine, while the vatic poet-theologian identifies his knowledge of the divine with the very condition of intimacy reached in the theophagic experience of the liturgy.

Our previous discussion has been devoted to providing a firm foundation to the three following tenets: (1) Thomistic orthodoxy has contributed to the marginalization of a Christian sacrificial tradition that stands in a relation of remarkable homogeneity with previous Hebrew and polytheistic rituals of sacrificial blood- shedding; (2) this alternative sacrificial tradition hinged on noetic procedures wherein the mind-body relation played a fundamentally different role from the one envisaged by the Scholastic tradition, which has notoriously underrated the role of physical experience in the elaboration of theological doctrine; (3) the assumption that the literary tradition of Christian epics is theological in nature, capable, that is, of leading its readership to liturgical conditions of intimacy with the divine, is rooted in one of the most originary literary/theatrical phenomena of the Western tradition, precisely, in the cathartic experience afforded the audience by the great Greek tragedians.

It is now time for me to show that the elements from the previous discussion afford us a new and

anti-Thomistic understanding of Dante's inauguration and inventive contribution to the tradition of Christian epics.



Dante's Literary Ritual: Contra Aquinas


AQUINAS'S THEOLOGICAL VIEWS ATTRIBUTE A LACK OF BOTH HISTORIcal concreteness and experiential authenticity to the Eucharist consecrated in the Mass. One might say that Aquinas submits the liturgical categories inherent in the early-Christian recuperation of the ancient Hebrew table rites to a metaphysical redefinition, so profound that it justifies, in his eyes, a disregard for the concretely historical dimension brought to the Eucharist by the event of Calvary. It would be inaccurate to argue that Aquinas substitutes the symbology of the Eucharist for the actual and individual experience of Jesus's death on the cross. Aquinas's account of the Eucharist cannot be reduced to mere symbology, insofar as it is informed at once by an ontological and a miraculous component (both essential to the doctrine of transubstantiation), and neither of these components may be legitimately reduced to its symbolic aspects.

Yet the fact remains, as we shall see, that Aquinas's theory of concomitantia rejects the experiential authenticity of that mysterium tremendum of which consists the primordial source of acquisition of self-abnegation and individual responsibility. It will be as a reaction against this doctrinary limitation, and against the sterilizing impact that this limitation effects on orthodox liturgy, that the Middle Ages will see the rebirth, in Dante's Convivio, of the classical figure of the poeta theologus, and, later on in the Commedia, the displacement of the locus proper to cultic liturgy, from the formulaic rites of the altar to the rhythmic terzine of a Christian epic.

Aquinas's account of the ontology and the miracle of the Eucharist is based on the doctrine of transubstantiation, a doctrine


intensely debated in the late Middle Ages by several of Aquinas's precursors, among them the heralds of the symbolic dimension of the Eucharist (such as Berengarius of Tours: [S]emel oblatus est Christus, sacrificium vero ecclesiae exemplum est sacrificii Christi) and the heralds of the realistic dimension (such as Pascasius Radbertus: Vera utique caro Christi quae crucifixa est et sepulta, vere illius carnis sacramentum quod per sacerdotem super altare in verbo Christi per Spiritum Sanctum divinitus consecratur), as well as Aquinas's own teacher, Albertus Magnus. 1 But it is Aquinas who will be eventually identified by the Church as Eucharistiae praeco et vates maximus. 2 At the heart of Aquinas's doctrine of transubstantiation is the concept of substance, which had been applied to the explication of the Eucharist since the fifth century, and to the explication of Trinitarian consubstantiality since the Council of Nicaea. For his account, Aquinas adopts a notion of substance that, in virtue of its metaphysical character, could not be reduced either to the mere figural symbolism of Berengarius's and Speroni's understanding of the Eucharist nor to the sensual literalism of P. Radbertus and Chrysostomus. 3 Aquinas writes in the Summa:

Et ideo, proprie loquendo, corpus Christi, secundum modum essendi quem habet in hoc

sacramento, neque sensu neque imaginatione perceptibile est: sed solo intellectu, qui dicitur


Quia enim modus essendi quo Christus est in hoc sacramento est penitus

supernaturalis, a supernaturali intellectu, scilicet divino, secundum se visibilis est

autem hominis viatoris non potest conspici nisi per fidem: sicut et caetera supernaturalia (Summa

Ab intellectu


q. 76, a. 7, responsio).

Hence, properly speaking, the body of Christ, according to the mode of existence which it has


this sacrament, can be reached neither by sense nor by imagination; it is open only to the

intellect which may be called a spiritual eye

sacrament is something that cannot be reached by the natural powers of any created mind, it lies

open only before the un- created mind of God

however, he can only know it by faith, in the same manner as other supernatural realities are known.

Now, because the way in which Christ exists in this

As long as a man is still on his way to heaven,

Aquinas's concept of Eucharistic substance, which cannot be apprehended through sensual experience, nor through an act of


the imagination or the intellect, grounds the doctrine of transubstantiation whereby Aquinas explains the process that brings Jesus's body to presence in the Eucharist. It all comes down to a matter of ontological presence by concomitance.

[D]ivinitas vel anima Christi non sit in hoc sacramento ex vi sacramenti, sed ex reali concomitantia. Quia enim divinitas corpus assumptum nunquam deposuit, ubicumque est corpus Christi, necesse est et eius divinitatem esse (Summa 3, q. 76, a. 1, ad 1, my emphasis).

Neither the divinity nor the anima of Christ is in this sacrament as a result of the strength of the sacrament; they are there by a natural concomitance. Since divinity never renounced the body it assumed, wherever the body of Christ is, there you must have also his divinity. (translation from Summa/Barden, modified)

Jesus's hypostasis, or double nature, endows the Son of God of a divine substance united with

the material extension (the con- naturally accidental attributes) of a mortal body. However, in the celebration of the Eucharist it is the bread and the wine that are transubstantiated through consecration, not Jesus; Jesus becomes miraculously present in the accidents or material substrata of the bread and wine (i.e., their respective extension, texture, color, shape, etc.) without either undergoing a substantial change or being dimensionally present in the corporeality


his body or his blood. Et sic substantia corporis Christi vel sanguinis est in hoc sacramento ex


sacramenti, non autem dimensiones corporis vel sanguinis Christ. ["The substance of Christ's

body or of his blood is in the sacrament as a result of the sacramental sign, not so the dimensions

of his body or of his blood.”] (Summa 3, q. 76, a. 1, ad 3; my emphasis; translation from


The possibility that Jesus himself could be transubstantiated into the accidents of the bread and wine receives two objections from Aquinas. The first pertains to the character of multilocation mentioned above with regard to the Eucharist. In the case that Jesus's body, in the accidental dimensiones corporis vel sanguinis, were to be concretely transposed within the consecrated bread and wine, a transposition that Aquinas would define per modum quantitatis, the celebration

of the Eucharist would be


exposed to the paradox of the limited dimension of a mortal body being stretched into a dimension of temporal and spatial ubiquity.

[Q]uia in hoc sacramento substantia corporis Christi est ex vi sacramenti, quantitas autem

dimensiva ex vi realis concomitantiae corpus Christi est in hoc sacramento

modum dimensionum, id est non per illum modum quo quantitas dimensiva alicujus corporis est sub quantitate dimensiva loci (Summa 3, q. 76, a. 3, responsio).



Since the body of Christ is in this sacrament because of the effectiveness of the sacramental

sign and its quantitative dimensions as the result only of a natural concomitance, the body of

Christ is here

body is under the dimensive quantity of the place that contains the body. (translation from Summa/Barden)

not in any dimensive way, i.e. not in the way that the dimensive quantity of a

The second objection is that in case the body of Jesus were to assume the accidents of the bread and wine in addition to its own, Jesus would be exposed to substantial change, the accidents of an external material substratum coming to inhere in his substance; this occurrence would contradict the nature of Christ's body, who after Crucifixion is gloriosum et impassibile existens—it exists, that is, in a state of glorified immunity from change (Summa 3, q. 77, a. 1, responsio).

Aquinas is therefore left with a doctrine of transubstantiation postulating that in the celebration of the Eucharist all transformation is undergone by the species of the bread and wine. It is this transformation, or more properly, this transubstantiation that changes the original bread and wine into the substance and accidents of the Eucharistic species. Transubstantiation involves the entire ontological status of the preconsecrated bread and wine. Their respective substances are changed and their material substrata are changed as well, although these two transformations occur in two radically different ways: the original substance disappears while the accidents become the accidents of the Eucharist. And this is the miraculous core of Aquinas's doctrine of transubstantiation, because what is here posited is a collection of accidents that are held in being (albeit in a different state of being, albeit in a different ontological condition) without


the intervention of that essential action whereby accidents, according to Scholastic philosophy, are held in being by their respective substance. In the case of the consecrated species, the essential action effected by the substance of the bread and of the wine is now effected by the substance of Jesus, by which the substance connatural to the accidents has been substituted.

In hoc autem sacramento non datur accidentibus quod ex vi suae essentiae sint sine subjecto, sed ex divina virtute sustentante. Et ideo non desinunt esse accidentia, quia nec separatur ab eis definitio accidentis, nec competit eis definitio substantiae (Summa 3, q. 77, a. 1, ad 2).

Now in this sacrament the fact that the accidents exist without actually inhering in a subject is not because their essence has been changed but because they are being kept in existence by God. Hence they do not cease to be accidents; they are not deprived of their definition as accidents, nor is the definition of substance attributed to them. (translation from Summa/Barden)

Since Jesus's substance inheres in Jesus's mortal body, the result of Aquinas's doctrine of transubstantiation ex reali concomitantia (Summa 3, q. 76, a. 1, ad 1) is that Jesus's body would be verily present in the consecrated species of the Eucharist. Moreover, by the elusive game of the "natural concomitance” linking Jesus's body to the substance of his divinity and anima, this mirror-effect ensues, that Jesus's anima and divinity would also be ontologically present in the sacrament.

One might claim, however, that this divine presence is a presence by subtraction, a presence by omission, based on the presumption that Calvary is unrepeatable, that the passion and death of the Word of God is a once-and-for-all event. 4 Jesus does not die—does not even change,

metaphysically speaking—in transubstantiation. Christus resurgens ex mortuis jam non moritur ["Having risen from the dead, Christ does not die again—Summa 3, q. 76, a.1, ad 1). 5 Jesus, the victim of the original sacrifice that inaugurates Christianity, becomes, through Crucifixion, sovereign and immutable—gloriosum et impassibile. It is the substance of the Eucharistic species, bread and wine, that changes, that passes "into the potency of matter and disappear(s) altogether, ” to be substituted, in the ontological function


of holding-in-being the accidents of bread and wine, by the divine substance that contributes to the miracle of transubstantiation without being directly and immediately affected by it. 6

Aquinas's Eucharist is reduced essentially to the celebration of a table rite, a rite of manducation grounded on a paradigm of ontological presence by concomitance that eludes the literal immediacy of the Temple sacrifice as well as the symbolic mediation of the Hebrew table offering.

[S]ub hoc sacramento continetur, quantum ad species panis, non solum caro, sed totum

corpus Christi, id est ossa et nervi et alia hujiusmodi

est cibus, ” the caro ponitur ibi pro corpore, quia, secundum consuetudinem humanam, videtur esse magis manducationi accommodata (Summa, 3, q. 76, a. 1, ad 2).

[C]um Dominus dixit,

"Caro mea vere

We have under this sacrament—under the appearances of the bread—not only the flesh, but

the whole body of Christ, that is, the bones and nerves and all the rest

"My flesh is food indeed, ” the word flesh stands there for the whole body, because, according to human custom, (the entire body) is more suitable for manducation (than the sole flesh). (translation from Summa/ Barden, modified.)

When the Lord said,

This exquisitely metaphysical solution deprives the rite of its crucial historical foundation. It establishes a hiatus between Christianity and its past by removing from the celebration of the consecrated communal meal the actual and factual, the singular and profoundly individual experience of the death of the sacrificial victim. It operates not through the fundamental experience of the blood covenant, but through the representation of its once- and-for-all effect. The consideration that the fundamental connotation of this representation is ontologic, rather than symbolic, does not justify it, but rather exacerbates the doctrinary and speculative impulse inherent in Aquinas's refusal to experience the liturgy of the Mass as a concrete repetition of Jesus's immolation on the cross.

An understanding of the Eucharist as actual and sacrificial, rather than staged and metaphysical, calls for the need to promote, at this juncture in our discussion, an understanding of Christian liturgy as a liturgy that stands in a fundamental rela


tion of typological affinity with archaic, pre-Christian traditions. As Thomas Altizer argues in History as Apocalypse, "Sacrifice, and an original and primordial sacrifice, is the primary center and ground of all full and fully enacted ritual.” Furthermore: "The Western liturgy [as opposed to the Eastern Orthodox liturgy] is distinctive in its centering upon the institution of the Eucharist as

itself a sacrificial act, indeed, as the ultimate sacrificial act, an act unreal apart from the death and

blood of the Crucifixion

to the very beginning of human history. At no other point is the Catholic Church so fully and so

actually an archaic community or world.” 9

The gestures, acts, and even many of the words of the mass go back



Postulating a connection instead of a hiatus between the pre- Christian (polytheistic and

monotheistic) sacrificial rites and the institution of the Eucharist (a connection whose pivotal point

is Crucifixion) enables one to give proper consideration to those liturgical, cultural, and

anthropological factors of historical continuity and typological affinity that Aquinas's doctrine of transubstantiation submits to a strategy of ahistorical, speculative occultation.

First of all, as anticipated above, the sacrifice of the Eucharist brings to fruition the relation of proximity or contiguity that the Greek tradition established between sacrifice proper (thysia), scapegoating (pharmakeia), and Greek tragedy. We already saw that the tenors of thysia and pharmakeia are in a strict relation of proximity with each other for what concerns their religious and social functions, yet this proximity breaks down when it comes to assessing the nature of their respective sacrificial victim. The victim of the thysia is holy and must be ingested by the community, whereas the victim of the pharmakeia is unholy and must therefore be expelled— vomited or defecated, if you will—by the community. We also saw that Greek tragedy, when intended, in agreement with Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, as a sacrificial representation wherein the fate of the protagonist is an enactment of the dismemberment of the god, allows one to detect


a profound analogy between the holy and the unholy victim, an analogy that cannot be accounted

for by the narrow logic of rite. 8 The interplay of thysia, pharmakeia, and tragoidia calls for a close scrutiny of the affinity between the distinct impulses of collective cohesion that respectively characterize sacrifice, scapegoating, and tragic performance among the Greeks.

It must be observed, first of all, that the mysterium tremendum of the sacrificial slaughter of a

domestic animal can be easily assimilated, in the aspect of its violent violation of the social contract, to the frightening, subversive illegality of the stoning of a fellow citizen, the scapegoat. In this light, one might say that both the mystical need to incorporate the victim of the thysia and the mystical need to expel the victim of the pharmakeia establish a correspondence between an individual's direct experience of the victim's immolation and the subsequent, ceremonial experience of purposeful participation and contribution to the social cohesion brought about either by the communal meal of the thysia of by the communal expulsion of the pharmakeia. In both cases, the collective enactment of a fundamental bodily function— ingestion or expulsion—is experienced as the restoration of the proper reproductive functions of the social corpus, or, if you will, of the body politic.

Several centuries after Hesiod's and Homer's poetics of secularization and politicization of ritual sacrifice, the originary, mystical nature of the thysia and of the pharmakeia will be reincorporated in Greek culture thanks to the greatest Attic tragedians, principally Aeschylus and Sophocles. In his or her participation to the representations of Aeschylus's and Sophocles's tragedies, the citizen of Athens will not only rediscover that fundamental urge toward cultic sacrifice that finds its immediate liturgical equivalent in the mystery cults, but will be also brought to realize the fundamental identity between holy and unholy victim, between sacred and profane victim, between, that is, the sacrificial victim and the scapegoat. Earlier mention was made of the fate of Oedipus, who, contrary to the scapegoat's destiny of irremediable abjection, undergoes in Sophocles's trilogy a fantastic metamorphosis, from unholy scapegoat to sanctified victim. An analogous example may be found in Aeschylus's depiction of the fate of Antigone, a fate split between her state


decreed expulsion to the political exile of a tomb and the subsequent, communal exaltation of her


The tragic identification of holy and unholy victim, of a sacrifice by ingestion (assimilation) of that which is sacred or immaculate to the community and an immolation by expulsion (purgation) of that which is sinful or maculate, finds typological resolution in the Eucharist. This resolution

constitutes "the deep bondage of ancient

According to Altizer, the Pauline writings help establish this fundamental bond, a bond hinging on

a theology of sacrifice, and a bond whereby the "new covenant” prophesied by Jeremiah is cut in

the blood of Jesus Christ. 10 It is Jesus's blood and flesh that constitute the substance of the covenantal meal. (It goes without saying that this position contradicts Moloney's attribution of a manducatory rather than sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist to Paul.)

Christianity to [the] pre-Christian or pagan world.” 9

Jesus's embodiment of the prerogatives of both the sacred victim and the profane scapegoat, an embodiment to be taken literally, as the expression of Jesus's bodily mortality, pervades Paul's Letter to the Galatians ("Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us”), as well as Paul's second Letter to the Corinthians ("For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin).” 11 As Altizer writes in "The Primordial Sacrifice, ” "The New Testament

is most deeply centered in the crucifixion, a crucifixion which passes into the ritual action of the Eucharist, a Eucharist itself centered in an anamnesis or renewal of the crucifixion (I Corinthians 11.24), just as the crucifixion is the very center of Paul's eschatological proclamation (I Corinthians 2).” And in agreement with my criticism of the orthodox view expressed in Aquinas's doctrine of transubstantiation, Altizer adds: "Yet this is the very crucifixion which was never

embodied in the dominant expressions of Christian theology, a theology

sacrifice of crucifixion, and annulling it by knowing only the absolute sovereignty and the absolute transcendence of God.” 12

annulling the absolute

It should also be stressed that the liturgical transition from the flesh and blood of Jesus to the

bread and wine of the Eucharist effects also the assimilation of polytheistic rituals that stood in a relation of theological and political dissent against the Greek thysia. The celebration of the Eucharist centers on the consum


mation of grains and grapes, an aspect that makes it analogous with the Orphic and Pythagoreans rites, and that establishes therefore a virtual link with the programs of social and religious reform intrinsic to the latter movement especially.

The assimilation of the asceticism of the Orphics and of the political engagement of the Pythagoreans is complemented by the analogies that link the Eucharist to the profoundly antisocial drives of the Dionysians, whose cult, centered around the practice of homophagy, more specifically, around the dismemberment of live animals or human beings, whose flesh was subsequently devoured raw, finds dramatic reenactment in the horrors of Crucifixion, and in the meal ritual established in memory of those horrors. According to Marcel Detienne, for the Dionysians the hunting and devouring of their victims was "a manner of refusal of the human

condition, ” a condition characterized, first, by the silence of the myths (that is, by the refusal, on the part of Hesiod, Homer, and the major mythmakers of antiquity to acknowledge the bloody component of ritual sacrifice), and second, a condition characterized by the norms of the thysia prescribing the civilized cooking of the meat previous to consumption. "By eating raw meat, the

followers of Dionysus want to behave like beasts

condition [imposed by the dominant customs of the Greek polis].” 13

in order to escape from the politico-religious

Here one can talk indeed of an eclectic osmosis. The Christian Eucharist assimilates to its religious and social valence the multiple connotations whereby sacrificial rituals inform the diverse and even antagonistic aspects of pagan tradition, from the normative dimensions of the thysia to

the bloodless and essentially agricultural rites of the Orphic and Pythagorean cults, to the profoundly antiurban need to escape the constraints of civilization expressed by the brutal and spontaneous sacrifices of the Dionysians.

While all of this confirms the "deep bondage” with the pagan world which Altizer talks about in The Genesis of God, it remains that the essential bondage between the Christian and the pre- Christian worlds must be identified in the fact that the Christian liturgy originated primarily in the Hebrew liturgy—first of all, as we saw, in the foundational type-event of Moses dashing the blood of the covenant on the people around the altar, and sec


ondly, in the early Christians' impulse to reconsecrate the secularized table-offerings of the Hebrew tradition. 14

A summing up of this interpretation of the Eucharist may be found in Altizer's History as

Apocalypse: "If an archaic ritual comes to an end in the Homeric epics, or is so muted or transformed as to be all but invisible as such apart from archeological and historical analysis, it is

already reborn in Greek tragedy, a rebirth which itself was affected by the earlier rebirth of archaic ritual in the Greek mystery cults. Now even if the Christian liturgy originated in the Jewish liturgy,

it was also decisively affected by Hellenistic rituals, so that the Christian Eucharist is

and manifestly an archaic ritual.” 15 This is why the canon of the mass consists of a language of anamnesis or recall that, Altizer writes, "recall[s] us to an original primordial sacrifice [which lies] beyond our mythical and theological horizons.” Also, this is why it is incumbent upon us that this canon be enacted apart and independently from the horizon of the orthodox theological doctrine that has systematically bridled its power of evocation—of resuscitation, if you will—of the archaic origins of human community. "We have no theology of the Eucharist unveiling such a power, just as we have no literary theory unveiling the pure power released by literary enactments of primordial sacrifice.” 16


In most of his works Altizer emphasizes the coincidence of this double failure, namely, the failure of Christian theology in the substantiation of the genuinely sacrificial significance of the Eucharist, and the failure of Western poetics in the assessment of the sacred and liturgical dimensions of certain texts fundamental to literary history. The tradition of Christian epics is informed by a reaction against this double failing. One can detect in Dante, Milton, Blake, and Joyce the common purpose, undetected and unrecognized by most literary critics, to provide cultic liturgy with a rhetorical locus proper to its sacrificial thrust—a locus that the canon of the Mass, obfuscated in its genuine significance by orthodox doctrine (and by a practice of worship pervaded by the precepts derived from this orthodox doctrine), could no longer provide, in the case of the Catholic Church.

A confirmation of this double failing, theological and exegetic at once, may be found in the

evidence of an overwhelming majority of critics failing to acknowledge the radical reaction of



tian epics against Aquinas's ontological understanding of the substance of Jesus's divine persona. Aquinas's Aristotelianism reversed all previous Christian understandings of God by

positing Esse as God's Substance, or ousia. Aquinas writes in the Summa Theologiae: Deus non

but also

His own being.”] And also: [E]sse Dei [est] ipsa eius essentia ["The being of God is His very

solum est sua essentia,

sed etiam suum esse. ["God is not only His own essence,

essence.”] (Summa 1, q. 3, a. 4, responsio; q. 13, a. 11, responsio.) With Aquinas, Esse acquired

a substantial primacy over the numerous paradigms of divinity, such as Goodness, Oneness,

Beauty, that prevailed in Christian theological discourse before the rediscovery, in the late Middle Ages, of the lost Aristotelian writings. With Aquinas, theology becomes metaphysics, and God is turned into an ontological concept mastered by metaphysics's all-inclusive, speculative project.


But this metaphysical understanding of God can only understand a disembodied, enthroned, sovereign, and glorified God, a God who does not participate in the corporal agonies of Crucifixion. Hence, Aquinas's doctrine of transubstantiation needs to stress and praise the miraculous effect of God's omission, or subtraction, of the integrity of His Son's substance and accidents from the consecrated species of the Eucharist. The celebrant's offering of bread and wine is returned to the worshiper as a wonder of ontological speculation, the miracle of substrata, connatural with the substances of bread and wine, which are held in being in the absence of their proper substance. This is what is ingested by the worshiper, according to Aquinas's metaphysics of the Eucharist, instead of the bleeding corpse of Jesus Christ.

In the unraveling of the tradition of Christian epics (from Dante's Commedia to Tasso's La Gerusalemme liberata, from Spenser's The Faerie Queene to Milton's Paradise Lost, from Blake's Milton and Jerusalem to Goethe's Faust, and finally to Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake), the clash between Eucharistic doctrine and Eucharistic liturgy requires that special attention be paid to the two primary Catholic poles of our list of authors, namely Dante and Joyce. Nowhere else may one find transubstantiations, transpersonifications, transpositions, and transformations of the body and substance of Christ as intensely


and purposefully liturgical as one finds them in the Commedia, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake.


In Nietzsche's discussion on the "religious origin” of the tragic genre among the Greeks, indications are clearly provided that he was of the opinion that theatrical representation could impact the cultic, cultural, aesthetic, and political life of the Athenian citizen in manners and to a degree inaccessible to liturgy proper. 18 Aside from the etymology itself of tragoidia, or "ode to the [sacrificial] goat, ” the religious origin of primitive tragic representations is manifest in the structure itself of the Greek theater. Originally the skene (scene or stage) was a secondary part of the structure, whereas the true central stage was constituted by the orchestra (dancing-place) reserved for the chorus's dithyrambic recitations. In the middle of the orchestra was the thumele (altar), upon which the sacrifice to the god was celebrated. As the drama developed into a staged action on the skene and the dithyrambic chorus was integrated into a broader dramatic recitation, the liturgical celebration of sacrifice was substituted by the sacrificial implications of the drama itself. 19

In his appraisal of the religious, cultural, aesthetic, and political repercussions of tragic representation on the global phenomenon he calls "Hellenic culture, ” Nietzsche praises the "metaphysical comfort” provided by tragedy. 20 This "comfort, ” experienced through the participation to a tragic performance, throws the Attic audience "beyond the everyday, ” beyond, that is, the pessimism and absurdity of everyday's life in the polis; it provides a renewal of spiritual energy more pervasive than the one experienced in front of the altar of sacrifice. 21

With the birth and maturation of the tradition of Christian epics we witness a displacement of this effect from one genre to another, from the tragic to the epic. Although intimately and profoundly sacrificial, the tragic schemes of dismemberment and rebirth, death and purification, expurgation and redemption are comparatively limited in thematic scope, formal apparatus, and historical reach. The superior versatility of the equivalent epic schemes is manifest especially in the epic

hero's ubiquitous jour


ney of self-affirmation (as a figura of rebirth, purification, redemption, etc.) via the self-debasing, kenotic experience of a sojourn in the realm of the dead—the necropolitan journey being a fundamental paradigm in the tradition of Christian epics. 22 The schemes inherited from the tragic tradition could never adequately sustain the modern project of subversion of orthodox doctrine and cult undertaken, with obviously different agendas, by Dante, Milton, Goethe, Blake, and Joyce. On the other hand, the multiple master tropes that vivify the epic genre—from the hero intended as the personification and identification of an entire community to the overlapping of motives of national, ethnic, and religious liberation, from the reciprocal encroachment of legend and historiography to the coincidence of individual and collective destiny and choice, purpose and predestination, from the Virgilian prolegomena to the Dantean implementation of the protagonist's individual free will and responsible purposiveness— provide an ideally variegated space for the unraveling of the mythical, political, historical, and theological projects of these distinct writers.

In light of Dante's virtually single-handed invention of a new genre with his Christian epic, one should more precisely affirm that the displacement mentioned above, although characterized by the fundamental switch from tragic to epic tenor, ultimately consists of a twisting away from both the major classical genres of poetic expression and their apparati of generic dominants. With Inferno, Dante inaugurates the comedic parody of the thematic scope, formal contrivances, and historical reach of pagan classicism in literature: the materia of Inferno is orribile e repellente ["horrible and repugnant”], the vernacular elocuzione or diction is dimessa e umile ["humble and unassuming”], while the historical reach brings to mystic coalescence the sublunary choices and deeds of the individual protagonist (as well as the literal time and space of their enactment) with their consequent moral unfolding in the hereafter—as Dante didactically explains in his letter to Can Grande della Scala. 23

In the specific and vital case of the elitarian symmetry established between the protagonist's

historical purpose and afterlife destination in Virgil's alta

26.82), Dante's comedic parody is the expression of a transformation of momentous yet instantaneous proportions. Dante places

tragedia (Inferno 20.113, 21.2,


the Virgilian symmetry linking the historical here-and-now to the transcendental afterlife under the sway of Christianity's most essential paradigm, namely, the universality of Christ's incarnation. As a consequence, the history of nations and universal history in general—a theme quintessential to the Virgilian encroachment of legend and epic historiography—is identically transposed into the history of the individual soul. 24

Ciò che non more e ciò che può morire non è se non splendor di quell'idea che partorisce, amando, il nostro sire.25

That which does not die and that which can die Is nothing but the splendor of that idea Which our Lord begets by his love. (my translation)

The above terzina from Paradiso clearly illustrates Dante's historical conception of the structure of human and cosmic events. Everything beneath and above the heavens is a reflection of the Verbum given birth, consubstantially, by the love of God- the-Father. In other words, universal

history, past, present, and future, factual and spiritual, is seen by Dante as "a reduplication

the active love of God.” 26 Moreover, every earthly event is duplicated in heaven via its individual analogy with Christ's Incarnation, as part of a providential design that can be properly depicted


only by means of the mimetic realism achieved by Dante's parodic sublation of the generic dominants inherited from pagan classicism. Virgil, the successor and emulator of Homer's "high tragedy” (Inferno 20.113), the singer of a hero whose fate coincides with a pagan order of cosmic

necessity, is resurrected in Dante's own Virgil, the pilgrim's illustrious guide to the mystery of Hell,

who sings of "the universal Roman Empire

Kingdom of God.” 27 Aeneas' impotence and privation of free will vis-à- vis his preordained imperial destiny becomes, in Dante, the prefiguration of the power of free will and responsible intentionality that every individual Christian, however humble and abject, is endowed with; the fall of Aeneas's city under the mythical siege of the Greeks becomes a prefiguration or a figurae impletio of the Augustinian "fortunate fall.” 28

as an earthly figure of heavenly fulfillment in the



As we shall discuss more than once in the rest of the present study, the crucial paradigm of Christ's Incarnation is consistently complemented, in the theology of Christian epic, by the corollary Augustinian doctrine of felix culpa. It is especially in the last book of Milton's Paradise Lost, in the episode portraying Adam rejoicing at Michael's prophecy of Christ's incarnation, death, resurrection, and second coming, that this doctrine's foundational character is made evident:

O goodness infinite, goodness immense! That all this good of evil shall produce, And evil turn to good; more wonderful Than that which by creation first brought forth Light out of darkness! Full of doubt I stand, Whether I should repent me now of sin By me done and occasion'd, or rejoice Much more, that much more good thereof shall spring, To God more glory, more good to Men From God, and over wrath grace shall abound (12.469—78).

In predicting the last stage of Christ's redemptive mission, the Archangel Michael clearly articulates the apocalyptic vision at the heart of Milton's poem:

Then [the Son shall] enter into glory, and resume His seat at God's right hand, exalted high Above all names in Heav'n; and thence shall come, When this world's dissolution shall be ripe, With glory and power to judge both quick and dead, To judge th' unfaithful dead, but to reward His faithful, and receive them into bliss, Whether in Heav'n or Earth, for then the Earth Shall all be Paradise, far happier place Than this of Eden, and far happier days (456—65).

It is far from accidental that Michael's apocalyptic scenario is followed, in verse 478, by a Pauline allusion (Romans 5.20: "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”) 29; nor is it


accidental that Michael's scenario appears in strict contiguity with Adam's rejoicing—ambivalent at first, then frankly euphoric—at his own "fortunate fall.” Just as Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and felix culpa go hand in hand in Milton and, more broadly, in the theology of Christian epics, so Christ's ministry on earth is not understood as concluded by death or by resurrection, but only—both in Paradise Lost and as we are going to discuss, in Joyce and Dante —by the universal judgment and resurrection of the flesh coincident with Christ's second coming.

According to Thomas Altizer, the origins of the medieval and modern apprehension of the

Augustinian felix culpa go back "as far as

manifest in the earlier Christian writing or scripture, the letters of Paul.” 30 Altizer adds, with regard to the profound doctrinary implication of Augustine's felix culpa: "Not until Paul does

the advent of an apocalyptic Christianity, as fully


or sin and grace. And the advent of this dichotomy brings with it a wholly new identity

darkness and evil, to fall and sin.” 31 This is one of Altizer's fundamental insights. Just as the theme of incarnation helps establish the bondage with primordial sacrifice that makes the Eucharistic community an authentically archaic community, so the tradition of apocalypticism—a tradition born simultaneously with the sacrificial Eucharistic tradition, and pervaded, at once, by the salvific moment inherent in the latter and by the dichotomous logic of the felix culpa—helps establish the bondage of Christianity with its own authentic origin.

in the West know a full and pure dichotomy between old and new, or flesh and Spirit,


The concept and imagination of apocalypse grow out of the prophetic books of the Old Testament, in the writings of Isaiah (24—27, 34—35), Ezekiel (38—39), Daniel (6—9, 12), Zachariah (1—8, 9—14), and Joel (2.1—11, 3—4). The New Testament apocalyptic tradition is manifest in Paul's Letters to the Thessalonians (1, 4.13— 18) and to the Corinthians (1, 15), in 4 Esdras, in the Apocalypse of Baruch, in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 24.1—44, Mark 13.1— 31, Matthew 24.1—44, Luke 21.5—36, John 5.28), and, of course, in the Apocalypse of John, or Revelation, "at the end and closing of the Biblical canon.” 32

As Altizer maintains, the new heaven and new earth prophesied by the apocalyptic tradition are a "total event which occurs


in history, ” an event centered on a radical understanding of Crucifixion as Christ's free acceptance of the sins of the scapegoat, and his "full and final embodiment of [evil and] damnation.” 33 Yet, he suggests, the comprehension of the evolution in the identity of evil, as a moment intrinsic to the fundamental dichotomy of apocalypticism, has unfolded in the epic genre —in a movement parallel with the historical evolution of this genre—rather than in the tragic genre, tragedy being too episodic and rhapsodic, too formally and thematically inadequate to the task of capturing the emergence and affirmation of this new determinant in human history. Furthermore, this comprehension has simultaneously unfolded—in a movement parallel, this time, with the loss of organic synergy suffered by the rituals of institutionalized religion—in the liturgical enactments of Christian epics rather than in Christian orthodox doctrine, insofar as Christianity has never fully articulated a properly apocalyptic theology. 34

Regarding the identity of evil in the tradition of Christian epics, Altizer writes:

There is an evolution of the identity and power of Satan in Christian epic poetry, evolving from the wholly frozen, impotent, and silent Satan of [Dante's] Inferno, to the majestic and glorious Satan of [Milton's] Paradise Lost, a Satan who is now at the center rather than at the periphery of epic language and action, to the Satan of [Blake's] Milton and Jerusalem, who is the almighty Creator and Lord, and whose own final metamorphosis is not simply the sign but is the very center of resurrection and apocalypse. Ulysses and Finnegans Wake carry forward this evolution, but now Satan is indistinguishable as Satan, for he has undergone a final metamorphosis into the totality of cosmos and history, and thus has become that Satan who knows no fall, or whose fallenness and darkness is indistinguishable from light and resurrection. 35

It was observed earlier that Christian epics rely on an eclectic and imaginative strategy of liturgical poiesis—a poiesis of anamnesis or celebratory repetition, coincident with the reader's self- collection or self-ingathering instigated by the literary text—in order to subvert the orthodox and narrow practice of speculative codification of doctrine, as well as the warping effects that this codification has on liturgy proper. It was also suggested that a correct appreciation of the contribution that the individual expe

rience of ritual sacrifice brings to the sense of communal responsibility requires an overcoming of the conventionally Thomistic hermeneutics of sacrifice, which orbits the criteria of formal, ineffectual representation, and is dependent more generally on Aquinas's metaphysics of ontological concomitance. We have now touched upon the subject of apocalypticism, a subject whose fundamental moment, consisting of the evolution in the identity of evil triggered and sustained by the principle of the felix culpa, may be properly comprehended, according to Altizer, in the light of the liturgical and sacrificial enactments found in (and promoted by) the relevant texts of Christian epics.

The following section, devoted to a critique of Thomistic hermeneutics, illustrates the latter's limitations vis-à-vis the interpretation of literary artifacts. The following sections are then going to posit the literary and theological foundations for my subsequent treatment of the apocalyptic dimension of Dante's epic.


But if the tradition of Christian epics has come to perform such essential functions, can Christian epics still be reduced to the medieval notion of infima doctrina? Can one still rely on Aquinas's figure of the poeta theologizans? Aquinas's reductionist views of the poetic arts are informed by his suspiciousness with regard to the limited conceptual reach and defectum veritatis (deficiency in truth) intrinsic to works of fiction, and also by his need to separate drastically man-made stories from Biblical stories.

[P]oetica non capiuntur a ratione humana propter defectum veritatis qui est in eis, ita etiam ratio humana perfecte capere non potest divina propter excedentem ipsorum veritatem. (Summa 1—2, q. 101, a. 2, ad 2, my emphasis.)

Just as human reason fails to grasp the import of poetical utterance on account of the latter's deficiency in truth, neither can it grasp divine things perfectly on account of their superabundance of truth. 36

To Aquinas, profane literature suffers from a crucial drawback, in the sense that it does not lend itself to conceptualization; if it


makes use of analogies, metaphors, and similitudes, it is because what it has to say suffers from poor conceptual clarity: [O]portet quod quasi quibusdam similitudinibus ratio seducatur [In poetical utterance "reason must be almost beguiled by certain similitudes”]. 37 Holy Writ does not lend itself to conceptualization either, but for this opposite reason, that it deals with religious mysteries whose "superabundance of truth” (excedentem veritatem), exceeding our intellectual understanding, lends itself, rather, to either the spiritual adhesion of faith or the symbolic understanding of theology:


communis est.

est de his quae sunt supra rationem; et ideo modus symbolicus utrique

Theology is a science that stands above rationality; hence, it shares the symbolic modality with (poetic utterance). 38

For Aquinas the Bible has always an allegorical (typicus) meaning besides its historical or literal meaning (Quodlibet n. 7, q. 6, a. 2, responsio). While Aquinas uses the term "allegorical” (or

typical-typological) for the spiritual and/or symbolic interpretation of the Bible, he assigns the term "parabolic” (parabolicus) to the literal interpretation of both the Bible and profane literature. 39 Even if he attributes to profane literature the property of designating "the truth of things by means of fictitious similitudes” (Quodlibet n. 7, q. 6, a. 3), he believes that the parabolic sense is part of the literal sense, or, as Eco would put it, the metaphorical sense emerges unmediatedly from the literal sense. 40 In the case of profane literature:

[F]ictiones poeticae non sunt ad aliud ordinatae nisi ad significandum; unde talis significatio non supergreditur modum litteralis sensus (Quodlibet, n. 7, q. 6, a. 3).

Poetical fictions have only one function, that of signifying; hence, their signification does not go beyond the mode of the literal sense.

In the case of the Bible:

[S]sensus parabolicus sub litterali continetur; nam per voces significatur aliquid proprie et aliquid figurative; nec est litteralis sen


sus ipsa figura, sed id quod est figuratum. Non enim cum Scriptura nominat Dei brachium, est litteralis sensus quod in Deo sit membrum huiusmodi corporale, sed id quod per hoc membrum significatur, scilicet virtus operativa (Summa 1, q. 1, a. 10, ad 3).

The parabolical sense is contained in the literal sense, for words can signify something properly and something figuratively; in the last case the literal sense is not the figure of speech itself, but the object it figures. When Scripture speaks of the arm of God, the literal sense is not that he has a physical limb, but that he has what it signifies, namely the power of doing and making. 41

While the words of the Bible mean immediately one thing (historical or literal or parabolic) and mediately a distinct, spiritual thing, a fiction from profane literature means immediately its own parable. 42 And even in the Bible one may find profane or didascalic passages whose meaning does not go beyond the literal sense. 43

Remarkably enough, Aquinas identifies a Scriptural example for such textual profanity in the apocalyptic passage from Daniel 8.5, where is described the advent of the goat "with a conspicuous horn on its forehead, ” in which image the Church has traditionally identified, by way of similitude, the advent of Christ. ([I]n sacra scriptura aliqua figurate dicuntur de christo, Quodlibet 7, q. 6, a. 2, ag. 1). This goat is neither an allegorical truth nor a literally existent beast, argues Aquinas, but an imaginary similitude, a poetic and didascalic expedient devoid of religious meaning—a parabolic object, in sum:

[H]uiusmodi figurativae locutiones non faciunt aliquem sensum praeter litteralem in sacra scriptura. (Quodlibet 7, q. 6, a. 2, ag. 1)

In the Holy Scripture these figurative locutions have no other sense beside the literal one. 44

The fact is symptomatic, and highly relevant with regard to the apocalyptic dimension of the present study, that Aquinas is here inclined to assume implicitly that this Scriptural passage was not authored by the Holy Spirit, rather than accept the doctrinal significance of its apocalyptic allegory. The apocalyptic dimension of Scripture is an obstacle that forces Aquinas, as evidenced in


this case, to adopt a skeptical stance with regard to the typicus or typological reach of a section of the Bible that Christianity canonized as "prophetic.” 45 This move may suggest a Thomistic alignment with the Hebrew canonical tradition, which, in the treatise Sanhedrin from the Talmud, does not regard Daniel as a prophet. 46 The late medieval debate among Jewish theologians placed Daniel among the postexilic historiographers grouped under the Kethuvim [Writings], a position that might facilitate (but at what cost to the integrity of Aquinas's Biblical exegesis!) a defense of the Thomistic attribution of mere didascalicism to Daniel's oracle of the horned goat.


In sum, to Aquinas man-made poetic artifacts are not independent means for the discovery of truth. They are inconsequential vehicles for tales: they may only point to some relevant truth indirectly and evocatively, as well as intertextually, given that Aquinas's poetae theologizantes (identified in Orpheus, Musaeus, and Linus, whom, interestingly enough, Augustine calls poetae theologi in De civitate dei), are essentially working at the reelaboration and revisitation of preexistent and preinscribed myths. 48 Apart from the transcendental truths made partially accessible to human intellect through the divine revelation of Holy Writ, the only reliable access to the knowledge of truth comes from theological speculation. Only the theologian can elaborate the criteria for a (limited) understanding of the divine, while poets mentiuntur, sicut dicitur in proverbio vulgari [have lied, as stated by the common proverbs, In Metaphysicam, Liber 1, Lectio 3, § 63].


The proto humanists of the late Middle Ages will react against Aquinas's reductionism. In his polemic against Friar Giovannino da Mantova, Albertino Mussato, for instance, will maintain that poetry is an heaven-sent kind of science: Haec fuit a summo demissa scientia coelo, / Cum simul excelso jus habet illa deo. 49 ["This science fell down from the high heaven—it has the same authority of the supreme God.”]


Quisquis erat Vates, Vas erat ille Dei. Illa igitur nobis stat contemplanda Poësis, Altera quae quondam Theologia fuit.

Whoever was an augur, he was answerable to God. Hence, the poetry we are presently considering was once the other theology. 50

In Il problema estetico in Tommaso d'Aquino, Umberto Eco points out that the protohumanists go back to the Aristotelian notion of the poeta theologus—the notion, developed in Aristotle's Metaphysics (1, c. 3, 983 b 29) and in Augustine's De civitate Dei (bk. 18, § 15), from which Aquinas extrapolates his notion of poetae theologizantes (In Metaphysicam, Liber 1, Lectio 4, § 82—83). In turn, Giovanni Boccaccio stresses the intimate connection between theology and the poetry of Dante in his Vita di Dante:

Dico che la teologia e la poesia quasi una cosa si possono dire, dove uno medesimo sia il soggetto; anzi dico più, che la teologia niun'altra cosa è che una poesia di Dio. E che altra cosa è che poetica finzione nella Scrittura dire Cristo essere ora lione e ora agnello e ora vermine, e

quando drago e quando pietra

teologia, ma ancora la teologia essere poesia.

? Dunche bene appare, non solamente la poesi a essere

I declare that theology and poetry may be almost defined as the same thing, when they treat of

the same subject; in fact, theology is nothing but a poetry of God. What would it represent in Scripture, if not a poetic fiction, the claim that Christ is now a lion [Revelation 5:5], now a lamb [John 1:29], now a worm [Psalm 22:7], and at times a dragon, at times a stone? Therefore it must not only be evident that poetry is theology, but also that theology is poetry. 51

Francesco Petrarca shares Boccaccio's opinion, as evidenced by his declaration, in a letter to his

brother Gerardo, that "poetry is in a negligible opposition to theology

declaring that theology is a poetry proceeding from God.” The Biblical allusions contained in this letter even suggest that Boccaccio's opinion may have been very directly influenced by Petrarca.

I wouldn't go too far by


[T]heologie quidem minime adversa poetica est. Miraris? Parum abest quin dicam theologiam poeticam esse de Deo: Cristum modo leonem modo agnum modo vermem dici, quid nisi poeticum est?52

Soon Coluccio Salutati joins Petrarca and Boccaccio in their assessment of the theological thrust of the poetic vocation. 53

However, the contrast between theological poet and theologian in the proper acceptation of the word unduly obfuscates the reach and significance of the liturgical poiesis intrinsic to Christian epics. This contrast is traditionally broached as a contrast between two kinds of science (or better, two kinds of noesis), one sent from the sky to the inspired imagination of the poet, the other elaborated by human intellect through scrupulous speculation about things which ad sacram doctrinam pertin[ent] (Summa 1, q. 1, a. 1, ad 2). Once broached in this manner, this contrast between theological poet and theologian proper is a virtually sterile one, insofar as it does not address or problematize the kind of knowledge aimed at by these two diverse intellectual stances, nor their respectively intended purposes.

As I anticipated in the introduction and in the first part of chapter 1, we are dealing here with two opposite theological visions: on the one hand, the theologian's vision, informed by a systematic practice or noiesis of speculative codification, and on the other hand the Christian-epic poet's vision, informed by a poiesis of anamnesis, or a practice of imaginative and repetitive commemoration. It is not just that these two visions are opposed to each other in means, the former making exclusive usage of intellectual noesis, the latter making principal, if not exclusive, usage of imagistic representation. It is, above all, that the means adopted to fuel the two visions are connatural to different manners as well as different objects of knowledge.

In order to reach a satisfactory assessment of the theological relevance of the tradition of Christian epics, one must not go historically "forward, ” and contest the legitimacy of the Scholastic and medieval labeling of literature as infima doctrina by arguing the humanistic and Renaissance tenet that man's imagination has full access to the doctrine and the science of God. Rather, one must go historically (and typologically) backward: back to the medieval discussions on prophecy and divination anterior to Aquinas's argumentations around the notion of infima doctrina.


In time, the thrust of these medieval discussions will have come to sustain Dante's imagination in its radical (apocalyptic, as it were) and anti-Thomistic reinvention of the order of things that are to be known, and the gnoseological status of the enquirer as well, when the object of knowledge are divine things.

It seems that Dante was acquainted with the treatise on divination and prophecy included in

Albertus Magnus's commentary to Aristotle's De somno et vigilia. 54 In agreement with the positions expressed by Moses Maimonides in Dux Neutrorum, Albertus Magnus enumerates thirteen different ways by which celestial forms sigillatur in anima somniantis vel aliter praevidentis secundum sui diversitatem ["are sealed, according to their nature, in the soul of the dreamer or else of the prophet”]. 55 The twelfth or next-to-last way corresponds to the first level of prophecy, and occurs in a waking state, when the subject, having withdrawn within his own consciousness and having separated himself from the external, sensible world, perceives the images of future events. The thirteenth and last way occurs when the subject is enabled to foresee the future even without a complete self-abstraction from the sensible world. This level of prophecy may be achieved only by a subject endowed with a perfect organ of imagination, and completely detached as well from corporeal desires, fears of mutable things, anguish, sadness, etc. According to Albertus Magnus, this is a kind of prophetic power that can be achieved with the sole help of natural agency, without the direct intervention of God and without supernatural inspiration. It may be called "natural prophecy, ” to contrast it with the supernatural prophecy that comes as a gift of the Holy Spirit, and of which the theologians write about. 56

In his Quaestiones disputatae de veritate, Aquinas considers briefly the question of a prophecy that stands between the dreamy state and the God-sent vision, but his treatment is inconclusive, as Bruno Nardi remarks in Dante e la cultura medievale. 57 The following passage indicates how Aquinas's treatment sways between the attribution of greater receptivity to the mind of the sleeper visited by spiritual inspiration and the attribution of a sounder sense of discrimination and evaluation to the wide- awake mind:

[I]n cognitione duo est considerare: scilicet receptionem, et iudicium de receptis. quantum igitur ad iudicium de receptis, potior est


vigilantis cognitio quam dormientis

sed quantum ad receptionem, cognitio dormientis est

potior, quia quiescentibus sensibus ab exterioribus motibus interiores impressiones magis



possunt interiores impressiones factas in intellectu vel in imaginatione ex illustratione divina vel

angelica, vel ex virtute caelestium corporum

est sensus, oportet ad sensum quodammodo resolvere omnia de quibus iudicamus.

iudicium non dependet tantum a receptione speciei, sed ex hoc quod ea de quibus

magis percipere

in somno igitur ligatis exterioribus sensibus, interiores vires

sed quia primum principium nostrae cognitionis

Two aspects must be considered in the process of cognition: first, the impressions [perceptions] of the senses, and second, the judgment of these impressions. As to the judgment of the impressions, the cognition of the wide-awake subject is more effective than that of the

sleeper. When it comes to impressions, however, the cognition of the sleeper is more effective, since interior impressions are better perceived by senses which are separated from external


impression [perception] one is to evaluate, as on the impression [perception] itself. In the state of sleep the external senses are tied, and the interior forces can better perceive the interior impressions left in the intellect or in the imagination by either a divine or angelic manifestation, or by the virtue of celestial bodies. But since the senses are the first principle of our cognition, we must somehow relate to the senses all that which we evaluate [judge]. 58

(Yet, the truthfulness of) judgment does not depend so much on the kind of

There is a substantial difference between Aquinas and his German teacher, Albertus Magnus regarding the intellectual cognition of divine things. Aquinas thinks that the human mind, whose cognition and understanding hinge, as we just read, on sense- perception, cannot have full and direct access to supernatural essences—not even through Revelation, as we shall see presently. Only the contemplation of God in the afterlife may reveal the true essence of divine things to man:

De substantiis illis immaterialibus

nullo modo possumus scire quid est non solum per viam

naturalis cognitionis, sed etiam nec per viam revelationis

ad aliquid cognoscendum,

sensibilia. unde dicit dionysius in 1 c. Caelestis hierarchiae quod impossibile est nobis superlucere divinum ra

quamvis per revelationem elevemur

non tamen ad hoc quod alio modo cognoscamus nisi per


dium nisi circumvelatum varietate sacrorum velaminum. Via autem quae est per sensibilia non sufficit ad ducendum in substantias immateriales secundum cognitionem quid est. et sic restat quod formae immateriales non sunt nobis notae cognitione quid est, sed solummodo cognitione an est, sive naturali ratione ex effectibus creaturarum sive etiam revelatione quae est per similitudines a sensibilibus sumptas.

We can apprehend the essence of those immaterial substances [i.e., the celestial hierarchies]

neither via natural cognition nor via revelation

of them by revelation,

is why Pseudo-Dionysius declares that it is impossible for us to perceive the radiance of the divine ray when it is not veiled behind a variety of sacred appearances. On the other hand, sensible apprehension is not sufficient to lead to the knowledge of the essence of immaterial substances. Therefore immaterial forms are not known to us through the cognition of their essence per se, but only through a different kind of cognition, obtained either through the natural intelligence of the creatures as affected by perception, or else via a revelation affected by the similitudes received through the senses. 59

Even if we are raised to the knowledge of some

the fact remains that what we know we know through the senses. This

Albertus's position differs from Aquinas's contention that the human mind depends on and is limited as well by the sensible realm in its apprehension of supernatural essences. According to Albertus, the human mind apprehends per lumen intelligentiae (through the light of intelligence), rather than through the elaboration of sensible impressions, because forma sit in simplici intelligentiae lumine, non habet a materia, quia antequam fuisset in materia fuit in lumine; igitur quod forma efficiatur in anima, non habet a materia, sed ab intelligentia.60 [The form perceived in the simple light of intelligence does not proceed from matter, since it was light before being matter; hence the form generated by the soul does not proceed from matter, but from intelligence.] Every intelligibility originates not from existent things but from the prima intelligentia agens, which is the Demiurge-like responsible for all forms, both natural and supernatural. And this "first acting intelligence, ” universal and common to the entire creation, embracing the mind of the individual in a manner analogous to Augustine's divine light, supra mentes


nostras, gives the individual mind the power to apprehend the essences that lie behind the deceiving appearances of sensible things. 61

Intelligentia agens ambit lumine suo omne illud et totum cui


Sic oportet

imaginari quod virtus intelligentiae supponitur his quae movet, et ambit ea, et influit eis formas

quae sunt hoc quod ipsa est et non acquisitae in ea, et continet omnia in lumine suo

lumen iungitur animae et iungitur formis in anima existentibus, et sub actu huius luminis formae movent an- imam, sicut sub actu lucis exterioris colores movent visum.

; et hoc

The acting intelligence orbits with its light all the things in their entirety, by which [entirety] it is presupposed. So one must imagine that the virtue of intelligence is presupposed by the things which it affects, it orbits them, and informs their forms—forms which to intelligence are not acquired but identical with its own essence—and contains all things within its own light, and this light is joined with the [human] soul and with the forms existing in the soul, and these forms affect

the soul under the influence of this light, just as colors affect the sense of sight. 62

Albertus attributes an Aquinas-like character to the noetic criteria of omnes moderni Latinorum [all the modern Latin theologians]. 63 By way of contrast, he sets his own views in a qualified relation of affinity with those of the Peripatetici, i.e., Alexander of Aphrodisia, Temistius, Avenpace, Avicenna, Algazele. As remarked by Bruno Nardi in Studi di filosofia medievale, Albertus's affinity with Averroes emerges with special relief when the former affirms that the cognitive potency of the human mind, reaching full gradual actualization in its conjunction with the prima intelligentia agens, may completely satisfy the natural desire of knowledge—and this satisfaction, in turn, brings the individual, "in this life, to that perfection and that beatitude which Aristotle's Ethics points at [as man's ultimate goals).” 64

Dante, even the early Dante of the Convivio, disagrees as well with Aquinas's position, and

contends that l'anima umana

intelligenzia [with the mind, the human soul participates of divine nature in the guise of an eternal intelligence]. This "mind, ” which permits the human soul to be a part of "divine na

participa [con la mente] de la natura divina a guisa di sempiterna


ture, ” is the divine spark present within that "divine animal” called "man” by the philosophers. [La]


fine and very precious part of the soul which is divinity]. 65 Analogously with the views of Albertus and Averroes, in Dante's judgment man's appetite for the knowledge of divine things may be fulfilled in this life through the operations of the human mind:

è quella fine e preziosissima parte de l'anima che è deitade [the mind consists of that

"ne la faccia di costei [i.e., Sapienza] appariscono cose che mostrano de' piaceri di Paradiso'; e [ la canzone terza] distingue lo loco dove ciò appare, cioè ne li occhi e ne lo riso. E qui si conviene sap- ere che li occhi de la Sapienza sono le sue demonstrazioni, con le quali si vede la veritade certissimamente; e lo suo riso sono le sue persuasioni, ne le quali si dimostra la luce interiore de la Sapienza sotto alcuno velamento: e in queste due cose si sente quel piacere altissimo di beatitudine, lo quale è massimo bene in Paradiso. Questo piacere in altra cosa di qua

giù essere non può, se non nel guardare in questi occhi e in questo riso

solamente l'umana perfezione s'acquista, cioè la perfezione de la ragione, de la quale, sì come di

principalissima parte, tutta la nostra essenza

ragione], perfetta è quella [i.e., l'essenza], tanto cioè che l'uomo, in quanto ello è uomo, vede terminato ogni desiderio, e così è beato. 66

E in questo sguardo

[S]ì che, perfetta sia questa [i.e., la

"In Wisdom's face there appear things which manifest the joys of Paradise”; and my third song identifies the place where the joys of Paradise appear, namely, in Wisdom's eyes and smile. Here it is necessary to know that the eyes of Wisdom are her demonstrations, whereby truth is seen with the greatest certainty, and her smiles are her persuasions, wherein the inner light of Wisdom manifests itself unveiled: and in these two things is felt the highest joy of blessedness, which is the greatest good in Paradise. This joy cannot be found in anything else here below, except by looking into these eyes and upon this smile. It is in this gaze alone that human perfection, or the perfection of reason, is acquired; and on the perfection of reason, our foremost component, all our essence depends. Therefore, if our reason is perfect, so is our essence, to the extent that man, insofar as he is man, sees all his desires brought to an end and is thereby blessed. 67

On one side of the contention, then, we have Aquinas's claim that the human mind depends on and is limited by the sensible


realm in its apprehension of supernatural essences, while poetry, the allegedly infima doctrina

written by poetae theologizantes, is bound to fail, in its attempt to foreshorten the process of such intellectual apprehension, because of its defectus veritatis. On the other side of the contention we have: (1) Albertino Mussato's claim that poetry reaches the soul of the poet directly a summo coelo, from the highest heaven; (2) Albertus's persuasion that the human mind does not receive the light of comprehension from the senses, but rather from the all-pervasive prima intelligentia agens. Mussato's advocacy of a return to the ancient notion of poeta theologus seems to find theological support in Averroism, not only that of Albertus Magnus, but also that of Dante in the Convivio, who maintains that the mind is that portion of the human soul that has direct and immediate access to the divine.

Yet, the picture is more complex than that: we may be dealing here with something analogous to that altera theologia ["other theology”] of which Mussato writes in his seventh epistola (54c). By postulating that one of the highest levels of prophetic experience is a "natural” one, an experience, that is, attained by human agency alone (which experience, incidentally, must be kept separated from the prophetic raptus whereby Aquinas characterizes the experience described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12.1—14), Albertus's De somno et vigilia confirms a crucial point raised above: it is not primarily a matter of establishing whether the most direct way of access to the knowledge of God follows the path of speculative doctrine (theology proper) or the path of imaginative doctrine (poetical theology), but rather a matter of reconfiguring the relation in which the subject of the quest for knowledge of divine things stands vis-à-vis the object of inquiry. 68 In consideration of the imminent developments of the present discussion, I venture to put forward the aphorism that it is ultimately a matter of appreciating the enquirer's engagement in a quest whose object is not given once and for all, but rather shaped to a fundamental extent by the nature of the quest itself.

In this light, the fact is rather remarkable that Albertus Magnus describes the perfection and beatitude reached by the individual whose natural desire for knowledge of divine things is fulfilled as analogous with a type of futural knowledge unmoored


even from the doctrinal limitations which Aquinas imposes on anagogic understanding:


adeptus quasi totus est perfectio luminis agentis,

tunc ille proximus est ad

cognoscendum futura ex praesentibus, et illi frequenter efficiuntur prophetantes.

When almost all the acquired knowledge is the perfection of the acting light, then he [i.e., the detainer of this knowledge] is close to knowing future things through present things, and is often depicted as a prophet. 69


Boccaccio praises Dante as the poet theologian whose favole

dimostrazioni filosofiche , né le persuasioni avevano potuto a sé tirare [whose fables attracted (i. e., converted) those who neither philosophical demonstrations nor persuasions had been able to attract (i. e., to convert)”]. Guido da Pisa, an early and influential commentator of Dante's Commedia, praises Dante as a prophetical poet: 70

[attrassero] coloro, li quali né le

[E]st notandum quod iste poeta, more poetarum, futura vaticinatur; unde poeta idem est quod propheta. Nam quos Sacra Scriptura prophetas appellat, hos pagani denominabant poetas, et aliquando vates.

It is noticeable that this poet vaticinates about the future in the manner [of elocution proper] of the poets; hence [this] poet is the same as a prophet. Because those whom the Holy Scripture calls prophets were called poets by the pagans, and at times vates. 71

There is a fundamental difference between Boccaccio's poet theologian and Guido da Pisa's prophetical poet. It is the difference between, on the one hand, the practitioner of a discipline subordinate to doctrinal codification, and only complementary to the validity of orthodox theology and external worship, and, on the other hand, the ritual officiant of an imaginative anamnesis proleptically thrust toward the eschatology that is memorialized


in the vetero-Testamentary, neo-Testamentary, and apocryphal tradition of apocalyptic writings. We must attend now to this specific and fundamental difference.

Born in Aristotle's Metaphysics, the notion of poeta theologus—or poet as πpώτoυς θεoλoγήσαντας—is developed by several Latin writers, from Cicero in De natura deorum to Lactantius in De falsa religione, from Saint Augustine in De civitate Dei to Isidore of Seville in Etymologiae. 72 It will blossom, under the ethical and formal influence of Boethius's Consolatio, into the fusion of imaginative fabulation and theological speculation found in twelth-century France. 73 In the Anticlaudianus, Alain de Lille establishes a connection between the simplistic tenor of his own poetry and its profound impact on the moral, allegorical, and intellectual instruction of the reader. 74 In Entheticus, John of Salisbury writes that sub verborum tegmine vera latent [truths hide under the cover of words], to signify that profane letters may be the vessel of arcane truth. 75 In this phrase from Entheticus, the etymology of the term tegmen or tegimen relates closely to the conventional term integumentum, used by these poetae theologi to designate literary formulations susceptible of anagogic interpretation. 76 Bernardus Silvestris gives the following definition in his Commentum: Integumentum est genus demonstrationis sub fabulosa narratione veritatis involvens intellectum, unde etiam dicitur involucrum [Integumentum is a type of demonstration, under the guise of fabulous narration, of a truth involving cognition; hence it is also called involucrum (cover or envelope)]. 77

The Dante of the Convivio appears to be rather close to the aesthetics of the French

theological poets. After the death of Beatrice, whose love he sang in the Vita Nuova

as a dolce-stil-novo desidero

enchantment of the heart], Dante rejects his original notion of love as a gentle passion of the senses—an even gentler version of the Aristotelian φίλησίς—in favor of an allegorical and doctrinal notion of love. 78 The object of his love has now become la bellissima e onestissima figlia de lo imperadore de lo universo, a la quale Pittagora pose nome Filosofia [the very beautiful and honest daughter of the emperor of the universe, whom Pythagoras named Philosophy]. 79 The canzone Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona [Love that Disserts in My Mind], which opens the third trea

nato per piacer del core [a desire born from the


tise of the Convivio, identifies this love for philosophy with the virtue of unification praised by Pseudo-Dionysius in De divinis nominibus (which Aquinas defines as a virtutem unitivam et concretivam [a unifying and concretive virtue] in his In Dionysii De divinis nominibus).80 In Dante's words, this virtue of unification effects the unimento spirituale de l'anima e de la cosa amata [the spiritual union of the soul (of the lover) with the beloved thing] (Convivio, Treatise 3, § 2, l. 3).

In the Convivio, the lover is a lover of anagogic understanding, and the beloved, represented in

the guise of an allegory of the intellectual discipline that leads one to that sort of understanding of

divine things, manifests herself as a plurimous sposa de lo imperadore del cielo

solamente sposa, ma suora e figlia dilettissima [bride of the Emperor of the universe only bride, but most beloved sister and daughter] (Convivio, t. 3, § 12, line 14).

e non

and not

However, Dante's future theological originality is already foreshadowed within the aesthetics of the Convivio, at the end of the third treatise, where Dante identifies his beloved woman with the "mother of everything” (di tutto madre), and, rather ironically, tries to convert the sceptics to the unorthodox view that this motherly figure incarnated herself (in Christ) to show humankind the right way to salvation (per voi drizzare, in vostra similitudine venne a voi) (Treatise 3, § 15, lines 15—18). This early heterodoxy (one cannot talk of heresy, properly speaking) announces the eccentric vision of the Commedia, wherein the ontological identification of Christ with the Virgin Mary is brought to full theological resolution.

Later on Dante will recant the doctrinal and allegorical poetry of the Convivio with the sonnet, Parole mie che per lo mondo siete.

Parole mie che per lo mondo siete, voi che nasceste poi ch'io cominciai a dir per quella donna in cui errai "Voi che 'ntendendo il terzo ciel movete”, andatevene a lei, che la sapete, chiamando sì ch'ell'oda i vostri guai; ditele: "Noi siam vostre, ed unquemai più che noi siamo non ci vederete”.


Con lei non state, ché non v'è Amore; ma gite a torno in abito dolente a guisa de le vostre antiche sore. Quando trovate donna di valore, gittatelevi a' piedi umilmente, dicendo: "A voi dovem noi fare onore.”

Words of mine that are in the world, / you who were born after I started / telling about that woman for whom I erred, / "You who in your wisdom move the third empireum, ” / go to her, whom you know, / calling aloud so that she'll hear your troubles; / tell her, "We are yours, and you'll never see us again the way we are now.” / Do not stay, because with her there is no Love; / but wander around in the doleful attires of your ancient sisters. / When you find a woman of true value, / throw yourselves at her feet, / saying: "We must honor you.” 81

In this song Dante exhorts his words to part ways with that gentle woman, i. e., philosophy, with whom "there is no Love.” This woman of intellectual and anagogic inspiration, one notices in retrospect, must not have been too gentle and loving to the poet: fera e disdegnosa ("proud and disdainful”] (Convivio, Canzone seconda, line 76, treatise 3, § 15, line 19), she had already been characterized in Rime 80 as a creature who, Tanto disdegna qualunque la mira, / che fa chinare gli occhi di paura [disdains so much whoever gazes at her, / that makes him turn his eyes away in fright—lines 5—6]. Dante abstains therefore from writing eleven of the fifteen treatises planned for the Convivio. He rejects the woman of his allegorical poems, who—the spouse, sister, and daughter of God, the maker of the universe (di tutto madre), and the incarnated Redentrix of humankind (per voi drizzare, in vostra similitudine venne a voi)—is nothing but an abstract symbol, purely intellectual, a construct of logical syllogisms. Dante's praise goes now instead to the woman of "true value, ” with whom one may supposedly find Love and true gentleness.

It is important to stress here the philosophical principles that lie behind Dante's recantation of his love for philosophy. As suggested above, in the Vita Nuova Dante represented his love for Beatrice Portinari as a gentler version of the Aristotelian φίλησις. The entire conceptual apparatus of the dolce stil novo


may be said to be grounded on Aristotle's psychological notion of φίλησις, the sensual concupiscence determined by ή διἁ τῆς ὄψεως ἡδoνἠ (the sight of that which gives delight). In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle goes to great lengths to differentiate philesis from the notion of φιλἰα (Bk. 9, 1166 b 30—34). The sight of a

delightful thing triggers philesis or concupiscence. Just as benevolence is at the root of friendship or philia, so philesis is at the root of sensual affection. In the Convivio Dante parted ways with the celebration of sensual love practiced by the stil-novists and adhered instead to the orthodox understanding of philia found in Augustine and Aquinas. [L']amore a la veritade e a la vertude [the love for truth and virtue] of the

Convivio is the love from which nasce la vera e perfetta amistade

parla lo Filosofo ne l'ottavo de l'Etica [is born the true and perfect friendship

which talks Aristotle in the eighth treatise of the Nicomachean Ethics—Convivio, treatise 3, § 3, line 11]. This love may be assimilated, I venture, both to the "restlessness” of Augustine's heart, which may find peace only in God, and to the naturale sciendi desiderium [the natural desire to know] of Aquinas, that finds rest only in the knowledge of God. 82

de la quale


In the hands of Aquinas, the concupiscence awakened by the sight of a delightful thing or creature is reduced to an activation of the vis cognoscitiva (the power to know):

[P]ulchrum est idem bono sola ratione

[D]e ratione boni est quod in eo quietetur

appetitus; sed ad rationem pulchri pertinet quod in eius aspectu seu cognitione quietetur



id cuius ipsa apprehensio placet (Summa 1—2, q. 27, a. 1, ad 3)

Et sic patet quod pulchrum addit supra bonum quendam ordinem ad vim

bonum dicatur id quod simpliciter complacet appetitus; pulchrum autem dicatur

The beautiful is the same as the good; they only differ in one criterion. The good is that which gives [simply] rest to appetite, whereas the beautiful is that which gives rest to appetite through its contemplation or cognition. Hence it turns out that the beautiful adds to the good a reference to the cognitive powers; the good refers simply to that which satisfies the appetite, whereas the beautiful refers to that whose apprehension gives pleasure.

Not only does Aquinas's separation of the sated appetite for the good from the delighted concupiscence triggered by the ap


prehension of the beautiful seriously contradicts the sensuous aesthetic and the philosophic sources of the dolce stil novo; it also submits Aristotle's philesis to an arbitrary and narrow interpretation—it reduces it to noesis. The concupiscence triggered by the Aristotelian philesis had instead been confidently equated with sensual love in the poetry of Dante's two great friends, Guido Cavalcanti and Guido Guinizelli. And in his Summa de anima the Franciscan theologian Jean de la Rochelle had represented the Aristotelian philesis as an active disposition toward placentia (attraction), and had furthermore attributed the power to generate love to the concupiscence and desire induced by this placentia:


est disposicio uirtutis concupiscibilis mouentis ad actus: placentia et displicentia.

Quidam ergo actus exeunt ab ea secundum placenciam; quidam uero secundum displicenciam. Secundum placenciam duobus modis. Nam placencia aut est boni aut mali. Si boni, iterum

dupliciter: proprium vel

concupiscenciam et desiderium


proprii distantis adhuc placencia generat

Boni uero delectabilis proprii coniuncti placencia generat

The disposition of the virtue of concupiscence as it prepares to act is double: attraction and repulsion. Therefore at times this virtue generates acts according to attraction, at times according to repulsion. Acts of attraction have two modalities, according to whether the attraction is good or

bad. If it is good, the procedure is double again, according to whether it is oriented toward the self

or toward the other

generates concupiscence and desire. Attraction toward something that is good for the self and

accessible to the self's delectation generates joy and gladness that is good for the other generates love and delight.

Attraction at a distance toward something which is good for the self

Attraction toward something

In his reconversion toward a celebration of the woman of true value (opposed to the Mother of the Universe, whose disposition to be known and understood may only be received with Aristotelian philia), Dante prepares the imaginary renewal of his scopophilic assignations with little Beatrice in Florence, which before her premature death used to enchant his heart with tutti li ter


mini de la beatitudine [all the paradigms of beatitude]. 84 Love is now going to evolve for Dante into the offshoot of a fantasy full of a sensual passion to understand the divine: this is the love of the Commedia, which will allow Dante to ascend beyond anagogic understanding in his ultimate vision of God.

L'animo, ch'è creato ad amar presto, ad ogne cosa è mobile che piace, tosto che dal piacere in atto è desto. Vostra apprensiva da esser verace tragge intenzione, e dentro a voi la spiega, sì che l'animo ad essa volger face; e se, rivolto, inver' di lei si piega, quel piegare è amor, quell'è natura che per piacer di novo in voi si lega. 85

The mind, which is created quick to love, is responsive to everything that pleases, as soon as by pleasure it is roused to action. Your faculty of apprehension draws an image from a sensible thing and enfolds it within you, so that it makes the mind turn to it; and if, thus turned, the mind inclines toward it, that inclination is love, that inclination is natural love, which is once again actualized in you by beauty. 86

The Dante of the Convivio is indeed a poeta theologus, but the sensually passionate Dante of the Commedia evolves in a different direction. This evolution may also help to explain the theological poetics of the Convivio. Although a superficial reading might suggest that in the Convivio Dante attributes the four fundamental levels of signification sought for in Christian exegesis (literal sense, allegorical sense, moral sense, anagogical sense) to both Holy Writ and profane literature, a closer perusal makes it evident that the allegorical sense of the "beautiful lie” (bella menzogna) of his own poem is meant to validate Aquinas's opinion apropos of the fabulistic nature and "deficiency in truth” intrinsic to profane literature. 87 In a move imbued with doctrinal purposefulness, Dante goes as far as comparing his fables to those sung by Orpheus, whom Aquinas's De anima defines as unus de primis philosophis qui erant quasi poetae theologi [one of the first philosophers who were almost theological poets]. 88

The transition from Dante poeta theologus to the Dante of the


Commedia reflects the difference that separates the anagogical paths of both speculative and imaginative doctrine from the anti- doctrinary path of prophetic and divinatory poiesis. It is this transition that turns Dante into the genuine source of the tradition of Christian epics.

The identification of poeta and vates goes back to the religious world of the Romans. The ancient poets "were called vates and interpreters of the gods, and reputed able to speak afflante numine

[with the inspiration of the god].” 89 Isidore of Seville affirms that the Latin poet was called vates owing to the mental potency implied by the etymological root (vis, strength) of the word: Vates a vi

mentis appellatus Varro auctor est

dicebantur [Varro, the author, is designated as vates because of the strength of his mind Therefore the poets [who wrote] in Latin were called vates and their writings were called vaticinations]. 90 An analogous definition of vates as vaticinator, as an individual endowed with

the mental strength to make explicit the divine revelations, is found in Albertus Magnus's Postillae

super Jeremiam fragmentum:

alios divinae revelationis effatur mysteria [the name vates designates, for his mental power, a man capable of unveiling with his enlightened mind the secrets of divine revelations to others]. 91

proinde poetae Latine vates olim, scripta eorum vaticinia

nomine vates vocatur, a vi mentis, quod vi mentis illuminatae ad

The Roman tradition that identified the terms poeta and vates, or vaticinator, supports also, in turn, the later identification of vates and prophet. In Etymologiae Isidore of Seville assimilates the pagan diction vates to the Christian diction propheta. 92 Albertus Magnus, in the passage comprising the above citation from Postillae super Ieremiam, designates the term prophet as "the other name” by which the Roman vates is called. In the second book of De monarchia, Dante refers to Virgil once with the term noster Vates and seven times with the term Poeta noster. In the same passage, furthermore, he describes the work of Virgil as one of vaticination. 93 (The appellation Poeta noster is used in several other chapters of De monarchia, and also once in the Convivio.) 94

The principal moment in Dante's assimilation of the poetic function to the prophetic function has been established by Nicolò Mineo, who provides an insightful analysis of the Virgilian echoes


linking the great poets described by Dante in De vulgari eloquentia with the schiera (array) of eminent poets who welcome Dante in Canto IV of Inferno. 95 This is a moment of fundamental relevance to the present analysis, insofar as it establishes a clear discontinuity between an earlier Dante, poeta theologus, and a later Dante, visionary poet and apocalyptic traveler.



In book 6 of the Aeneid, Virgil designates as "children of Pluto” (Di geniti) those mythical humans who, after their descent to Avernus, managed to travel back to mortal life, either through Iupiter's benevolent aid or through their own "ardent virtue.” 96 In book 2 of De vulgari eloquentia, Dante elaborates an extensive paraphrase of Virgil's verses, wherein he attributes to the Roman poet the intention to designate as "beloved by god” (dilectos Dei) and "children of the gods” (Deorumque filios) the great poets whose "ardent virtue” begets celestial and sublime verses. 97 Dante's distortion of the meaning of Virgil's lines is obvious, especially when he turns the supreme "fatigue” and "labor” undertook by the visitor of the underworld (Hoc opus, hic labor est) at the end of the journey (when the primary task is the return [or "escape”] to the "open air” [evadere at auras]), into the "fatigue and labor” (hoc opus et labor est) undertaken by the poet whose task is to compose verses with caution (cautionem), prudence (discretionem), passion (strenuitate ingenii), constancy (artis assiduitate), and understanding (scientiarumque habitu). 98 Mineo maintains that this distortion of meaning is deliberate on Dante's part; it allows Dante to establish a direct connection between the great poet and the necropolitan traveler, a connection that will find full poetic and autobiographic resolution in Cantos 4 and 5 of Inferno.

In the Limbo or vestibule of Hell, Dante is led by Virgil to meet four of the greatest poets of the pagan world: Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucanus. The schiera of these great poets, to which Virgil is granted membership despite the transitional character of his work (half-pagan and half- Christian, partly politically conservative, partly religiously visionary), welcomes the mortal visi


tor as de la loro schiera, /

of wisdom—Inferno 4.101—2.] 99 A first convergence between the figure of the great poet and of the necropolitan traveler is suggested here, to be confirmed in the next Canto; in objection to Minos's words of warning to Dante, Virgil suggests in Canto 5 that Dante, the poet capable of the fatigue and labor undertaken in the composition of the Commedia, is one of those visitors of Avernus who, no less than the "offspring of Pluto” and the "beloved of Iupiter” whom Virgil himself sang in the Aeneid, cannot be forcefully detained in the underworld (Inferno 5.16—24).

sesto tra cotanto senno [one of them

the sixth amid such store

This Dantean identification of the poet with the mortal Di geniti may have been influenced by an analogous interpretive move by Bernardus Silvestris, whose Commentum identifies the Di geniti of Virgil alternately with the knowledgeable "children of Apollo, ” with the eloquent "children of Calliope, ” the Muse with the beautiful voice (Kαλλιόπη, or "She of the Beautiful Voice”) who presides over the labor of the epic poet, and with the rational "children of Iupiter”: in anima rationales et immortales, in corpore mortales [rational and immortal in soul, mortal in body]. 100

It is important to have a firm grasp of the difference between poeta theologus and

necropolitan traveler. The former category is fully realized in the autonomy of human inspiration promoted by the Renaissance; the latter category constitutes instead the fundamental axis in the constitution of the tradition and theological thrust of Christian epics. As an amplification of the thesis elaborated in Scriptural Poetics in Joyce's Finnegans Wake, especially with regard to Joyce's Biblical revisionism, I shall venture that to the autonomy of human imagination advocated by the Renaissance, the poetic and necropolitan journey undertaken by Dante with the composition of the Commedia opposes a form of Scriptural poetics. 101 By Scriptural poetics I refer here to a process of poetic creation rooted in the rhetorics of revelation pervasive of the Old and New Testament, and pervasive especially of the apocalyptic voices, apocryphal and non, found in the pages of Scripture. Even from the point of view of a poiesis intended as, strictly speaking, an act of fabrication (or intended, when it comes to literary endeavors, as the applied craft of composition, exposition, versification, description, etc.), it may be argued that the character of Dante's necropolitan poetry presents


a remarkable affinity with the rhetorics of revelation that inform so many pages of the Bible.

For a case in point, it should be recalled that in his conversation with Bonagiunta (Purgatorio 24), Dante describes the task of inscription of the visions inspired in him by Love as a task of "notation” and "signification”:

I' mi son un che, quando Amor mi spira, noto, e a quel modo ch'e' ditta dentro vo significando. (Purgatorio 24, 52—54, my emphasis)

I am one who, when Love inspires me [literally: breathes into me], takes [mental] note, and after the fashion Which he [i.e., Love] dictates within [me], proceeds to express [literally: to signify] 102

Granted that Love, as a dittator of visions ("dictator, ” in the ubiquitous sense of the

source of oral or mental dictation and the agent of despotic rule over inscription—

Purgatorio 24.59), is a source of poetic inspiration shared by the Christian and pagan traditions, it must be observed that the stages identified as "notation” (I' mi son un


specifically to the prophetic experience of textual inscription—to the moment in particular when, according to Patristic and Scholastic thinkers, inspiration [mentis elevatio] and revelation [perceptio divino- rum] are followed by denuntiatio [denunciation or an-notation] of that which has been apprehended through inspiration and revelation (ad utilitatem aliorum, for the benefit, that is, of those who have no direct, personal access to prophetic vision). 103

noto) and "signification” (a quel modo ch'e' ditta dentro vo significando) relate


What remains to be further discussed at this juncture is the apocalyptic dimension of the tradition of Christian epics. We are going to see that an engagement in the apocalyptic dimension of Christian epics may highlight certain fundamental lines of conti


nuity and of purposeful intertextuality linking Joyce to Dante, linking their respective Scriptural poetics, and linking furthermore both Joyce and Dante to the early origins of apocalyptic Christianity. Why am I arguing here that the necropolitan journey, rooted in the tradition of classical pagan literature (spanning from Odysseus's to Aeneas's respective visits to the underworld), is an element that justifies the attribution of an apocalyptic character to the works of Christian epics? And why, one might also wonder, am I treating apocalypticism as substantially inherent in the figure of the prophetic poet? Evidently, the affinities between the visionary and oracular aspects of prophetism and of apocalypticism are not sufficient to identify these two separate traditions in the Old and New Testament, two traditions that define and characterize, both in their mystic and literary connotations, two similar yet distinct genres.

First of all, it must be observed that the apocalyptic writers, who undertake the "revelatory disclosure [ἀπoκαλυπτω] about the end of time, ” are chronologically posterior to the prophets. 104 Besides, no apocalyptic writer, with the exception of John the Divine, refers to himself as a prophet. 105 By the time apocalyptic writing blossomed, "in the age of late Hellenism and its decline, ” the age of the prophets, which comprehends "the ages of the kings of Judah and Israel, ” was long since considered finished. 106 One might say that the apocalyptic genre consists of a continuation, an expansion, or even a bastardization of the essential characters of the prophetic genre. In The Relevance of Apocalyptic, for instance, H. H. Rowley maintains a view of the apocalyptic genre as a hybrid development of vetero- Testamentary prophecy. 107 The principal factors that characterize this expansion of the genre are two, namely, the motif of the necropolitan journey, either to the underworld or to the heavens, during which the traveler receives a revelation, and the motif of salvation inherent in the journey, which hinges inherently on a novel enactment of the dichotomy of good and evil. 108

It is true that apocalyptic and prophetic writers share a strong impulse of sociopolitical engagement and a firm commitment to refined forms of literary expression; however, the political commitment of the prophet is mostly oriented toward the present historical contingency, while the apocalyptic writer is concerned about the eschatological finality of the historical process. "God


shows the [prophet] individual instances of historical occurrence or only a vision of history's end; [the apocalyptist] sees all of history from beginning to end with particular emphasis on the arrival of that new aeon which manifests itself and prevails in the Messianic event.” 109

As to literary expression, the apocalyptic writer appears to adopt and dramatically amplify the imagery and symbolism of the prophet.

Altizer identifies the dissolution of the apocalyptic tradition with "the triumph of


apocalyptic enactments found in Christian epics the preservation of a dichotomous tradition that has completely disappeared from the orthodox doctrinal corpus.

Catholic Church in the second century.” 110 In his opinion, we owe to the

It is only in the realm of the imagination that Christianity has fully realized an

apocalyptic vision

apocalyptic as it has evolved, as can be seen in the transformation of our epic voyage as it is enacted by Dante, Milton, and Blake. Not only does that voyage

become ever more fully apocalyptic, but its enactment becomes ever more purely

and more totally a dichotomous enactment

in the Commedia, [yet] the

Purgatorio, and the Paradiso, and that unity between Heaven and Hell is inevitably

destined for a dichotomous resolution

apocalyptic poets, and apocalyptic poets in their very enactment of an epic voyage.


The Christian epic tradition

has become ever more fully

Dichotomy as such is seemingly absent

unity of the Commedia is the unity of the Inferno, the

[All] of our great epic poets have been

The apocalyptic vision is a vision of the end of history, an end to be taken in the semantic ubiquity that attributes a goal, a conclusive purpose, an aimed-at end to all ends that bespeak closure and termination. It is in this sense, one should stress, that the apocalyptic vision may be defined, genrewise and certainly not in a pejorative connotation, as a hybrid degeneration of the prophetic vision. 112 As we saw earlier, this is Rowley's argument in The Relevance of Apocalyptic. In "The Jewish Apocalypses, ” John Collins defines the "genre apocalypse” as "a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar


as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.” 113 The apocalyptic stance invests the prophetic tension between "the cosmic vision [and] the realities of contemporary life” with a barrage of complex literary symbols and poetic images, symbols and images that have rightly come to be conventionally identified as "apocalyptic” or "eschatologic.” 114

Whereas Apocalypse is "a process that cannot be arrested, ” a progression toward the "extreme things” (éskata) of an ultimate universal destiny, described in minute details by a textuality overflowing with vivid imagery and eloquently catastrophic (and redemptive) scenarios, the tradition of prophecy proceeds from greater obscurity of imagery and scenario and from greater elusiveness of vocabulary in order to postulate a more direct and more immediate relation of solidarity between human action and divine retribution. 115

Nonetheless, the fact remains that the apocalyptic vision consists of the Christian culmination of the prophetic tradition of the Old and New Testament. The "Christ-event” is the beginning of the general resurrection of the dead that figures at the center of the events expected in the Apocalypse. 116 If the apocalyptic vision brings about "a process that cannot be arrested, ” an eschatological process that appears to lead toward the end of human history, this is, as I just suggested, an end of semantic ubiquity, an aimed-at, dichotomous purpose that bespeaks an achieved conclusion and a new beginning; and it does so by elevating the sacrifice of Crucifixion to the pivotal moment that signals "the in- breaking into [human] history of a radically other order of existence.” 117 Apocalypticism brings with it the patrimony of Crucifixion and Eucharist, to be here intended as, respectively, the historical immolation and the sacramental anamnesis—the factual event and the recursive tradition—that draw a bridge over the ages and above the prevailing cultic customs, a bridge linking the "new heaven” and "new earth” of the apocalyptic vision to the primal roots of human community.

Yet, Christianity has never evolved an apocalyptic theology, as Altizer insistently remarks in History as Apocalypse, Genesis and Apocalypse, and The Genesis of God. This is the raison d'être of the rest of this chapter, centered on Altizer's claim that "even if apocalypticism has arisen again and again in Christian



it is only in the realm of the imagination that Christianity has fully realized an apocalyptic

vision.” 118

One ought not to seek strictly doctrinal formulations of this apocalyptic vision in the works of Dante and Joyce. A doctrinal effort emerges often in Dante, especially the early Dante identifiable in the efforts of the poeta theologus, and in Joyce as well, perhaps most of all the Joyce of Finnegans Wake and, from the point of view of his early concerns with imitatio Christi, the Joyce of Stephen Hero. 119 But when they adopt the visionary stance of the apocalyptic poet, it is in the mnemonic dimension of liturgy (as re-presentation, as re-collection, as recollecting enactment, as celebration of a commemoration, as hyper-mimetic imitatio) that Dante and Joyce tell us of their necropolitan voyage: an apocalyptic, forward-pushing voyage which is a journey paradoxically thrust back to its own source and the original matrix—back toward, more specifically, a retracing of the Scriptural poetics that grounds the apocalyptic tradition of Christian epics.

The transition from a poet, Dante, who, in the poetic construct of his principal character, encounters Christ in the Florentine incarnation of his beloved woman, to a writer, Joyce, whose self- incarnation into the "fleshskin” of Holy Writ becomes the "integument” (FW 186.1), by proxy, of the salvific immolation at the center of the apocalyptic vision, signifies the unity of purpose and the common theological vision that is the subject of the present study.

Dante's profound debt toward the themes and symbols of ancient apocalyptic poetry, particularly those of John the Divine, is best seen in the episode of the mystic procession escorting Beatrice's "triumphal chariot” in Purgatory. The catalog of participants, the numerology and symbology, as well as the machinery involved in the procession permit to identify the source and the allusive thrust of this episode as unquestionably apocalyptic; it is a deliberate enactment and commemoration of the apocalyptic tradition.

The procession begins with the appearance of the seven golden lampstands that inaugurate John's apocalyptic vision (Purgatorio 29.43—50; Revelation 1.12, 4.5). (Judging from the standpoint of the Convivio [treatise 4, §21, line 12], it would appear that Dante intended these lampstands as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.) The lampstands are followed by twenty-four el


ders (Purgatorio 29.64—84), just as twenty-four elders sit around the Throne of God in John's Revelation (4.4). 120 As in John the Divine and in Ezekiel, Dante's twenty-four elders are followed by four creatures (or cherubim), with six wings (four wings according to Ezekiel) and the feathers full of eyes (Purgatorio 29.92—95, Revelation, 4.6—8, Ezekiel, 10.3—14.) 121 The four creatures are then followed by a chariot on two wheels, pulled by a gryphon, half-lion and half- eagle. For the image of the two-wheeled chariot, usually the commentators refer to the wheels of Ezekiel's prophecy:

As I gazed on the creatures, I saw one wheel on the ground next to each of the four-faced creatures. As for the appearance and structure of the wheels, they gleamed like beryl. All four had the same form; the appearance and structure of each was as of two wheels cutting through each other. And when they moved, each could move in the direction of any of its four quarters; they did not veer when they moved. Their rims were tall and frightening, for the rims of all four were covered all over with eyes. And when the creatures moved forward, the wheels moved at their sides; and when the creatures were borne above the earth, the wheels were borne too. Wherever the spirit impelled them to go, they went—wherever the spirit impelled them—and the wheels were borne alongside them; for the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels. When those moved, these moved; and when those stood still, these stood still; and when those were borne above the earth, the wheels were borne alongside them—for the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels. (Ezekiel 1.15—21)

For the image of the gryphon, reference is often made to Isidore of Seville, who described Jesus

in similar terms: [Christus] vocatur

post resurrectione [sic] ad astra remeavit [Christ is a lion in view of his kingdom and fortitude. He

is an eagle because after his resurrection he soared up to the stars]. 122

[l]eo pro regno et fortitudine [et]

[a]quila, propter quod

Up to this point, the relevant difference between Dante's and John the Divine's vision is a fairly

negligible one, namely, that Dante's vision consists of a mobile procession, while John's vision is

a static tableau. The crucial difference emerges from a scrutiny of the second segment of Dante's procession.

At the center of John's vision is God on His throne, and at the center of this center is the slain Lamb (Revelation 5.6), i.e., the


Redeemer, who is given birth by "a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12.1). At the center of Dante's procession is Beatrice, announced first with the erotic invitation, Vieni, Sponsa, de' Libano (Come, o Bride, from Lebanon) (Purgatorio 30.11, my translation) from the corresponding lines of the Song of Songs, "From Lebanon come with me; / From Lebanon, my bride, with me!” (4.8), and subsequently praised with the words, Benedictus qui venis, that Scripture (Matthew 21.9) and the prologue to the canon of the Mass reserve for Christ (Purgatorio 30.19).

A sensuous dea-ex-machina surrounded by the tetrachromatic ballet of seven "nymphs” (Dante,

Purgatorio 24.59), Beatrice wears a red dress, just as, when a young girl adored by Dante in Florence, she was dressed most often in vestimenta sanguigne. 123 Together with the consideration that Beatrice's premature death is the salvific event that triggers Dante's journey of expiation, the constancy of her "sanguine” garb further enhances the identification of Beatrice with the Eucharistic Christ. Whereas the Christ Triumphant and Pantocrater celebrated in Aquinas's Eucharist remains imperturbably remote from the suffering of the crucified Jesus, to the Dante of the Commedia Christ becomes, as Jesus, the equivocal and bloody object of his

unresolved, sanguine passion for the spirit of Beatrice.

The erotic invitation and the words of praise to Beatrice are sung by the twenty-four elders, with voices as joyful as those that will announce the Apocalypse—la rivestita carne alleluiando, chanting, that is, the resurrected flesh of the dead (Purgatorio 30.15). Driving the triumphal chariot, which Dante's commentators unanimously understand as a symbol of the Roman Church —a symbol that in the unfolding of Dante's prophecy will acquire the seven heads and the ten horns of John the Divine's foul beast of Armageddon (Revelation, 16.16, 17.7)—Beatrice wears, besides the red dress, a white headpiece and a green cape. Seven "nymphs” surround her chariot, three on the right side and four on the left (Purgatorio 29.121—32, 32.98). Each of the three right-side nymphs wears one of Beatrice's colors (red, green, and white); they each symbolize one of the theological virtues (Charity, Hope, Faith). The other four nymphs are all


dressed in red; they symbolize the cardinal virtues (Force, Justice, Wisdom, Temperance).

Additional participants are involved in Dante's mystic procession, but what matters to stress here is the interplay, both in Dante and in John the Divine, of the emblematically apocalyptic motif of the resurrection of the flesh (Purgatorio 30.15; Revelation 20.12—13), of the apocalyptic symbology and numerology, and of the appearance, at the heart of the vision, of the incarnated God of sacrifice, as a slain Lamb in Revelation, and as the "sanguine” object of Dante's amorous rapture in Purgatorio. Dante proceeds toward the completion of his necropolitan journey with the assistance of his passionate love for Beatrice, whose death figures, as I said, as the salvific impulse that turns Dante into an apocalyptic traveler. In the case of John the Divine, the murder of the Lamb, which will have been occurring "since the beginning of the world” (Revelation, 13.8), is the inner motion that sustains John's own apocalyptic journey. One might say that in Dante as in John the Divine the visionary euphoria of the journey is tempered by the bittersweet logic of the Augustinian felix culpa—a further instance of the dichotomous logic of apocalypticism.

It is now time to discuss the line of intertextual filiation tying Dante's apocalyptic motif of the necropolitan journey to Joyce's literary ritual.



Joyce's Literary Ritual


IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH THE INTERTEXTUALITY OF THE APOCALYPTIC motif linking, by way of systematic allusion, Joyce to Dante and Dante to John the Divine, it is important to mention that Joyce does not shy away from the requirement, which figures as a basic axiom of the apocalyptic experience, that the necropolitan journey be undertaken by the poet himself. Both

in the Scriptural tradition and in Dante's poetry, the apocalyptic prophet is the eyewitness of the events he describes. John the Divine, for instance, is warned by the angel to report faithfully the

things that he "heard and saw”: "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy

for the time is near.”

1 In turn, Dante is warned by Beatrice to remember (nota), transcribe and didactically spread (segna) the vision she afforded him:

Tu nota; e sì come da me son porte, così queste parole segna a' vivi. (Purgatorio 33.52—54)

Do you note, and even as these words are uttered by me, so teach them to the living. 2

A literal rendering of the above two lines can hardly do justice to the polysemy of Dante's lexical intentions. Beatrice's injunction, Tu nota, suggests the act of observation and remembrance, but its etymology, germane with "annotation, ” is elegantly evocative of the act of inscription or transcription. The same criterion applies to the injunction segna, which Singleton correctly translates as "teach” (insegna), but whose root, "sign, ” conveys a self


referential allusion to a pedagogy primarily constituted of graphemes, conforming therefore to Dante's craft of poetic composition. Beatrice's injunction is addressed to a scribe whose craft will have been devoted to the imitatio or representation of his own experience in the afterlife. The thesis that Joyce, a most diffident secular Catholic, would have undertaken a repetition of Dante's necropolitan journey requires a robust qualifying apparatus; it will gradually take shape and display its significantly liturgical connotations in the forthcoming discussion.

In Finnegans Wake, Shem the Penman, the typification of a man of letters, undergoes a dizzying cycle of impersonations. Now he is Glugg, the fictional type of Old Nick, the evil one; now he is Ham, Noah's youngest son, who, under various guises, repeatedly rapes his father; now he is Jerry, the twin brother of Kevin and son of the keepers of the Eve and Adam tavern in Dublin, Mr. and Mrs. Porter; etcetera. 3 In the episode entitled "The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies, ” from part 2, chapter 1 of Finnegans Wake, Shem undergoes a transfiguration into Stephen Dedalus, a "djowl” (Irish, "diabhal”) or devilish satyr, half- goat, half-man, anchored to ham- shaped hocks ("ankered on his hunkers”) (FW 222.30—31, 225.10). This Stephen-Shem is the author of "Ukalepe” (i. e., the Wake's rendition of the "Calypso” episode of Joyce's Ulysses), "Loathers' Leave” (the rendition of the "Lotus Eaters” episode), "Had Days” (the "Hades” episode), "Skilly and Carubdish” (the "Scylla and Charybdis” episode), "A Wondering Wreck” (the "Wandering Rocks” episode), "From the Mermaids' Tavern” (the "Sirens” episode), "Naughtsycalves” (The "Nausica” episode), etc. (FW 229.13—16). 4

Shem has now become a fictional personification of the author of all the episodes from Ulysses which Joyce devoted to the love story of Leopold and Molly Bloom. He has now become the alter ego of the writer who brings to apocalyptic culmination, in the scatology of the Blooms' love intrigues, the eschatology of mortal love that, from Virgil's Aeneas and Dido to Malory's Tristan and Isolde, from Ariosto's Orlando and Angelica to the Commedia's Dante and Beatrice, holds together some of the fundamental elements in the tradition of Christian epics.

The Biblical term "pseudopigrapha, ” usually applied to the anachronistically ascribed Hebrew and Hebrew-Christian writings from the period between about 200 B. C. E. to about 200 C. E., 5


seems especially appropriate to capture the Scriptural modality of Joyce's self-transposition, from author to protagonist of the apocalyptic vision. Pseudonimity is an eminent connotation of Apocalyptic Scripture. 6 Not only does it ascribe authorship by way of anachronistic attribution, bestowing eminent credibility on the events and predictions, otherwise hardly imaginable and conceivable, described in this sort of literature; in doing so, it also deliberately manipulates the history of reception, assigning both the report and the personal experience of these events to the biography of this or that charismatic personage. This manipulation of fact, biography, authorship, and reception is a crucial staple of Dante's self-identification with the necropolitan traveler in his own poem.

There is a doctrinal motivation behind the fiction that Dante's journey to the afterlife "is not a fiction, ” and that he is therefore reporting on his actual experience (as he insistently affirms, from canto 1 of the Inferno [8—9] onward). 7 As Eric Auerbach has persuasively established in Mimesis, deterministic representation, which secular imagination would consider realistic, is actually figural, a mere image of the real, to Dante's medieval imagination, while Dante's transcendental representations of the afterlife, unhinged from the deterministic constraints of extension and duration, are not figures of speech to his imagination, but rather realistic depictions of the authentic, transcendental destination and fulfilled condition of the human soul. 8 Hence, in the case of Dante's autobiographical narration of the necropolitan journey he undertook and accomplished at the age of thirtyfive, in the year 1300 during Holy Week, the issue of fictional manipulation of fact and biography acquires an original dimension. It is not difficult to see why Dante's medieval imagination would identify the story of his imitatio Christi in the Commedia—the Pascal autobiography of his salvation in the year 1300—as more realistic than the history of the sequence of acts and events leading, on this particular Easter Sunday, to his factual partaking of the Pascal sacrament.

Pseudopigraphical personification, however, must not be confused with ontological identification. The necropolitan traveler of the Commedia cannot be ontologically identified with the author of the poem; to the datum of the chronological gap between the journey to the afterlife and the experiential act of writing about


it, in fact, must be added the decisive consideration that the natures of these two events correspond to two radically distinct existential personae. A distinction may even be drawn at the level of mere authorship, according to Guido da Pisa, between the theological persona of the writer of Purgatorio and Paradiso and the "simple, ” poetic persona of the writer of Inferno. 9

By the same token, the "Michelangiolesque[ly]” horned Stephen of Finnegans Wake (81.23) must not be considered ontologically identical with the Luciferean Stephen who writes the Vampire Poem in Ulysses or the adolescent Stephen who writes the Villanelle of the Temptress in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; nor is Stephen Dedalus (not to mention the distinction from his incarnation as Stephen Daedalus—with the diphthong—in Stephen Hero) the same individual as the Joyce who writes Finnegans Wake, or as the Eucharistic writer personified in the pages of Finnegans Wake, discussed later, who undertakes a sacramental phagocytosis of Holy Writ.

Our previous approach to the identification of the apocalyptic sources and allusive references linking Dante to John the Divine may be fruitfully extended to James Joyce as well. The presumption that Joyce involves himself—or, should I say, involves the construct of his own pseudopigraphical persona, systematically and programmatically—in a sort of apocalyptic poiesis, a making of literary artifacts grounded in the four apocalyptic paradigms of the necropolitan journey, the felix culpa, the resurrection of the flesh, and the sacrificial immolation, compels an effective and fruitful exegesis of his evocation of Dante's mystical procession in Ulysses. Such an intentional evocation is made manifest through Joyce's deployment of a distinctly apocalyptic intertext, and it would be impossible to fully substantiate from outside the specific reach of this critical perspective.


"Oxen of the Sun, ” episode 14 of Ulysses, presents an imaginative enrichment of the apocalyptic paradigms of the resurrection of the flesh and the Augustinian felix culpa. In his drunken stupor at the National Maternity Hospital, Stephen Dedalus declares, "In woman's womb word is made flesh.” Given the mock-serious


theological thrust of the ongoing discussion on female fertility between Stephen and his fellow loafers, Stephen's proposition is meant to apply not so much to any and all women, as to the two eminent figures of motherhood in the Bible, i.e., Eve, who was granted, in the beginning of time, the burdensome privilege to populate the earth, and the Virgin Mary, who, in the neo- Testamentary, typological recurrence of John's "beginning, ” gave birth to the Incarnated Word. After this short-lived homage to woman's carnal creativity, however, Stephen retracts with a reference to Psalm 64 from the Vulgate: "But in the spirit of the maker [i.e., the Holy Spirit] all flesh that passes becomes the word that shall not pass away. This is the postcreation. Omnis caro ad te veniet” (U 14.292—94).

This citation from Psalm 64.2—"All flesh shall come to thee”—is a part of the Introit, or the entrance chant of the Requiem Mass. In the "Proteus” episode of Ulysses, Stephen had recourse to the same citation in the course of a reflection contrasting the effects of the Edenic curse of procreative maternity with the destiny of death and decomposition shared by genitor and offspring alike. The Stephen of "Proteus” was evidently thinking of the unhappy destiny of his own mother —"the ghost- candle to light her agony” (U 1.274)—when he meditated on the words: "Bridebed, childbed, bed of death, ghostcandled. Omnis caro ad te veniet” (U 3.396—97).

Stephen's disclaimer of his own praise of maternal fecundity in "Oxen of the Sun” refers to the extinction of procreation that accompanies the apocalypse, the "time of the end” which, in the order of Scriptural typology set forth by the Book of Daniel, corresponds to the origin of the "dominion that shall not pass away.” 10 This paradoxically belated origin or arche is the Scriptural analogue to Stephen's "postcreation”; it is the polar opposite of the Creation of Genesis; it is the time at the end of time, when the "anastomosis of navelcords” (U 14.300) will have been abruptly broken, and with this rupture the process (and Biblical prescription) of human proliferation will have been reversed. The universal participation in the Edenic felix culpa, symbolized by "the [navel] cords of all link[ing] back, strandentwining cable of all flesh”—the cumulative tangle of all umbilical cords linking back, that is, to the universal mother, "Heva, naked Eve” (U 3.37— 44)— will have been reversed by the apocalypse in the expurga


tion of the original lapse and the extinction of Eve's "womb of sin” together with its reproductive faculties (U 3.44). Eve, as the primal source of human life, will have been substituted by Mary, "the second Eve” (U 14.298), as the terminal point of human life and as, at once, the exemplar model (and anachronistic type) of the prelapsarian creature, her "belly [being] without blemish, ” her conception immaculately virginal (U 3.42). Mary's virginal conception of Jesus, another consequence of felix culpa, will have been reversed in turn into her new birth as figlia di [suo] figlio (U 14.303), an allusion to Dante's epithet in canto 33 of the Paradiso: Mary, "daughter of her own son” (33.1).

One might say that Stephen imagines divine Creation in the guise of a gynecoid sandglass with not one but two necks, a neck of entrance or origination and a neck of exit or extinction, the former corresponding to the beginning of historical time, the latter to its closure. The first neck runs metaphorically through the cervix of Eve, who represents the universal mother, the fulcrum of human procreation and "anastomosis of navelcords, ” the matrix of human reproduction:

"Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one” (U 3.39—40). The second neck runs metaphorically through the virgin cervix of Mary, who represents the universal daughter, the fulcrum of postcreation, the gate of extinction whereby the immense tangle of the "cable of all flesh” (the multitude of generated humanity) runs back to the Maker and coalesces apocalyptically into the unity of the Word (U 14.294, 3.37). This latter cervix is to be intended here as source to an all-originary and

creationist Word that, inaugural with respect to John's Gospel, inaugural with respect to the flow of human procreation which started in Eve's womb, is simultaneously inaugural (granted the adverbial paradox) of the end of historical time.

Stephen's gynecoid vision of postcreation bears an intricate complex of apocalyptic meanings and emerges in its theological complexity by successive stages of dramatic enactment, first in the "Proteus” episode of Ulysses and then in the "Aeolus” episode, as well as in the thematic interplay between these two episodes.

A first enactment is found in "Proteus, ” at the moment of inspiration that leads Stephen to

scribble his "vampire quatrain.” 11 A discordant parallel is drawn in "Proteus” between the fallen mother of felix culpa—the mother who virtually conceives and


engenders the Edenic lapse of felix culpa—and the virginal mother of immaculate conception— the mother of Bethlehem whose hymen is impenetrable to the seductions of felix culpa. In the moment of poetic inspiration conducive to the composition of the vampire quatrain, Stephen visualizes the Biblical episode of Eve leaving the Garden of Eden, menaced by the Cherub's "flaming sword, [walking resignedly] to the west, trekking to evening lands [and dragging] her load” (U 3.391—93)—which load is nothing but the fruit of her "womb of sin” (U 3.44). Eve is identified here with "the handmaid of the moon”; the tide of menstrual blood, part and parcel of the curse of her fallen state, is "moondrawn in her wake” (U 3.394). Just as the Virgin Mary said to Gabriel, who had come to announce her virginal conception of Jesus, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word, ” so Eve (and with Eve all her female descendants) is typified in Stephen's reflection as "the handmaid of the moon, ” the eminent figure of motherhood, onto whom it is done according to the sentence of the cyclical, periodic laws of nature that are manifest in the phases of the moon (U 3.395). 12 The lamentation of Eve's maternal fate inspires Stephen to write his vampire quatrain:

On swift sail flaming From storm and south He comes, pale vampire, Mouth to my mouth. (U


Only the doctrine of felix culpa can justify the coexistence of resignation and exhilaration inherent

in this quatrain. It is well known that Stephen's vampire quatrain is a parody of Douglas Hyde's

translation of a Gaelic song, "My Grief on the Sea, ” included by Hyde in Love Songs of Connacht. The last stanza of the song reads:

And my love came behind me— He came from the South; His breast to my bosom, His mouth to my mouth. 13

The speaker of "My Grief on the Sea” is a maid waiting in anguish for the return of her companion, a sailor or fisherman,


"abandoned, forsaken” among the rolling waves. The quatrain parodied by Stephen corresponds to the sudden, unannounced return of the beloved man, followed by the kiss, the joy, and the relief shared by the two lovers. When apprehended in the light of its basic compositional elements, as they surface, as we shall presently see, in the incoherent form of Stephen's interior monologue in the "Proteus” episode, Stephen's vampire quatrain evokes, like its Gaelic source, a striking balance between grief and joy—the grief of the maid who utters Stephen's verses owing probably to a delay in her monthly period, the joy owing to the long-awaited kiss of the swift vampire of the menses, harbinger of the blood flow that dispels the maid's fear of an unwanted

pregnancy. The sluggish oppression of the lapse of woman's fertility—the culpa crowned by the felix torments of eros— succumbs here to the joyful return of the menstrual cycle: a felix culpa indeed, which once a month propels the maid of Stephen's quatrain into the arms of her Luciferean redeemer, the pale vampire of the menses."Eve. Naked wheatbellied sin. A snake coils

her, fang in's kiss” (U 9.541). These three periods from Ulysses effectively allude to the Biblical transition and chronological progression, from the genesis of creation at the beginning of time to the apocalypse of postcreation at the end of time.

• Stage one: in Eve's surrender to the seductions of the serpent, her "naked wheatbellied

sin” (U 9.541) coincides with the inauguration of the Biblical curse of female fertility (Genesis


Stage two: in the joyous celebration of eros by the Shulamite virgin of the Song of Songs,

the "whiteheaped corn” of her virginal belly (U 3.43; Song of Songs 7.3) represents the apotheosis of human procreation.

• Stage three: in the erotic reticence of the "handmaid of the Lord, ” Mary's surrender to the

"word” of God announces the apocalyptic extirpation of felix culpa and the extinction of female fertility.

This transition is clearly at play in the array of compositional concerns displayed by Stephen's relevant interior monologues.

One such interior monologue occurs in the "Aeolus” episode, while Stephen is engaged in a meditation regarding the further elaboration of his quatrain. In comparing the rhyming efficacy of


two words inserted in the vampire quatrain ("mouth” and "south”) with two alternative, equally "leadenfooted” rhyming pairs (pout-out, shout-drouth—U 7.715, 723)—whose tired pace he compares with that of "penitent old men”—Stephen is driven into a comparative praise of the gayly rhyming triads from Dante's depiction of the mystical procession in Purgatorio. At the climax of this procession, as seen in the last section of chapter 2 of the present study, Dante encounters his beloved Beatrice, the pure disincarnate eros of the girl he passionately loved in Florence, now turned into a providential Redentrix, mediating between his disgraced soul and the Virgin Mary. Just as Stephen's image of his penitent elders, "two by two, ” alludes to Dante's Mystical Procession, Dante's Mystical Procession includes the description of twenty-four elders, advancing two by two, all "dressed the same” (precisely in the guise of Stephen's tired rhymes [U 7.713— 16]), which is an evident allusion to Revelation 4.4. The intertextual lineage of apocalyptic filiation is most evident in this case.

In Pruning the Genealogical Tree I put some emphasis on the thematic and contextual relevance of this Dantesque meditation of Stephen's. The context is that of "Aeolus, ” the windy episode occurring in the drafty offices of the Freeman's Journal in Dublin. Satiric overtones aside, such a context evokes thematically the analogously windy context that prepares the procession in Dante's Purgatorio. The "prolific” wind that welcomes Dante to the last stage of his purgatorial ascension is capable of making the plants on earth fructify without recourse to any "tangible seed” (seme palese—Purgatorio 28.103—17). In "Oxen of the Sun, ” Stephen will draw an analogy between the reproductive potency of this "wind of seeds of brightness” and that of the "potency of vampires mouth to mouth” (U 14.242—44). 14 This analogy is not as surprising as it may at first appear, because both potencies—the chaste pollination by an incorporeal, intangible seed of light, and the unchaste (and paradoxical) one by a daemonic, imaginary agent of periodic ovulation—share the same gynecoid generative power, the miraculous fecundity of a "pregnancy

without joy,

a birth without pangs, a body without blemish, a belly without bigness” (U 14.309—

11): a fecundity, in sum, that bespeaks the extinction of procreation, the eclipse of eros, and

the extirpation of felix culpa in Mary's immaculate conception— three moments intrinsic to Stephen's vision of postcreation.

As I have shown extensively in Scriptural Poetics in Joyce's Finnegans Wake, Stephen Dedalus

is systematically and consistently engaged in the adoption of a stance of paternal responsibility

(rather than filial) both toward his artistic precursors (Dante, Shakespeare, Blake, etc.) and his dramatic progenitors (Telemachus, Orestes, Oedipus, Hamlet, etc.), precursors and progenitors (i.e., authors and characters) being reinvented or revisionistically reconceived in this regime of filial and chronological inversion of paternity. In the case of Dante, the figure to be filially regenerated by Stephen is not so much the artistic precursor, that is, the writer, the historical author of the Commedia, as the dramatic progenitor, that is, the protagonist of the Commedia, the pilgrim, the necropolitan traveler who turns his back on hell to reach paradise via a purgatorial detour.

Given the procreational thrust of the present discussion, it is noteworthy that Stephen's paternal stance is the effect of a revisionary orientation whereby he "fathers, ” if you will, his dramatic progenitors and artistic precursors by problematizing the very issue of parental begetting (in Eve and in Mary).

In this light, it is easy to see that, however grand the theological stakes at play in Stephen's

construct of postcreation, even grander is this construct's power of imaginative combustion. Along with the apocalyptic theology of postcreation described above, in fact, the typology of maternal fecundity that Stephen derives from his two polar figures of motherhood has an evident impact also on his revisionary impulse as an artist. Not only does the episode of "Proteus” include the composition of Stephen's vampire quatrain and the principal stages of further elaboration of this quatrain, it also describes the most poetically inspired moments of Stephen's entire day. As such, this is the episode wherein one may capture some of the most genuine and original aspects of Stephen's literary vocation. If in Ulysses Stephen incarnates the Dantesque pilgrim wandering through the streets of Dublin (as a type, precisely, of the Dantesque Ulysses who, contrary to Leopold Bloom's Homeric personification, refuses to stride back toward homecoming and domesticity), it is primarily in "Proteus” that Stephen-the-pilgrim doubles himself in the persona of the apocalyptic poet.


In front of a sea as "mute and reproachful” as the soul of his dead mother (U 1.105), the

fecundating powers of Dante's purgatorial, chaste and seedless wind impregnate Stephen's own

imagination. "[H]arping in wild nerves, [a] wind of wild air of seeds of brightness” (U 3.266—67)

fuels the fire of his poetic inspiration and enables him for a short moment to "pluck strings” of poetic creation. It is important to pay close attention to Joyce's lexicon here.

the harp-

Evidently the phrase "harping in wild nerves” is of Ovidian derivation; it alludes to the episode of the musical challenge between the Muses and Pierus and Euippe's nine daughters (soon to be metamorphosed into magpies) in book 5 of the Metamorphoses. Entrusted with the lead of the muses' performance, "Calliope tried out the plaintive strings (chordas) [of her cithara] with the thumb and then struck up [a] song on the [instrument's] plucked nerves (percussis nervis)”—the term nervi designating here the bundle of animal fibers (tendons and ligaments) traditionally used as musical chords. 15 What does Calliope sing about? Remarkably enough, of Venus' and Cupid's conspiracy to exorcize the sterility of Tartarus with the voluptuous fecundity of lust (ll. 365


A Dantesque pilgrim whose hell, purgatory, and paradise are all simultaneously contained within

the streets of Dublin, Stephen encounters the soul of his dead mother in repeated and

increasingly repugnant incarnations, "ris(ing) stark through the floor, in leper grey with a wreath of faded orangeblossoms and a torn bridal veil, her face worn and noseless, green with grave- mould” (U 15.4157—219). Mary Goulding Dedalus was a relatively young woman when she died, after giving birth to "nine or ten” children (Portrait, 241). Her fertility does not ensue from the joyous contagion of Cupid's winged arrow (harundine, Metamorphoses 5.384), but is rather, to Stephen, the penitential expression of the Catholic condemnation of birth control that turned her into a miserable captive of motherhood. Never will Stephen consent to identifying his mother, or, more generally, the postlapsarian mother of carnal fecundity, with the principle of (pro)creation upon which his poetic efforts are to be modeled. As the allusion to Ovid's Muses suggests, and, more to the point, as Stephen's revisionary orientation indicates, Stephen seeks instead the germ of poetic creativity within his own effort to beget his


dramatic progenitors and artistic precursors—in this specific case, revisionism being manifest in Stephen's overlaying of his tentative rhyming pairs (mouth-south, pout-out, shout-drouth), made slow and lifeless by the thematic constraints of his vampire quatrain, upon the joyful rhyming triplets whereby Dante describes the dancing nymphs escorting Beatrice.

To Stephen, poetic creativity is essentially inspired by an agonistic, competitive poetics of filiation.


Stephen's vision of postcreation may be adopted as a brilliant and vivid emblem of Joyce's own poetics of Scriptural filiation. In Stephen's view, postcreation consists of a fulminant condensation, at the apocalyptic end of time, of the three fundamental types attributed to womanhood by Western Christianity: the carnal mother, the erotic lover, the fertile virgin. As we saw, postcreation compels the vision of an event of cosmic procreation in reverse, whereby the entire human race and its tangle of umbilical cords are absorbed back into the virgin womb that will have returned the Word of God to its originary absoluteness, prelapsarian and precreationist. In the God of postcreation, this virgin womb mothers a divinity uncontaminated by the accidents, lapses, and contingencies of the history of Creation; immense human multitudes leave the necropolis and cross backward the neck of the virgin womb, to coalesce, contracting to a dimensionless dot, into the original source, into the atemporal, aspatial Word that inaugurated, aeons ago, the process of Creation.

The instantaneous punctuality of this new, divine, absolute Punkt, point, period, or full stop—the presentness of postcreation at the end of time, as the absolute contraction or coalescence of the cosmos into the Word—is rooted in the tradition of Scriptural typology. In spite of its advent as the Word at the closing time of apocalypse, this hypercontracted cosmos owes its own generation to sacred history, more specifically, to the history of the Word's contamination with and involvement in the accidents and contingencies of Creation. As the virtual countertype to all previous Scriptural types, Stephen's construct of postcreation, figuring the Word's coming (back) into its most authentic


own at the end of human history-a Word that would therefore implement its own identity not so much as the Word at the origin of Creation in Genesis but as the Word at the end of Creation in Revelation—hinges on three millennia of typological imagination.

In introducing typology as an intrinsic connotation of Stephen's vision of postcreation, the above remark shall allow me to stipulate the genuine character of Joyce's poetics of Scriptural filiation. Before furthering this topic, though, I need to undertake a brief detour into the subject of typology,

which calls here for an additional effort of qualification, since Joyce's Scriptural filiation stands in direct opposition with the Thomistic tradition of Biblical typology. This opposition constitutes the core of my argument in Scriptural Poetics in Joyce's Finnegans Wake, the companion volume to the present study, where I analyze Joyce's Scriptural poetics, its inherent Biblical revisionism, and the recursive nature of its dominant types.

In the history of Church doctrine, one of the most influential typological approaches to the Bible is found of course in Thomas Aquinas, especially in his assertion that the Old Testament is a figure of the New (Quodlibet n. 7, q. 6, ar. 2, responsio), along with the corollary that the spiritual meaning of the Old Testament must be understood as a teleological prolepsis of Crucifixion (Summa 1, q. 1, a. 10). True to Biblical type, in Aquinas's view, is not a character, event, theme, or motif from the Old Testament which conforms simply to a previously established pattern or model (the way, for instance, Joshua's crossing of the Jordan conforms to Moses's crossing of the Sea of Reeds), but only a character or event that conforms to the "type of types” that will have come about with Christ's Incarnation. 16

The proleptic teleology established by Thomistic typology in the evolution of vetero-Testamental types points toward Crucifixion as its final destination. When a previous manifestation of type does not coincide with the teleological "type of types, ” then this type may be relegated to the status of a poetic and didactic expedient devoid of spiritual meaning—we saw an example of this in chapter 2, à propos of Aquinas's interpretation of the goat in Daniel 8.5. All other types are Thomistically intended as analogical and etiological manifestations of Christs's Incarnation and Crucifixion. To Aquinas, Jesus Christ is the paradigm or ulti


mate noetic object anchoring all quests for interpretive understanding undertaken by the Biblical exegete.

Joyce's revisionism of Scriptural typology—of which, as suggested earlier, postcreation represents an egregious example—is centered on a poetics that intends previous and posterior manifestations of type as engaged in a systematical and reciprocal interplay. While Thomistic typology is teleologically linear, Joycean typology is cyclically recursive. The latter finds the ground of futurality, the "type of all types, ” not in a foundational entity and/or event, forever given, but rather in the process of textual incarnation whereby the elusiveness of this originary entity and/or event manifests itself in the guise of perennial revisionability, transitoriness, and negotiability. Revision, transition, and negotiation of sense are therefore intended in the present study as the ultimate meaning-making paradigm of Joyce's Scriptural typology. The true typicality of Joyce's Scriptural types consists of their transitoriness, of their unrelenting contribution to the reconfiguration of the master type.

We may now retrieve the truncated thread of our previous discussion. Thomistic typology conceives of universal history as the teleological progression whereby the Lord of Genesis, the creator of the cosmos at the beginning of time, incarnates Himself in Paul's sacrificial Messiah at the beginning of salvation history, determining therefore the implementation of universal redemption. Stephen's postcreation understands this threefold sequence recursively rather than linearly. The Word, which John the Divine understands as the divine presence at the end of time within which the created cosmos will have been absolutely contracted, informs of its ultimate significance, retrospectively, the meaning of its two previous eminent types, i.e., Paul's Messiah and, before it, the creationist Lord of Genesis. Just as the Word of Revelation cannot be understood without recourse to its foundational types, found in Genesis and in Paul, so these two earlier types cannot be properly understood without recourse to the type of their ultimate destination.

The significance of this view acquires proper relevance when one takes into consideration that the typology of Revelation is historically posterior, in the Biblical canon, to the typology of Genesis. The canonical stipulation that there will have occurred a triumph of the apocalyptic Word at the end of time brings there


fore with it, as an unavoidable corollary, a revisionistic appraisal of the Lord of Creation as Biblical type. Just as the older type of divinity, containing in potentia the seed of its own typological future (but of many other alternative futures as well), filiates its own evolution, the later, apocalyptic type filiates its own predecessor by displaying and actualizing the connotations, the paradigms, the attributes, the manifestations that the older type contains only potentially and hypothetically.

One may gain from this perspective on Scriptural typology a steadier grasp of the above affirmation, that the Biblical Word, which is traditionally identified with the chronological source, with the generative or (pro-)creational power at the origin of human history, endeavors to implement its own authenticity at the very end of history; it must therefore be simultaneously intended as the Word generated, begotten, or filiated by the very history which the Word Itself gives origin to—by the history of the Word's own contamination with and involvement in human affairs, and more specifically, in the history of Biblical canonization. 17

Stephen's vision or construct of postcreation is so emblematic of Joyce's poetics of Scriptural filiation that one finds examples of it elsewhere in Joyce's writings, even in passages where no explicit mention of postcreation is made. A remarkable metaphor of Stephen's postcreation is found in Finnegans Wake, for instance, in the long process of Shaun-Kevin's reverse birth that occupies most of parts 3 and 4, where the reader experiences the odyssey of Shaun-Kevin's transition from maturity, via "the grand tryomphal arch” of Anna Livia's vulva (590.9—10), to extinction in the womb of his deconception.

Clive Hart has brilliantly summarized this process in a page of Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake. 18 Shaun-Kevin's reverse birth begins in chapter 15 (or part 3, chapter 3) of the Wake, where Shaun figures as a young lover, Jaun, who soon regresses to the condition of "some chubby boybold of an angel” (474.15). In the next chapter the "boybold” appears repeatedly as an infant. The end of part 3 reaches the moment of Shaun-Kevin's delivery, but experienced in reverse, as a counter-birth, backward "through the grand tryomphal arch” leading him to the shelter of the womb (590.9—10).

A predicate of the maternal vagina, the epithet "tryomphal”


(try-omphal) is evocative of the postcreationist theme of the "anastomosis of navelcords, ” which, as discussed earlier, Stephen Dedalus pictures to himself in Ulysses as being reversed by the precipitation of the apocalypse (U 14.300). "Will you be as gods?” Stephen meditates in "Proteus.” If that is your wish, he seems to conclude, then "[g]aze in your omphalos” (U 3.38): try the omphalos, that is, or that umbilical corridor in and out of mortal life which the Wake will eventually identify with the "tryomphal [i.e., try-omphal] arch” of the apocalyptic cervix. Try your own navel, in other words, not as "mystic monks” would (U 3.38), to achieve, via mystic contemplation, a simplified understanding of the unlimited "strandentwining cable of all flesh” (U 3.37) and its creationist significance, but rather to contemplate the irreversible contraction or annihilation of the cosmos into the postcreationist punctuality of the Word. 19

But his reverse delivery is not the conclusion for Shaun-Kevin's reverse birth or deconception. In part 4 he is briefly resuscitated as a newborn baby. Aptly enough, Clive Hart remarks that Shaun

plays here the part of the resurrected Christ. 20 The postcreationist nature of this resuscitation/resurrection must not be neglected: just as Jesus needed to be incarnated in order to undergo his death and resurrection, the apocalyptic Shaun-Kevin needs to be disincarnated in order to undergo the resuscitation that will bring him definitely back to "herword in flesh” (FW 561.27). Hart comments:

[H]e retires via the vagina—"amiddle of meeting waters, ” which is to say inter urinas et faeces

—into the womb—"the ventrifugal principality” [605.17]—surrounds himself with amniotic fluids in ever-decreasing volumes and crouches like a foetus until, a diminishing embryo, he disappears


an exclamation—"Yee!

extinguish.” [606.12—13] 21

"Yee” stands in this passage for the joyful exclamation of the flesh returned Word. The imperative "extinguish” stands for the extinction of human fertility and the deconception of humankind, while the recreation of the Word takes place within the apocalyptic womb. The entire movement is ventripetal (postcreationist) rather than "ventrifugal” (creationist). The Wakean formula "ventrifugal principality” alludes specifically to the orthodox or


teleological line of delivery, from the womb through the vagina out into the universe of the anastomosis of navelcords; postcreation reverses this orthodox line of delivery into its apocalyptic complement: the Creation of Genesis has reached its eschatological implementation, the incarnated Flesh is Word again—it is time for the recursive interplay of Scriptural typology to start all over again.

The unpregnant mother of the soon-to-be-unborn Shaun is presented in Finnegans Wake under the name of Isobel and under many other pseudonyms as well (561.8—32). She is in the condition of "dormition” conventionally ascribed to the moment of koimēsis preceding the Virgin Mary's assumption to heavenly glory. 22

I have shown in Pruning the Genealogical Tree that Isobel incarnates at once the

three fundamental types attributed to womanhood by Western Christianity (92—94). As Pia de Purebelle in the days of her period ("the redminers riots”—FW 27.17—18),

she stands for the fertile virgin, of age to procreate but still chaste and "saintette” (a French double pun for "a little female saint still without teats”). As Boccuccia's Enameron, she stands for the erotic lover in the guise of an "intriguant bambolina” (Italian for "intriguing/conspiring little doll”). When "Boccuccia's Enameron” is translated as "Enamored Little Mouth” (Boccuccia: Italian for "little mouth”), her name is evocative of "the fairest sin the sunsaw” (11.26), which in Finnegans Wake is transparently related to the sensuous kiss that condemns Francesca to her perennial embrace with Paolo in Dante's Inferno. As Charis and its superlative Charissima, names that pun at once on the French chair and the Latin caro, both meaning "flesh,

” as well as on the Latin charis, "grace” or "gift” (as in Eu-charist), she stands for the gracious (or full-of-grace) figure of the carnal mother and androgynous begetter of "herword in flesh” (561.27).

The postcreational nature of this plurimous feminine type is especially alluded to by the phrase "herword in flesh”—alluding to her conception of the hypostatic Word in the guise of the corporeal Messiah—along with the predicate "Mother of moth” (where "moth” stands for "god”); both the phrase and the predicate point at that passing away of the flesh that Stephen Dedalus relates in Ulysses to the begetting of "the word that shall not pass away” (U 14.292—94).

It is difficult to say whether Clive Hart is correct in attributing to Joyce the intention of

constructing this entire process of deconception as, in Joyce's own words, "a description of a postman travelling backwards in the night through the events already narrated.” 23 An obstacle to this attribution derives from the fact that this phrase of Joyce's was included in a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver dated 24 May 1924, written at a time when Joyce had completed only the first two of the four chapters of part 3 of the Wake. 24 In his letter to Miss Weaver, Joyce adds that this postman's backward journey "is written in the form of a via crucis of 14 stations.” If Hart's attribution of Joyce's declared intentions to the episode of deconception were correct, we would be facing here a via crucis ending, rather than starting, with an annunciation-type scene—a chronological (dis)order, typological anachronism, or recursive interplay that is remarkably congruent with the logic of postcreation we have been discussing.

It remains now to be shown that Joyce's poetics of Scriptural filiation is inherent in his

own apocalyptic participation in the tradition of Christian epics.


In his brilliant study of Joyce's use of the Eucharistic image, Robert Boyle shows that Joyce's reenactments of the Eucharistic liturgy are disseminated in innumerable variants throughout the entirety of his oeuvre. A brief, emblematic list of such reenactments would include Stephen Dedalus's transmutation of "the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life” (Portrait 221), Leopold Bloom's imaginary immersion in a bathtub "holding his body consecrated by nature to life” ("This is my body” [U 5.566]), Molly Bloom's confection of a Eucharist in menstrual blood, and again, Stephen's pouring of the (poetic and bodily) emissions of his infatuation for Emma into a "chalice flowing to the brim”(Portrait 221, 223). 25

With respect to Boyle's subsequent and very fine treatment of the Eucharistic defecation in Finnegans Wake, his other examples suffer, in my opinion, from the disadvantage of being too conventionally based on symbolic and lexical analogy. Yet, concrete reenactments of the Eucharist are abundant, and devastat


ingly so from a doctrinal viewpoint, in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. In the "Proteus” episode already, for instance, Stephen envisions an instance of the Eucharistic "multilocation” that was discussed in chapter 1:

[A]t the same instant perhaps a priest round the corner is elevating [the monstrance holding the Host]. Dringdring! And two streets off another locking it into

a pyx. Dringadring! And in a ladychapel, another taking housel all to his own cheek. Dringdring! Down, up, forward, back (3.120—23).

In the "Lotus Eaters” episode, it is Bloom's turn to watch the distribution of a Holy Communion in a church, which spectacle he then translates into the tentative, comic comprehension of the hurriedly converted, ex-Protestant Jew:

The priest went along by [the women kneeling at the altar rails], murmuring, holding the thing [i.e., the ciborium] in his hand. He stopped at each, took out a communion, shook a drop or two (are they in water?) off it and put it neatly into her

mouth, murmuring all the time. Latin

Corpus: body. Corpse

eating bits of a corpse. Why the cannibals cotton to it (5.344—52).

Shut your eyes and open your mouth. What?

They don't seem to chew it: only swallow it down. Rum idea:

In A Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake, William York Tindall points out that one finds an Eucharistic eating of HCE, under the species of bread and beer, at the very beginning of Finnegans Wake. "This company [i.e., ALP, Stella, Vanessa, Swift, and the triad of Peter, Jack, and Martin from Swift's A Tale of a Tub], seated around the supine giant [i.e., HCE], proceeds sacramentally to eat him; for not only fallen Adam, HCE is risen Christ or the Host (7.13—19).” 26

Whase be [what is by] his

head? A loaf of

bread. And whase hitched to the

hop [hoop] in his tayle [tail]? A glass of

you would quaffoff [drink] his fraud stuff [foodstuff, fraudulently transubstantiated] and sink teeth through that pyth [a pun on pith and pyx] of a flowerwhite bodey

[flourwhite or white-as a-lily body] behold of him as behemoth [be he Moth= be he God] for he is noewhemoe [nowhere more]. 27 Finiche!

olde Dobbelin ayle [Dublin ale]. But, lo, as


(FW 7.10—15) [My "translations” in square parentheses complement and confirm Tindall's interpretation.]

In bringing to a close this minimal excursus into the list of Eucharistic reenactments found in Joyce, I should also mention Altizer's contention that Holy Communion is the central vector around which hinges the entirety of Finnegans Wake:

[L]ying at the center of the epic [of Finnegans Wake], even as the breaking of the Host lies at the center of the mass, is the execution or crucifixion of "Haar Faagher” [Our Father], an execution, which becomes most dramatic and most scatological in the television skit by the comics Butt and Tiff of "How Buckley Shot the Russian General.” This occurs in the axial chapter of the Wake, and it culminates in that

tavern orgy which is a

ecstatic consumption of the crucified body of God. 28

repetition of an Easter

or Resurrection which is an

It is by means of these sacramental reenactments that Joyce, in Boyle's view, "comes face to face with the ultimate mystery of human existence.” 29 This procession of liturgies reaches a culmination in Finnegans Wake, in the episode where Shem, in his impersonation of the altus prosator (i.e., the exalted procreator but also—from a simple pun on the Latin noun prosa and the English "prose”—the August writer of Torah) offers his "transaccidentated” body to a most "unheavenly” (FW 186.4,

185.29) form of worship. 30 After preparing, in vas

honorable vessel of sadness], encaustum indelebile [an indelible ink], made out of his own body wastes, Shem proceeds to write "universal history” on his own skin (FW 185.19—20, 25—26). 31

honorabile tristitiae [in a

Contrary to the Thomistic doctrine of transubstantiation, Shem's immolation of both his own authorial persona, as altus prosator, and his physical body (an immolation to "a dividual [as opposed to individual] chaos—FW 186.4-6) is exquisitely substantial; it consists of an organic surrender of the "author” (prosator) as sacrificial victim. After shedding his identity, his individuality, and his self, Shem's body reaches the condition of an empty shell and is "transaccidentated” into a text, or Scripture, made of human parchment (his own skin) and of human waste (feces and urine, his own as well) (FW 186.3—4). Shem has willingly reduced himself to the accidents of the raw



wherein the "cyclewheeling history” of the human race will have been typologically turned, as Boyle puts it, into "Shem's Eucharist.” 32

The Scriptural character of this transfiguration stems from Joyce's allusion to Psalm 44 of the Vulgate Version. This allusion suggests that, by some wonder of "transaccidentation, ” Shem is enabled to write on his own body by means of his own tongue. Lingua mea calamus scribae velociter scribendi” (FW 185.22) is translated by Robert Boyle with the words, "My tongue is the reed of a scribe swiftly writing.” 33 A both unnatural and "unheavenly” change of accidental nature occurs in this living and embodied Scripture; as a "continuous present tense integumentum” (susceptible, as the term "integumentum” indicates, of anagogical interpretation), its skin/parchment is orally inscribed; as a performative enactment of the communication per scribentis vocem, through which the Holy Spirit "dictated that which was to be written, ” this script is paradoxically effected with the sacrificial victim's own tongue. 34 The signs inscribed all over Shem's body stand in sum for an accidental incarnation of the divine dictation of the Word. 35

This accidental incarnation of Scripture's substantial meaning—wherein the incarnated Word, the Eucharistic Host, and the sacrificial victim coalesce and are one and the same—occurs when Shem, a most unholy communicant, partakes of the matter of his own bodily wastes, dipping his tongue/reed into an ink whose putrescent substance could hardly be accommodated by the transcendental paradigms of the Thomistic doctrine of transubstantiation.

It is important to emphasize the symmetry between this Joycean instantiation of Scripture and the ritual celebration of Crucifixion, which is the most vital element of the Eucharistic sacrament. I argued earlier that the Greek sacrificial tradition hinges on a relation of typological affinity between the thysia, the pharmakeia, and the sacrificial murder represented on the stage (or, more precisely, evoked behind the scenes) of Attic tragedy. I also remarked that such an affinity permits a qualified identification of sacred and profane victim. While the victim of the thysia is holy and must be ingested for an expiation to occur, the victim of the pharmakeia is unholy and must be expelled for an expurgation to occur. Furthermore, the scapegoat of Attic tragedy un


dergoes in many instances a gradual transformation into the condition of sanctified victim or redeemer. Lastly, the participants to the thysia and to the pharmakeia experience respectively the consumption of the holy victim and the expulsion of the profane victim as the collective activation of two essential bodily functions, which restore the integrity of the social corpus or body politic—ingestion in the case of the holy victim, secretion in the case of the profane victim. The archaic identification of sacred and profane victim came to a typological resolution in the immolation of the sacred scapegoat on Mount Calvary, and this locus of immolation became the virtual place of consumption for all Eucharistic meals.

In the scene of Shem's partaking of his own bodily wastes one may therefore read more than the depiction of a blasphemous communion. This episode of the Wake reverberates with a vibrantly liturgical tension.

Shem partakes of his "dejection” after pouring it into the womb or "vessel of sadness” that housed once Christ's gestation, as indicated by the implicit reference to the litany of the Virgin Mary (FW 185.19—20). 36 In this act of self-manducation Shem personifies both the Messianic victim to be expurgated and the celebrant of the liturgy who ingests the victim. Such a sacramental ubiquity is congruent with the

Church Fathers' early debates about Christ's double role in the Eucharist. For example, Saint Augustine writes in De civitate dei that "Christ is offered in the shape

of a servant, hence in this same shape he is priest and


and destination, at once, of the double offering that, as discussed previously, constitutes the essential moment of primordial sacrifice. If Altizer is correct in postulating that "the worshiper and the god pass into each other” in the event of the primordial sacrifice, one might say that Joyce has here displayed this theological principle of sacramental osmosis in a most consistent liturgical implementation. 38

He is both the

and the offering itself.” 37 Sacramental ubiquity makes of Shem the origin

As he celebrates this ritual of Scriptural and literary transaccidentation upon his own body, Shem undergoes a kenotic version of the postcreation prophesied in the omnis caro ad te veniet phrase of Psalm 64 from the Vulgate. As seen earlier, in "Oxen of the Sun” Stephen Dedalus refers to this Biblical phrase in order


to identify procreation-through-Eve as the primordial phase of human history leading to the postlapsarian incarnation and crucifixion of the Word; in turn, he identifies post-creation-through- Mary as the inaugural phase of human history leading—as eschatological outcome of the Holy Spirit's visitation of Mary's womb—the flesh of the living and the dead back into the eternal Word. The vaticination contained in Psalm 64 cannot be considered apocalyptic, since the tradition of the Psalms belongs to that of prophecy proper. 39 Yet, in Finnegans Wake Shem submits it to an undeniably apocalyptic elaboration.

His body has been minutely tattooed, "transaccidentated” (186.4) into the textual "integument” (186.1) of the salvific immolation at the core of the apocalyptic vision. His tongue dipped into the Eucharistic matter of his own body wastes (185.22), Shem incarnates himself into the stercoraceous and desecrated species of Scripture. Having relinquished his own self ("squidself ”) and with it the integumentum of his "squirtscreened” individuality, he becomes a posthumous incarnation of the crucified Messiah. Given the integumental and perishable nature of his dead skin ("dudhud, ” or Danish dødhud, for "dead skin”), one could say that he becomes a dead im- parchment, a twentieth-century anachronistic transcription of the archaic scrolls of divine revelation (186.6—8).

As Word Incarnate, Shem is the living transcription of "each word that would not pass away, ” i.e., of Holy Writ itself (FW 186.6). As such a Scriptural incarnation, he has become the celebrant of a reverse kenosis, a most secular liturgy whereby he enacts the end of Christian eschatology and the affirmation of base, scatological, perennial human reproduction. His body has been turned into the ultimate rhetorical mode of apocalyptic discourse—a mode dependent on a paradoxically oral textuality, an oral inscription (and, one might add, encryption) that brings the Word of God to resonate in the flesh and tongue of (any) human being, and brings thereby the sacred immortal Word to resonate perennially—to the point of self-extinction—in the profane, the secular, the mortal, the utterly corporeal.

"As we

shuttled to and fro, so does the artist weave and unweave his image.” (U 9.376—78) The symbolistic analogy that Stephen Dedalus draws in Ulysses between the body's molecular

weave and unweave our bodies

from day to day, their molecules


transformation and the self's tropic transfiguration or self-begetting, an analogy derived from Walter Pater, has now blossomed into a paradox: the literal enactment of a liturgical transfiguration. 40 In reading the corpus of the text, we read the body or corpus of the anonymous human subject; in reading the Word, we read Shem's transaccidentated flesh. Aesthetics of reception and literary ritual are here one and the same.


If, as discussed above, Shem's transaccidentation may be understood as an instance of Joycean postcreation, a peculiarity of postcreation remains to be discussed with regard to it, namely, the phenomenon of reverse filiation. As discussed in previous sections of this chapter, postcreation envisages a scenario in which the Incarnate Word, whose Messianic coming is typologically and proleptically announced in Scripture, undertakes to beget a novel inscription of the divine Verbum, ultimately a novel origination or retrocreation of the original act of Creation itself. How does Scriptural inscription reverse itself into an autonomous generation of its own origin? The answer found in Shem's transaccidentation is that such a reverse filiation occurs via an act of revisionary rewriting, which act reconceives and restipulates the entirety of Scripture, down to the materialty itself of its inscription; this reconception stems in turn from the retrospective viewpoint of the last Messianic incarnation of the Word of Scripture. Shem's transaccidentation displays a novel inscription of the Verbum, in other words, as though upon a virtually inverted Veronica, or vera icona, as though upon the decomposing skin ("human only, mortal”—FW 186.4—6) of the Verbum's own sacrificial corpse.

While he is cooling the excremental mixture that will congeal into his "indelible ink, ” Shem sings in a loud voice, as we know, the second line from Psalm 44 of the Vulgate Version of the Bible: Lingua mea calamus scribae velociter scribentis [My tongue is the reed of a scribe swiftly writing]. This line from Psalm 44 happens to be the same line chosen by Aquinas in order to challenge the argument that "spiritual sense [may be] found not only in Holy Scripture but also in profane literature (ars poetica)”:


In no science devised by human ingenuity can one find more than literal sense; only in Scripture, whose author is the Holy Spirit, can man find the proper means [to genuine knowledge]; as Psalm 44 says, "My tongue is the reed of a scribe swiftly


does not go beyond the mode of literal sense. (Quodlibet, n. 7, qu. 6, ar. 3.)

Poetic fictions have no other aim than signification; their signification

Aquinas argues that profane literature—the infima doctrina—is unequipped to convey those spiritual meanings that doctrinal interpretation extracts out of Scripture's sensus allegoricus vel typicus. To him Scripture signifies beyond the reach of literal sense, while in profane literature the parabolic meaning is a structural emanation of the literal sense. In Joyce the citation does not convey a hermeneutic sense but rather a performative one. As Boyle points out, Shem's tongue/reed has the

Messianic power to return the use of the tongue, the full power of speech, or, figuratively, the gracious benevolence of Logos, to those unfortunate who were previously unable to express themselves in words (Luke 11:14). 41 Joyce, a worthy successor of Dante, opposes multifarious, vernacular, infimous vociferation to the silent crypticism of Aquinas's spiritual sense.

In his incarnation of the profane letters which trace the text of Finnegans Wake, Shem figures therefore as altus prosator: the author, the enacter, the interpreter, and the script itself of Scripture. He figures as the Messianic incarnation of the ultimate stage that Scriptural inscription will have reached in the Wake's reconception and restipulation of Holy Writ. The Scriptural canon unfolds itself here in its modernist configuration; it cannot be distinguished any more from profane letters. As the vera icona of transaccidentation, this inverted Scriptural Veronica is the mortal trace of a (or any) human body's impending death, as well as the interminable repetition, in the form of a ritualistic celebration, of the human body's destiny of decomposition. Shem's transaccidentation—together with the reading experience of it—is the most organic elaboration of the theology of Christian epics; it can only manifest itself as liturgy, as a celebration and sacrificial enactment of death.

I do not agree with Robert Boyle when he writes that "the thing we must be

decontaminated from [in transaccidentation] is the body, ” so that we can "humanize

[Shem's] ink.” 42 Transacci


dentation is the process, according to Boyle, but "consubstantiation” is the result

whereby Shem's self or soul is "huddled

summons him forth.” 43 Boyle's exegetic approach to Joyce's passages on transaccidentation is consistent with Aquinas's doctrine of typological interpretation; the text is the passive datum whose cryptic contents, consubstantial with the text itself, must be eviscerated by means of proper hermeneutic devices. On the contrary,

I maintain that the episode of Shem's transaccidentation conveys an anti-Thomistic

model of readerly reception. It pertains to the essential nature of the vera icona of transaccidentation to undergo not so much a hermeneutic as a liturgical process of interpretation; one does not so much read this episode as recite it, celebrating it thereby through the profanity (and the profanities) of its typological repetition. And it pertains to the essential nature of this typological repetition to expand the Scriptural corpus through systematic accretion, from the retrospective viewpoint of a reader who, having engaged in a sort of liturgical enactment or anamnesis, comes to sacramentally incorporate, in the manner of its protagonist, the corpus itself. Far from being the superfluous ballast that, according to Boyle, one must be "decontaminated” from, the reader's own flesh is the ultimate protagonist in the celebration of this sacrificial liturgy.

under the ink until some reader

As discussed earlier, by turning himself into a literal incorporation and excremental version, or, rather, revision of the text of Scripture, the character of Shem presents himself as a pseudopigraphical personification of the apocalyptic traveler who authored Finnegans Wake. When the transaccidentation of the protagonist into the embodied text, word-made-flesh, is set side by side with the identification of this living text, or textualized Scriptural organism, with the persona of its author, and when the persona of the author is resuscitated in the rituals of readership, one obtains a moment rich in exegetic implications. I have found the most decisive of these implications emphasized in Giuseppe Martella's discussion of Joycean "bio- graphy, ” which he defines as the matrix of the parallelism between the Biblical text

and its modernist reception. In Martella's words, bio-graphy signifies the simultaneous "inscription of the human body and of the canonical body of Western tradition: [the] literary epics of the symbolic human body.” 44


This notion of bio-graphy signifies the collusion of individual biography, textual typography, and organic biology. From its perspective, transaccidentation gets instantiated through an organic sort of textuality that manifests itself as a permanent process of redrafting and reconfiguration. Bio-graphy coincides therefore with the enactment of its own result, i.e., the writing of the life chronicle of a living organism:

a chronicle-writing identical with the writing of (upon) this living organism by this living organism itself; a chronicle that is at once recorded, remembered, and inspired by a logos that, as it "weave[s] and unweave[s]” the "molecules” of this living organism (U 9.376—77), envisions and constantly revises the meaningful deployment of this organism's life. Shem's transaccidentation brings to fruition the seed thrown by Stephen Dedalus in his symbolistic analogy between molecular transformation of the body and tropic transfiguration of the persona.

One may wonder at this juncture about the intrinsic nature of a chronicle which is identical with the act of writing its text, a chronicle consisting furthermore of a textuality identical with its own accretive revision. Martella's notion of bio-graphy circumscribes the interpretive field of an ever-changing perspective, one which shares with the tradition of Thomistic hermeneutics, if little else, the all- encompassing exegetic dominant of Crucifixion. Aquinas's typological interpretation is predicated on a hermeneutic code whereby the historical precipitation of Crucifixion provides the hermeneutic code that translates the facts in the lives of Moses, of David, of Ezra, etc. into allegoric, moral, and anagogic lessons. Thomistic hermeneutics excavates behind the thick mythopoietic facade of wars, covenants, genealogies, love affairs, infatuations, and subterfuges of all kinds, to reveal the Word Incarnate as the constant hero and constant interpreter of Scripture. As Martella puts it, "Christ is not only the hero of Scripture, but also, at once, its interpreter; he is, both in the active and passive sense, its logos.” 45

But according to Aquinas the text of the Old Testament stands at a double remove from its meaning, since the latter may only be activated via Jesus's interpretation of Scripture, which in turn is consecrated by Jesus's sacrificial enactment of the Word. From the perspective of Shem's bio-graphy, on the contrary, Crucifixion turns the double remove of this hermeneutic separa


tion into the organic unity of a text whose protagonist or enacter, interpreter or reader, and virtual redactor or "dictator” is the Word in its concrete, punctual manifestation in time and space— hence, in nuce the text itself. 46 The separation between character, author, and reader is effaced. The Thomistic logic of typological interpretation turns Jesus-on-the-Cross, as the type of all vetero-Testamentary types, into the hermeneutic embodiment of Scripture itself. Shem's transaccidentation goes one step farther by turning Jesus-on-the-Cross, as the instantaneously sacrificial reenactment of all types and precursors, into the demise of the typological principle that informs Scripture as literary form.

In this perspective, the theological stakes at play in the episode of the sacred scapegoat embodying the living Scripture of Finnegans Wake deserve to be further

emphasized. Shem's biography is the subjective and objective writing of Shem, who manifests (or transaccidentates) himself as textual skin or cutaneous text. In turn, this living, cutaneous text is the result of the act of writing whereby the protagonist of bio-graphy inscribes—and encrypts as well, in the manner of an extensive tattoo—

a scripture, or Scripture tout court, upon himself. Lastly, this script is a text—at once

logo-centric and cuti-centric—that reenvisions and revises itself at the pace of the molecules that "weave and unweave” Shem's skin. This articulated trope conveys an evident (and, be it never forgotten, an evidently parodic) representation or anamnesis of Holy Writ, especially Holy Writ as the Thomistic tradition intends it, that is, as typological script.

Shem has turned his own sacrificial body, and each and any single act of his body as

well, into the instantaneous interpretation of his own life chronicle—an interpretation that manifests itself in terms of interpretive simultaneity, as a pure action that is immediate signification, as a sudden narration that is constant, uninterrupted, retrospective revision. The sacred scapegoat of Christian tradition communicates himself, via ingestion, with his own repulsive and impure excreta, with the brutal matter of his ever-evolving Scripture, which will have been consecrated, or desecrated, or, more properly speaking, transaccidentated via bodily secretion. This

is the Eucharistic dimension of Joyce's liturgy of transaccidentation.

Authored and interpreted by the fictional character, lived


through as sacrificial reenactment by the reader, this bio-graphy conveys a pseudopigraphical personification of the author, James Joyce. Pseudopigraphical personification is not the same as ontologic identification, as argued earlier. Joyce's participation in—and personal experience of—the apocalyptic journey enacted in Finnegans Wake must not therefore be confused with the narcissism that many readers (Bernard Benstock among them) wrongly attribute to him, as the writer who, notwithstanding the God-like nail-pairing of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, would not back away from hiding his own name, face, signature, or fingerprint in the text of his books. 47 The personal, subjective, and individual participation in the apocalyptic experience pertains to an intentional dimension that the phenomenological analysis of retentional and protentional experience has systematically avoided. Such an intentional dimension stands in opposition to biographical history, not in the sense that it resists or denies the significance of biographic or autobiographic chronicles, but rather, as I explain as some length in my forthcoming Joyce's Messianism, in the sense that it positions itself outside the reach of all conventions of biographic factuality and objective determinism—more specifically, this experience is cohesive with an intentional dimension that finds in the personal reenactment of the necropolitan journey the existential grounds for the dismantling of ontologic objectivity. 48

The chronicle of a testimony being told, textualized, and interpreted at the same time that it is lived through, experienced, and enacted in the manners of a posthumous celebration may be labeled in terms of a poetics of testimony. In the case of Shem's imitatio Christi, this is a human poetics of sacrificial testimony, in the sense that the Scriptural poiesis and the Scriptural exegesis of Crucifixion must coalesce into the double entendre of an "execution of the Word”—the Word's ritualistically staged enactment in the experience of individual sufferings perforce coinciding with the enforcement of a death sentence upon it. 49 That which is gestated in human imagination must die with it.


Closing Remarks

THIS BOOK WAS CONCEIVED AS A COMPANION VOLUME TO SCRIPTURAL Poetics in Joyce's Finnegans Wake, my discussion of Joyce's appropriation of three fundamental paradigms of Biblical poetics in the composition of the Wake. The first of these paradigms consists of the interpretive rewriting described by John van Seters in Abraham in History and Tradition—a procedure whereby all traces of the originary, oral or written source of the Biblical text are erased through the accumulation of revisionary accretions. The second paradigm is described by David Damrosch in The Narrative Covenant, and consists of the development of thematic patterns across a succession of stories and through the elaboration of typologically consistent variations of emblematic characters. The third paradigm consists of the theological nature of Holy Writ, an attribute that is not so banal and self-evident as it may seem at first, considering the historiographic and epic character of the earliest layers of Scripture—a paradigm, however, that is essential to the thrust of the present study, because intrinsic to it is the adumbration of a remote past when human beings sought to increase their intimacy with the god of their fathers by means of the epic narration of these ancestors' customs and struggles.

The present study has shown that from this Biblical legacy stems the distinct literary genre of Christian epics, whose authors recur to the Biblical paradigms of interpretive rewriting and typological development of thematic patterns in order to incorporate in their stories the third Biblical paradigm, that which authorizes a reader to seek the presence of the divine in the epic narration of a profane story. Dante and Joyce bracket symbolically the chain of authors—from Malory to Tasso, from Spenser to Milton, from Blake to Goethe—whose writings enable the reader to find in a profane text the trace of that which is usually found or experienced in front of the altar and in the course of a


liturgical celebration. What ultimately emerges from this argument is that Dante's and Joyce's literary undertakings are both endowed with an apocalyptic character. They are both engaged in a voyage that leads at once forward in time, toward the fruition of the promises of the apocalyptic tradition (which is based on a late and often apocryphal Biblical textuality), and backward in time, toward the retrieval of the originary, epic source whose late typological offshoot is the apocalyptic tradition itself.

The revisionary impulse at the heart of this argument applies particularly well to the reversal, undertaken by Joyce in Finnegans Wake, of the originary gesture of divine creation, depicted in Genesis and typologically repeated in the Incarnation and Redemption of the New Testament. Joyce assimilates God's generation of humankind to an Immaculate Conception that, carnally originary with respect to the advent of Christ, is turned by apocalypse into a vertiginous precipitation of the entire corpus of divine creation at the end of time, back into the womb of the Word Incarnate. This Joycean trope brings about a genuine and original theological vision, but it also constitutes, in its readability and experientiability as text, an ideal liturgical locus of recursive celebration—that kind of horrid yet festive celebration, alternative to official rite and institutionalized doctrine, that had its birth on the stage of Greek tragedy.

As Thomas Altizer has energetically argued, the theological agenda inherent in the literary genre of Christian epics bears witness to the widespread persuasion, whose diffusion dates back to the Middle Ages, that in the course of the history of Christianity the religious liturgies of most Christian denominations, and primarily those of the Catholic Church, have lost the efficaciousness of their sacred character. This explains why both Dante and Joyce indulge so often in the narration of episodes of deviant liturgies and sacramental rites. What might appear as a blasphemer's whim stands rather for a theological purpose.

Buck Mulligan's blasphemous celebration of the "genuine christine” liturgy in Ulysses, for instance, is more than just a pun on the —ine desinence of all basic and organic substances (quinine, morphine, etc.—U 1.21). It is more than a medical student's irreverent sarcasm at the expense of the Aristotelian crux at the heart of Aquinas's doctrine of transubstantiation, i.e. the philosophical concept of substance. It adumbrates the condemnation,


rather, of this very doctrine, a condemnation that will later become openly manifest in the regime of anonymous, silent and profane sacrifice prevalent in the book, and particularly in Leopold Bloom's and Stephen Dedalus's respective viae Crucis. It also adumbrates, on the first page of Ulysses and independently of the character's intentions, the organic precipitation of the type of Christian sacrifice that will have been brought about by Joyce's liturgy of transaccidentation in the Wake. As William Franke puts it, "The motif of Eucharist as a sacrificial sharing out of the ultimate revelation of the Word broken and dismembered in the absolute sacrifice which is self-sacrifice emerges as coterminous with Joyce's oeuvre as a whole.” 1

In the present study I understand the sacrificial rite that informs the liturgical transposition of the cultic experience from the altar to the Christian epic as a reeventualization of primordial sacrifice, a reeventualization presenting "each moment, each act, each thought, and each perception of one's own existence [as] sacrifice.” 2 In this sense I have argued that the sacrificial liturgy of Christian epics may be experienced in manners and circumstances as organically concrete as the manners and circumstances of experience undergone by the ancient audience in a Greek amphitheater. I have also introduced a fundamental separation, however, between these two eventualizations of primordial sacrifice. In the case of tragedy, the experience of representation induces an excess of sensory response on the part of the audience; the senses of the spectator undergo either the maenad's beastly distortion or the orphic sublime elevation; in both cases, it is through the specific manners and circumstances of the sensory perception induced by the spectacle (either brutally sensuous or sublimely desensitized) that the Greek spectator is enabled to translate the transitory frenzy or ecstasy of the amphitheater into the acquisition of covenantal certainty at the end of the spectacle—that certainty that Nietzsche identified with a sense of "metaphysical comfort.” 3

The spectator's mental and emotional transition from the theatrical immediacy of representation to the liturgical equivalence between the figural dismemberment of the tragic hero and the sacrifice of the altar victim is hazy and impulsive, however, rather than purposeful, as is the case instead with the liturgical dimension of Christian epics. In this latter case, the sensory ex

perience corresponding to the process of textual reading subordinates the immediacy of readerly reception to the typological mediations of representation. The reader's senses respond to the stimuli of the text by evolving into performative "theoreticians” of their own perceptions, as the young Marx would have put it. 4 The text's sacrificial thrust gets translated into "human ends and interests, ” into a matrix of individual charity and social responsibility, at the moment when the historical (i.e., the iterative and the typical) is recognized as the formative principle of the exceptional and the extraordinary in any individual human life. 5 The Viconian character of such a recognition—based on the interplay between a phenomenon's historical recurrence and its punctual, individual instantiation-pervades the entirety of Finnegans Wake.

Just as the archaic tradition of tragic theater stems from the arcane celebrations of Dionysus, similarly Christian epics consist of the reenactments of archaic sacrifice through the literary experience of liturgy. The Thomistic doctrine of transubstantiation, which commemorates Crucifixion as having happened once and for all, is displaced in the literature of Christian epics by the affirmation of Crucifixion as the perennially reactualized matrix of the Eucharistic liturgy. Dante's Convivio, whose very title— The Banquet—alludes to the liturgical meal, already prefigures the poetics of revelation later promoted by the humanists of the Italian Renaissance. But whereas Dante's orientation in the Convivio is still exquisitely doctrinal, his Comedy brings forcefully forward instead the intimacy with divine knowledge that springs from the liturgical experience of primordial sacrifice. This aspect becomes clearly discernible, however, only when one factors in the comprehensive perspective on the Christian epic tradition opened up by Joyce's writings. From the standpoint of literary historiography, the genre of Christian epics could be definitely apprehended in terms of its distinctively sacrificial and experiential thrust only after the appearance of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

In these two works sacrificial and cognitive experience undergo a reciprocal "analogizing transduction” through the reader's performative identification of exegetic response and liturgical celebration. 6 This analogizing transduction reaches a moment of culmination in the Joycean liturgy of transaccidenta


tion described in the final sections of chapter 3. It is intimated in those sections that the primordial sacrifice of the holy victim is testified to in the transformation of the human body into Scriptural bio-graphy. The trace of the god's inadmissible sacrifice will have been retraced in the living scars of the individual body—in any human being's willful embracing of each individual act, thought, and perception as sacrificial. The history of the human body will have become a coda to the Messiah's Scriptural biography, the latter being coeval, in turn, with the story of Jesus Christ's incarnation of the Word inscribed in Holy Writ. The Biblical trace of the god's repugnant and inadmissible death will have become identical with the concreteness and the novelty of one's own existential and typological emulation of it.

The poetics of testimony inherent in this Scriptural bio-graphy empowers one to identify the physiology of one's post-mortem decomposition with the (de-)composition of Holy Writ and with the ultimate eventualization of the Word in the charity of individual responsibility and human solidarity. It brings forward the Word- made-flesh in the intimacy of its communion with all the mortals who share its fate in extinguishment and decomposition. The scatological memory prospectively inscribed

upon the eventual decomposition of one's own body comes to be posited by Joyce as eschatological and originary at once; it dismembers and reconfigures the textual sediments of the Messianic sacrifice by recognizing its own typological derivation from it. One does not simply accept or receive the gift of primordial sacrifice: one actively repeats its typological event in the biography of one's own body, in the expectation of one's own inevitable death as cathartic for one's fellow human beings, and collusive therefore with the universal drive toward self-abnegation, altruism, and generosity. (In Joyce's Messianism, I will give further elaboration to this point in a discussion of Leopold Bloom's cathartic reenactment of Rudy Bloom's premature death.)

These brief words of leave-taking precede Thomas Altizer's closing considerations on the crucial presumption at the heart of this book, namely, that the tradition of Christian epics displaces liturgical celebration from the consecrated altar to the profane book. As the reader will realize from the thrust of Altizer's appreciation of the present study, his and my understanding of the basic implications of the preceding discussions differ sensibly


from each other. However, I wish to gratefully acknowledge that in the conception of this project I derived its initial idea from Altizer's frequent formulations of it. From my earliest exposure to Altizer's writings, I sensed that the genius of his intuitions had long remained ignored or unappreciated in Joycean circles, owing principally to the uncompromising tone of his pronouncements. The relatively simple task I assigned myself at first in the composition of Rituals of Literature was to separate his content from his presentation of it. Out of this purpose, as normally happens, emerged views of which he is not to blame and only I can be held accountable. The same disclaimer must be applied to the assistance that I have received from William Franke, whose conversation in Rome, Italy inspired my notion of ritual reenactment.

Cairo, October 2003



Thomas J. J. Altizer

GIAN BALSAMO HAS GIVEN US IN THIS BOOK AND ITS COMPANION VOLume a radical Catholic and eucharistic theology, one whose primary source is the epic work of James Joyce, but here this source is inseparable from Dante's epic vision, just as it is inseparable from the Bible itself. Continually contending with Catholic orthodoxy, and above all with Thomas Aquinas, Rituals of Literature unveils Joyce as a profoundly Catholic visionary, but only by way of a coincidentia oppositorum between Catholic orthodoxy and Catholic heterodoxy, as Catholicism in being truly subverted and reversed is precisely thereby resurrected and renewed. No Catholic theologian is open to such a possibility, so that Balsamo is forced to construct such a theology himself, and doing so not only by incorporating literary and philosophical hereneutics, but most fundamentally by textual exegesis itself, and here the texts of Joyce and Dante undergo a metamorphosis into fully revelatory or scriptural texts.

Dante and Joyce can certainly be understood as our greatest Catholic epic visionaries, and even if each is the opposite of the other, each deeply illuminates the other, and just as Joyce chose Dante as his primary imaginative ground, his own epics can be understood as an apocalyptic reversal of the Commedia, which is just what occurs in Balsamo's work. If this is a transfiguration of the sacred into the profane, it is simultaneously a transfiguration of the profane into the sacred, thereby a truly radical poetics becomes possible, which here for the first time is a scriptural poetics, and a scriptural poetics reversing scripture itself.

Perhaps Balsamo is most innovative in his exploration of liturgy and worship, and above all in his exploration of the atoning death of Christ as a universal event, one which is enacted by each and every one of us, thereby a primordial sacrifice is uni


versally called forth, and this is the sacrifice that is the very center of Joyce's epic. But it cannot be understood as such unless we wholly transform both our theology and our literary hermeneutics, thereby making possible what is here understood as a scriptural poetics, one in which poetry and scripture are not only finally indistinguishable, but truly universal in history and society alike.

Eucharistic theology is the least developed or the least explored of all our theological domains, perhaps it is the most forbidden or the most hidden of all Catholic theological topics, and if this is true this book genuinely illuminates a deeply hidden core of Catholicism, one which can be understood as the deepest power of Catholicism itself, as fully called forth by both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. It is a scandal that not until this book have these primal epics been investigated by a Catholic exegesis, and if this is inevitably a radical exegesis, nothing less than that makes possible an entrance into this epic world, but this world is not only Roman Catholic, it is a truly catholic world, which is to say that it is a world that is our own. Yet it is our own only by way of a reverse or inverted reading, one apart from which these epics cannot actually be read, and if this is demonstrated throughout the vast body of our exegesis of Joyce, only here is that exegesis an openly Catholic exegesis, even if it is inevitably thereby a truly subversive one.

Everyone knows that Joyce is a subversive visionary, but few know that Dante is one, too. No great poet has been so veiled in our world as has Dante, and this veiling is fully comparable to our veiling of the Bible itself. How true it is that the text that is most universally read is thereby most universally disguised, its very status as a universal text reverses the Bible itself, and most reversed or disguised is everything which is radical or revolutionary in the Bible, or everything which ultimately challenges the world. Our Christian epics can be understood as progressive reversals of our reversals of the Bible, inevitably they are heretical or heterodox in their own worlds, and as the Christian epic evolves it becomes ever more profoundly and ever more totally heterodox. Yet these epics are our most fully Biblical writing, and a writing ever more fully and more finally reversing the Church, and not only reversing the Church, but reversing and subverting the deepest grounds of our society and world.


All too significantly, the Christian theologian is wholly estranged from these epics, and literary criticism and scholarship have never apprehended them as an organic whole, and while there have been critical investigations of the integral relationship

between Dante and Joyce, not until this book has there been a genuine exploration of the scriptural poetics of Dante and Joyce. This occurs by way of a hermeneutics that is literary, philosophical, and theological at once, hence it will be alien to most scholars, and perhaps to most readers as well, but it would be difficult to deny that such a comprehensive hermeneutics is essential if we are truly to enter Joyce's vision. Joyce is that twentieth century writer who has induced the most substantial and the most comprehensive critical response, he also can be understood as our most universal writer, and if his corpus is a universal corpus, Balsamo would understand it as a eucharistic corpus, and precisely thereby as ritual itself. That is the ritual that we enact when we read Joyce, here reading itself is inevitably a liturgical reading, and therefore a reading which is a repetition and renewal of primordial sacrifice.

That sacrifice is enacted again and again in both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, but it is the Wake in which this sacrifice is most total, and not only is it here the absolutely originating event, but it is an event which we inevitably enact or renew in calling forth our own origin, even if this is the very event which we invariably most veil or disguise. Yet here an absolute sacrifice is not only our deepest origin, it is simultaneously our deepest goal, a goal that is now apocalypse itself. Thereby Joyce is in deep continuity with the uniquely Christian epic, an epic which is ever more fully and more finally an apocalyptic epic, and if there is a genuinely evolutionary apocalyptic movement between Dante and Joyce, this is a movement that culminates in an absolute apocalypse, as recorded in Finnegans Wake. This apocalypse is truly alien to our theological world, one that has never been fully or even actually apocalyptic, but so, too, it is alien to our literary world insofar as that world is not apocalyptic. Nevertheless, the Wake can be understood as our most purely contemporary text, one calling forth a revolutionary postmodernity as does no other text, and one which we surely must understand if we are to understand a truly postmodern world.

Balsamo's book is a pathbreaking entrance into that world, and


All too significantly, the Christian theologian is wholly estranged from these epics, and literary criticism and scholarship have never apprehended them as an organic whole, and while there have been critical investigations of the integral relationship between Dante and Joyce, not until this book has there been a genuine exploration of the scriptural poetics of Dante and Joyce. This occurs by way of a hermeneutics that is literary, philosophical, and theological at once, hence it will be alien to most scholars, and perhaps to most readers as well, but it would be difficult to deny that such a comprehensive hermeneutics is essential if we are truly to enter Joyce's vision. Joyce is that twentieth century writer who has induced the most substantial and the most comprehensive critical response, he also can be understood as our most universal writer, and if his corpus is a universal corpus, Balsamo would understand it as a eucharistic corpus, and precisely thereby as ritual itself. That is the ritual that we enact when we read Joyce, here reading itself is inevitably a liturgical reading, and therefore a reading which is a repetition and renewal of primordial sacrifice.

That sacrifice is enacted again and again in both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, but it is the Wake in which this sacrifice is most total, and not only is it here the absolutely originating event, but it is an event which we inevitably enact or renew in calling forth our own origin, even if this is the very event which we invariably most veil or

disguise. Yet here an absolute sacrifice is not only our deepest origin, it is simultaneously our deepest goal, a goal that is now apocalypse itself. Thereby Joyce is in deep continuity with the uniquely Christian epic, an epic which is ever more fully and more finally an apocalyptic epic, and if there is a genuinely evolutionary apocalyptic movement between Dante and Joyce, this is a movement that culminates in an absolute apocalypse, as recorded in Finnegans Wake. This apocalypse is truly alien to our theological world, one that has never been fully or even actually apocalyptic, but so, too, it is alien to our literary world insofar as that world is not apocalyptic. Nevertheless, the Wake can be understood as our most purely contemporary text, one calling forth a revolutionary postmodernity as does no other text, and one which we surely must understand if we are to understand a truly postmodern world.

Balsamo's book is a pathbreaking entrance into that world, and





Aristotelis Metaphysica, ed. W. Jaeger (Oxonii: E. Typographeo Claren- doniano, 1957,



See Rudolph Bultmann, "Paul's Demythologizing and Ours, ” in Wayne A. Meeks, ed.,

The Writing of St. Paul (New York: Norton, 1972), 413; Alan F. Segal, Paul the Convert:

The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 168.


Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, trans. Mar- tin Milligan (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1988), 107.


Giambattista Vico, La scienza nuova seconda, ed. Fausto Nicolini, vol. 1 (Bari: Laterza, 1942), book 2.1, 145; book 1.2 (Degnità 37), 87. See also Vico, De antiquissima italorum sapientia, caput 7, § 1 (De facultate): Nam, si sensus facultates sunt, videndo colores, sapores gustando, sonos audiendo, tangendo frigida et calida, rerum facimus—which is to say, it is with

their own senses that human beings constitutes the predicates of the things which are external to them. Giambattista Vico, Opere filosofiche, ed. Paolo Cristofolini (Firenze: Sansoni, 1971), 112.


Dante Alighieri, Convivio, Treatise 3, § 15, in Tutte le opere, edited by Fredi Chiappelli (Milano:

Mursia, 1965). Hereafter translations are mine, unless otherwise specified.


In his fragment, Postillae super Jeremiam, Albertus designates as vates the man (whose "other name, ” he writes, is "prophet”) capable of unveil- ing the secrets of divine things with the

exclusive power of his "enlightened mind.” Alberti Magni, Postillae super Jeremiam (fragmentum), ed. H. Os- tlender, in Opera Omnia (Coloniae: Monasterii Westfalorum in Aedibus Aschendorff, 1952), tomus 19, ca. 1, § 5, 635, my translation.


Dante Alighieri, De monarchia, ed. Gustavo Vinay (Firenze: Sansoni, 1950), liber 2, § 3.


See Gian Balsamo, Scriptural Poetics in Joyce's Finnegans Wake (Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002), especially Part One.



Dante Alighieri, Inferno, ed. Carlo Grabher (Bari: Laterza, 1964), 2.20. Subsequent quotations from this work are cited parenthetically in the text. Hereafter translations are mine, unless otherwise specified.



Aristotelis Metaphysica, ed. W. Jaeger (Oxonii: E Typographeo Claren- doniano, 1957), 983b.

Giovanni Boccaccio, Vita di Dante, ed. Francesco Macrí- Leone (Firenze: Sansoni, 1888), 56, my translation. See Eugenio Garin, Medi- oevo e Rinascimento, (Bari: Laterza, 1954), 57—58.


Summa 1—2, qu. 57, a. 4, responsio: [A]rs est recta ratio factibilium, pru- dentia vero est recta

ratio agibilium. ["Art is the right paradigm of things to be made, prudence is the right paradigm of things to be done”]. See Umberto Eco, Il problema estetico in Tommaso d'Aquino (Milano:

Bompiani, 1970), 198.


Summa, 1, qu. 1, a. 9. See Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. William R. Trask. Bollingen Series 36 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1953), 593—94.


Thomas J. J. Altizer, History as Apocalypse (Albany: State University of New York Press), 1985; Genesis and Apocalypse: A Theological Voyage Toward Authentic Christianity (Louisville:

Westminster/John Knox Press), 1990; The Genesis of God: A Theological genealogy (Louisville:

Westminster/ John Knox Press), 1993.


Harold Bloom, A Map of Misreading (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), 125—26, my emphases.


Not surprisingly, Bloom's lines of descent, which mainly trace Romantic instances of revisionary innovation, are primarily masculine, both in The Anxi- ety of Influence and in A Map of Misreadings. Harold Bloom, A Map of Mis- readings, 51—54.


See Sarah Peirce, "Death, Revelry, and Thysia, ” 221, in Classical Antiq- uity 12, no. 2 (October 1993): 219—66.


Jean-Pierre Vernant, "A General Theory of Sacrifice and the Slaying of the Victims in the Greek Thusia, ” 294, in Mortals and Immortals, ed. Froma I. Zeitlin (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).


Marcel Detienne, "Pratique culinaires et esprit de sacrifice, ” in Marcel Detienne et Jean-Pierre Vernant, La cuisine du sacrifice en pays grec (Paris: Gallimard, 1969), 18, my translation.


Vernant, "General Theory of Sacrifice, ” 299. See Jean-Louis Durand, "Bêtes grecques, ” in

Detienne et Vernant, La cuisine du sacrifice en pays grec, 138, where one may find an accurate description of the iconology of Polyx- ena's sacrifice.


See Émile Durkheim, Les Formes élémentaires de la pensée religieuse: Le système totémique en Australie (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1937), 465. Hereafter translations are mine.


Ibid., 451.




Walter Burkert, Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sac- rificial Ritual and Myth,

trans. Peter Bing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), 2.


See Walter Burkert, "Greek Tragedy and Sacrificial Ritual, ” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies (GRBS), v. 7 (1966), 106, 109. Burkert derives the term mysterium tremendum, as well as the

notions of its mystery and fas- cination, from Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry Into the Non-Ratio- nal Factor in the Idea of the Divine and Its Relation to the Rational, trans. John W. Harvey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1950), chapters 4 through 6.


Detienne, "Pratique culinaires et esprit de sacrifice, ” 13.



Ibid., 15—16.




Vernant, "General Theory of Sacrifice, ” 291.


See Jean-Pierre Vernant, "Le mythe promethéen chez Hesiode, ” in Jean-Pierre Vernant, Mythe et Societé en Grèce ancienne (Paris: Maspero, 1974), 177—94; Sarah Peirce, "Death, Revelry, and Thysia, ” 222; R. L. Gordon, ed., Myth, Religion, and Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 43—56.


Aristotle, Poetics, trans. James Hutton (New York: Norton, 1982), 58, 1453b.


John Sallis, Crossings: Nietzsche and the Space of Tragedy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 51.


Daniel Ogden, "Cleisthenes of Sycyon, Aευστήϱ, ” 358, in Classical Quar- terly 43, 2

(1993): 353—63. J. Bremmer, "Scapegoat Rituals in Ancient Greece, ” 315, in HSCP v. 87 (1983): 299—320.


Ogden, "Cleisthenes of Sycyon, Aευστήϱ, ” 357.




J. Breimer, "Scapegoat Rituals in Ancient Greece, ” 303—5.


Burkert, Creation of the Sacred (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 53.


Raymond Moloney, S. J., The Eucharist (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1952), 22. See

Acts 10.41.


Jeremiah 31.31—3. Exodus 24.8.


Moloney, Eucharist, 23.


See Numbers 18.9.


See Genesis 31.54. 2 Kings 10.15; 1 Samuel 18.3—4, 20.8.


See John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity (San Francisco: Harper, 1998), 439—41; Moloney, Eucharist, 31.

Isaiah 53.3—10.


Moloney, Eucharist, 35, 37.


Paul, Letter to the Romans, 12.1.


See Moloney, Eucharist, 8—9, 37.


Ibid., 37.


Ibid., 38.


The concept of "multi-location” is introduced by Robert Boyel, S.J. In "Miracle in Black

Ink: A Glance at Joyce's Use of His Eucharistic Image, ” James Joyce Quarterly 10 (Fall 1972), 51. Aquinas, Summa/Barden, 3a, 76, a. 5, ad 1: "Christ's body is not in this sacrament in the sense of being restricted to it. If that were so, it could only be on

that altar where the sacrament is actually being consecrated. But

other altars.” (my emphasis). See also William Occam, De Sacramento Altaris, ed. T. Bruce Birch (Burlington: The Lutheran Literary Board, 1930), Capitulum 6.


Berengarius Turonensis, De sacra coena adversus Lanfrancum: liber posterior (New

York: Georg Olms Verlag, 1975), 131, my translation. See Jean de Montclos, Lafranc et Berenger: La controverse eucharistique du Xie siecle (Lyon: Leuven, Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, 1971), 198-200, 503—14; Ber- nard Leeming, S.J., Principles of Sacramental Theology (London: Longmans, 1963),251-55.


Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscript of 1844, 107.

it is on many



See Moloney, Eucharist, 23.


I borrow this formulation from Jacques Derrida, Given Time: I. Coun- terfeit Money, trans. Peggy Kamuf (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 52.


In Mortals and Immortals, Jean-Pierre Vernant calls special attention to the sacrifice

called Bouphonia, wherein "the victim chosen is a yoked ox rather than a beast that

was spared the yoke

plough ox occupies a totally separate position. It is so close to man, so integrated into his universe, that the ox is situated outside the ordinary sacrificial sphere” (298



See pseudo-Paul, Letter to the Hebrews 10.1—10.


Ibid., 10.1.


Ibid., 10.1


Thomas J. J. Altizer, Godhead and the Nothing, work in progress, chap- ter 2, "The Primordial Sacrifice.” Cited with permission from the author.


At the summit of [the] hierar- chy of domestic animals, the

Moloney, Eucharist, 141. See, for instance, Summa 3, q. 76, a. 1, ad 1.


59, Holy Communion, trans. Thomas Gilby (London: Blackfriars, 1975).



Aquinas, Summa 3, q. 75, a. 4, responsio: Et hoc agitur divina virtute in hoc sacramento. Nam tota substantia panis convertitur in totam substantiam corporis Christi, et tota substantia vini in totam substantia sanguinis Christi. Unde haec conversio non estformalis, sed substantialis. Nec continetur inter species motus naturalis, sed proprio nomine potest dici `transubstantiatio.' ["And this actually happens by divine power in this sacrament. The complete substance of the bread is converted into the complete substance of Christ's body, and the complete substance of the wine into the complete substance of Christ's blood. Hence this change is not a formal change, but a substantial one. It does not belong to the natural kinds of change, and it can be called by a name proper to itself-'transubstantiation' ”]. Translation from Summa/Barden. Be- rengarius Turonensis, De Sacra Coena adversus Lanfrancum, 131, my em- phasis. See also Ilarino da Milano, L'eresia di Ugo Speroni nella confutazione del Mo. Vacario (Vatican City, 1945), 263—89. Pascasius Radbertus, De corpore et sanguine Domini, cura et studio Bedae Paulus, O.S.B.

(Turnholti: Typo- graphi Brepols Editores Pontificii, 1969), 394m, 30. See also St. John Chrysos- tom, The Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew (Hom. 82), vol. 3 (Oxford: J. Parker, 1851.


Pius XI, Encyclical letter Studiorum ducem (1923) (Washington, D. C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference, 1936).


See Summa 3, q. 75, a. 1, responsio; Mgr. Antonio Piolanti, The Holy Eu- charist,

trans. Luigi Penzo (New York: Desclee, 1961), 37—38, 51—53.


In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas identifies the death of the Word of God with the death of God himself. Cfr. Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, 4, § 34, trans. R.

Bernier and F. Kerouanton (Paris: Lethielleux, 1957): [O]mni


passio quae in corpore ollius hominis facta fuit, potest Verbo Dei attribui. Recte igitur dici potest quod Verbum Dei, et Deus, est passus, crucifixus, mor- tuus et sepultus (198).


The predicate resurgens signifies active purposiveness on the part of the resurrected Christ, which I have opted to render as "having risen.” It seems to me that passive renderings such as

that found in Summa/Barden ("raised”), however evocative of the current English translations of Romans 6.9, corrupt Aquinas's intended meaning.


Boyle, "Miracle in Black Ink, ” 52.


Altizer, History as Apocalypse, 215—16, my emphasis.


See Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1967), 73; see

also John Sallis, Crossings: Nietzsche and the Space of Tragedy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 47—50, 89.


Thomas J. J. Altizer, The Genesis of God: A Theological Genealogy (Louisville: Westminster/Knox Press, 1993), 100.


Jeremiah 31.31—33.

Paul, Letter to the Galatians, 3.13, my emphasis. Paul, Letter to the Co- rinthians, II, 5.21, my emphasis.


Altizer, "The Primordial Sacrifice, ” work-in-progress. Cited with per- mission from the author.


Detienne, "Pratiques culinaires et esprit du sacrifice, ” in Detienne et Vernant, La cuisine du sacrifice en pays grec, 16, my translation.


Altizer, Genesis of God, 100. Exodus 24.8.


Altizer, History as Apocalypse, 217.


Altizer, "Primordial Sacrifice.”


See Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being, trans. Thomas A. Carlson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 76, 80.


Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, in Walter Kaufmann, trans. and ed., The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner (New York: Vintage, 1967), § 7, 56.


Ibid., § 8, 62, note 3.


Ibid., § 18, 109—10.


Ibid., § 7, 59. See also John Sallis, Crossings, 92.


I have discussed the formal modalities of the necropolitan journey in Dante and Joyce, and their

connection with the protagonist's interiority and selfhood, in Balsamo, "The Necropolitan Journey:

Dante's Negative Poetics in Joyce's `The Dead,' ” in The James Joyce Quarterly, forthcoming.


Dante Alighieri, Epistula 13, 892—93, in Dante Alighieri, Tutte le Opere (Milano, Mursia), 1965.


See Daniélou, From Shadows To Reality, 141.


Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, ed. Carlo Grabher (Bari: Laterza, 1964), 13.52—54. Subsequent quotations from this work are cited parenthetically in the text.


Auerbach, Mimesis, 194.


Ibid., 195.


For an explication of the technical term figuram implere, see ibid., 73.


See also, among many possible Pauline and Evangelical echoes, John 5.28: "[F]or the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”



Altizer, History as Apocalypse, 231, my emphasis. St. Paul emphasizes the apocalyptic futurality of the resurrection from the dead in Romans 6.4 and, in polemic with the realized eschatology of

the Corinthian spirituals, who identi- fied resurrection and baptismal initiation, in 1 Corinthians


Altizer, History as Apocalypse, 231.


William Franke, "Apocalypse and the Breaking-Open of Dialogue: A Negatively Theological Perspective, ” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 47 (2000), 68—69.


Altizer, Genesis and Apocalypse, 152—53.


See Altizer, Genesis of God, 165.


Altizer, History as Apocalypse, 232.


I have modified the translation from St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theo- logiae, vol. 29, The Old Law, trans. David Bourke and Arthur Littledale, Lon- don: Blackfriars, 1969.


S. Thomae Aquinatis, In I Sententiarum, in Opera Omnia, vol. 1, In Quattuor Libros Sententiarum (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holz- boog, 1980), Prooemium, q. 1, a. 5, ad 3, my translation.


In I Sententiarum, Prooemium q. 1, a. 5, ad 3, my emphasis, my transla- tion.


In Quaestiones Quodlibetales the literary dimension of the allegoric is posited as the ground of the spiritual sense (Quodlibet, n. 7, q. 6, a. 2, respon- sio), while in the Summa Theologiae this

ground is indifferently identified with the allegoric, the moral, and the anagogic (Summa, 1, q. 1, a. 10)—an identifica- tion which had an evident impact on the exegetic views formulated in Dante's letter to Can Grande della Scala. See Dante Alighieri, Epistula 13, 892—93. Eco, Il problema estetico in Tommaso d'Aquino, 186.




St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, vol. 1, Christian Theology, trans. Thomas Gilby, London: Blackfriars, 1964.


The spiritual sense of the Bible is divided by Aquinas into allegorical, moral, and anagogic sense. See Summa 1, q. 1, a. 10.


See Eco, Il problema estetico in Tommaso d'Aquino, 188—92.


See also Umberto Eco, Il problema estetico in Tommaso d'Aquino, 187.


See, for instance, Matthew 24.15 and Mark 13.14.


See Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, trans. J. Shachter and H. Freedman (London: Soncino Press, 1994), 93d—94a.


See Moses Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, trans. Shlomo Pines (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), 2.45, where it is maintained that the Book of Daniel, belonging to the

"second degree” of divine inspiration, ought to be placed among the Writings, rather than among the Prophets (399— 400).


See Aquinas, In Metaphysicam, liber 1, lectio 4, § 83. Saint Augustine, De civitate Dei, trans. Eva Matthews Sanford (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), vol. 5, bk. 18, § 15.


Albertino Mussato, Epistola 4, 49a, in Joannes Georgius Graevius, The- saurus antiquitatum et historiarum Italiae, tomus sextus, pars secunda (Lug- duni Batavorum, excudit Petrus Vander),

Aa, 1722, my translation. See also Eco, Il problema estetico in Tommaso d'Aquino, 200, note 3.

Mussato, Epistola 7, 54c, in Graevius, Thesaurus, tomus sextus, pars se-


cunda, my emphases, my translation. Cited and discussed, in a slightly variant lectio, in Ernst

Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. Willard R. Trask, Bollingen Series 36 (Princeton: Princeton Univer- sity Press, 1973), 216. See also Eugenio Garin, Medioevo e Rinascimento (Bari: Laterza, 1954), 58.


Boccaccio, Vita di Dante, 56, my translation, my parenthetical refer- ences. See Eco, Il problema estetico in Tommaso d'Aquino, 200—201; Manlio Dazzi, Il Mussato preumanista (Vicenza: Neri Pozza, 1964); G. Vinay, "Studi sul Mussato: I. Il Mussato e l'estetica medievale, ” in Giornale Storico Letterario Italiano 126, 1949.


Francesco Petrarca, Le familiari, ed. Vittorio Rossi (Firenze: Sansoni, 1934), vol. 2, Liber Decimus, 4.1, 301.


See Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, 226.


See Nardi, Saggi di filosofia dantesca, 70—74.


See Bruno Nardi, Dante e la cultura medievale (Bari: Laterza, 1983), 290. Albertus Magnus, De

somno et vigilia, liber 3, tract. 3, caput 10, 190, in B. Alberti Magni, Opera Omnia, cura ac labore Augusti Borgnet (Parisiis: Apud Ludovicum Vivès, Bibliopolam Editorem, 1890), vol. 9, my translation.


Nardi, Dante e la cultura medievale, 292.




S. Thomae Aquinatis, Quaestio disputata de veritate, q. 12, a. 3, ad 1 & ad 2, in Opera Omnia, Curante Roberto Busa, vol. 3 (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1980), my

translation, my parenthetical qualifications. See also Aquinas, Summa 2—2, q. 172, a. 1, ad 2.


S. Thomae Aquinatis, In librum Boethii De Trinitate, ps. 3, q. 6, a. 3, co 2, in Opera Omnia, vol. 4, my parenthetical qualifications; hereafter transla- tions are mine unless otherwise specified. See also Aquinas, Summa 1, q. 88, aa. 1 & 2, Summa Contra Gentiles 2, § 60 and 3, §§ 42—46; Quaestio disputata de veritate, q. 10, a. 1.


Albertus Magnus, De intellectu et intelligibili, liber 2, tract. un., caput 1, 504, in B. Alberti Magni, Opera Omnia, cura ac labore Augusti Borgnet, 1890, vol. 9, my translation.


St. Augustine, Confessions 12, § 25.


Albertus Magnus, De intellectu et intelligibili, liber 2, tract. un., caput 2, 505, my translation.


Albertus Magnus, De anima, ed. Clemens Stroick (Coloniae: Monasterii Westfalorum, 1968), 3, treatise 3, § 10, in Opera Omnia, tomus 7, pars 1. Hereaf- ter translations are mine.


Bruno Nardi in Studi di filosofia medievale (Roma: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1960), 113, my translation, my emphasis.


Dante Alighieri, Convivio, treatise 3, § 2, lines 14, 19. Unless otherwise specified, hereafter translations are mine.

Dante, Convivio, t. 3, § 15, lines 2—5.


Translation modified from Richard H. Lansing, trans., Dante's Convivio (New York: Garland, 1990), 131.


Aquinas, Summa 2—2, q. 175, a. 2, ad 2 & aa. 3—6.


Albertus Magnus, De anima 3, tr. 3, § 11.


See Francesco Mazzoni, "Guido da Pisa interprete di Dante e la sua for- tuna presso il Boccaccio, ” in Studi danteschi (Firenze: Sansoni), vol. 35, 1958.



Guido da Pisa, Expositiones et Glose super Comediam Dantis, ed. Vincenzo Cioffari (Albany:

State University of New York Press, 1974), 33, my translation.


Cfr. Aristotelis Metaphysica, ed. W. Jaeger (Oxonii: E Typographeo Clarendoniano, 1957), 983b, where Aristotle refers to the first cosmogonists (Thales, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, etc.) as prototheologians; Cicero, De natura deorum, trans. H. Rackham (New York: Putnam, 1933), liber 3, § 21, where Cic- ero refers to the ancient poets and mythmakers as ii qui Theologi nominantur; Caecilii Lactantii De falsa religione, liber 1, § 1.11, in Opera Omnia, ed. Lu- dolph Bünemannus (Lipsiae: Impensis Sam. Beniam. Waltheri, 1739); August- ine, De civitate Dei, trans. Eva Matthews Sanford (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), liber 18, § 14, where St.

Augustine declares: Per idem temporis intervallum extiterunt poetae, qui etiam theologi dicerentur

quo- niam de diis carmina faciebant

also called theologians, because they composed songs about the gods]; Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive Originum, ed. W. M. Lindsay, tomus 1 (Oxonii: E Typographeo

Clarendoniano, 1985), liber 8, § 7.9, where Isidorus writes: Quidam autem poetae Theologici dicti sunt, quo- niam carmina faciebant.


See the remarkable alternation of verse and prose, the poetic version of the argument always

following the formal exposition, in Anicii Manlii Severini Boethii Philosophiae Consolationis, ed. Guilelmus Weinberger (Lipsiae: Aka- demische Verlagsgesellschaft M. B. H., 1934).


Alain de Lille, Anticlaudianus, ed. R. Bossuat (Paris: Librairie Philo- sophique J. Vrin, 1955), libre 5, vv. 265—69: Hactenus insonuit tenui mea Musa susurro, / Hactenus in fragili lusit mea pagina versu, / Phebea resonante cheli; sed parva resignans, / Maiorem nunc tendo liram totumque poetam / Deponens, usurpo michi nova verba prophete [Thus far my Muse has sung in a gentle whisper; thus far my page has sported in fragile verse to the accompa- niment of Phoebus's lyre of tortoise shell. But abandoning things petty, I now pluck a mightier chord and laying aside entirely the role of poet, I appropriate a new speaking part, that of the prophet]. Translation from James J. Sheridan, trans., Anticlaudianus or The Good and Perfect Man, by Alan of Lille (Toronto:

Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1973), 146.


John of Salisbury, Entheticus de dogmate philosophorum, ed. Jan van Laarhoven (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1987), line 185, my translation.


See Jeauneau, "L'usage de la notion d'integumentum à travers le Gloses de Guillaume de Conches, ” in Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littèr- aire du Moyen Age 24, 1957.


Bernardus Silvestris, Commentum super sex libros Eneidos Virgilii, 3, 2.14—15, my translation.


Dante Alighieri, Rime di dubbia attribuzione, in Le opere di Dante (Fir- enze: testo critico della

[During this same period of time poets arose who were

Societá dantesca italiana, 1921), 29, my translation. See also Vita Nuova, 20.3: Amore e 'l cor

gentil sono una cosa

influence of his friend Guido Guinizelli, more immediate and therefore easily traceable (see for in- stance Nardi, Dante e la cultura medievale, 38, and Dante, Vita Nuova, 1045 n.20.1), Dante's early conception of amorous desire is profoundly affected by the writings of Iacopo da Lentini, especially his epochal sonnet, Amor è un

[Love and the gentle heart are one and the same thing]. Aside from the


desio che ven da core [Love is a desire that comes from the heart]. Together with the theories developed by Andrea Cappellano in De amore, Iacopo da Len- tini plays an important role in the diffusion, among the stil-novists, of a psychol- ogy of the passion of love centered on the physiological theories of the heart developed by Aristotle in De generatione animalium, 737b-

741a. Cfr. Bruno Nardi, Dante e la cultura medievale (Bari: Laterza, 1983), 15. See Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975), bk. 9, 1166b 30—34.


Dante, Convivio, t. 2, §15, line 12.


Cfr. Pseudo-Denys l'Aréopagite, Les noms divins, in Oeuvres com- plètes, ed. and trans. Maurice

de Gandillac (Paris: Aubier, 1943), 709c-d, 713a-b, 713d. Thomas Aquinas, In Dionysii De divinis nominibus, in S. Thomae Aqui- natis, Opera Omnia, ed. Roberto Busa, vol. 4 (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1980), cp. 4, lc. 12, 560.


Dante Alighieri, Rime, 84, in Tutte le opere, 450. Hereafter translations are mine.


S. Aureli Augustini, Confessionum (Stutgardiae: in aedibus B. G. Teub- neri, 1969), liber 1, § 1.1:

[I]nquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te. Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, 3, § 50.


Jean de la Rochelle, Summa de anima, ed. Jacques Guy Bougerol (Paris: J. Vrin, 1995), secunda consideratio, § 107, 257—58. My translation.


Dante, Vita nuova, 3.2. Hereafter translations are mine.


Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, ed. Carlo Grabher (Bari: Laterza, 1964), 18.19—27. Subsequent quotations from this work are cited parenthetically in the text.


See Charles S. Singleton, Dante's Purgatorio, Bollingen Series 53 (Princeton: Princeton

University Press, 1991), 191. I have modified Singleton's translation in consideration of Carlo Grabher's comments to Purgatorio 18.19—27 and Inferno 5, l.104.


Cfr. Dante, Convivio, treatise 2, § 1, lines 2—6. Dante, Convivio, treatise 2, § 1, line 3. Aquinas, Summa 1—2, q. 101, a. 2, ad 2.


S. Thomae Aquinatis, In Aristotelis librum De anima Commentarium, cura ac studio P. Fr. Angeli

M. Pirotta (Turin: Marietti, 1959), liber 1, lectio 12, synopsis: § 190, my emphasis, my translation.


Nardi, Dante e la cultura medievale, 294, my translation.


Isidori, Etymologiarum sive originum, liber 8, § 7.3. For this line I have adopted the lectio:

"appellatus” from the Codex Ambrosianus (L 99 sup., saecu- lum VIII), the two alternative lectiones: "appellantur” (from the Codex Karoli- nus Wolfenbuettelanus [saeculum VIII]) and

"appellatos” (from Lindsay's 1910 syncretic edition) being, the former more than the latter, likely sources of error in interpretation.

Alberti Magni, Postillae super Ieremiam (fragmentum), ed. H. Os- tlender, in Opera Omnia

(Coloniae: Monasterii Westfalorum in Aedibus Aschendorff, 1952), tomus 19, ca. 1, § 5, page 635, my translation.


Isidori, Etymologiarum sive originum, liber 8, § 8.1—2.


Dante Alighieri, De monarchia, ed. Gustavo Vinay (Firenze: Sansoni, 1950), liber 2, § 3.


Ibid., §§ 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11; Dante, Convivio, treatise 4, § 26, line 8. See Mineo, Profetismo e Apocalittica in Dante, 304 n.25.



See Mineo, Profetismo e Apocalittica in Dante, 305—6.


Virgil, Aeneis, ed. Rosa Calzecchi Onesti (Torino: Einaudi, 1989), liber 6, lines 129—31. Hereafter translations are mine.


Dante Alighieri, De vulgari eloquentia, in Tutte le opere di Dante, liber 2, § 4.9—10. Hereafter translations are mine.


Virgil, Aeneis, liber 6, line 129; line 128. Dante, De vulgari eloquentia, liber 2, § 4.9.


For the translation I have modified lines 85—87 of canto 4 from The In- ferno of Dante, trans. Robert Pinsky (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994).


Bernardus Silvestris, Commentum super sex libros Eneidos Virgilii, liber 6, 57.


See also Balsamo, "Necropolitan Journey.”


In order to convey Dante's allusions to the Scholastic terminology of di- vine inspiration, I had to modify sensibly the translation from C. S. Singleton, rans. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri:

Purgatorio (Text) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 261, my emphases, my parenthetical qualifi- cations. Being orphaned of its object, the present participle significando,

con- ventionally transitive, stresses the act of poetic signification or expression, rather than its result. At the risk of some lyrical awkwardness, I opted to dupli- cate this effect in English.


See, for instance, P. Ovidi Nasonis, Amores, liber 2, § 1, 11.37—38, in Ovid, Heroides and Amores, trans. Grant Showerman (Cambridge: Harvard Univer- sity Press, 1996): [A]d mea formosos vultus adhibete, puellae, / carmina, pur- pureus quae mihi dictat Amor! [O girls, turn your shapely faces to the songs that purply Love dictates to me!] My translation. See Aquinas,

Summa 2—2, q. 171, a. 1, ad 4; ad 2; ibid., q. 174, a.1, ad 2; ibid., q. 174, a. 3, ad 3. See also S. Bonaventurae, Commentarius in Evangelium S. Ioannis, c. 6.33, in Opera Omnia (Prope Florentiam: Ad Claras Aquas, Ex typographis Collegii S. Bona- venturae, tomus 7, 1893), 323—

24: "[P]ropheta dicitur dupliciter: vel ratione in- terioris inspirationis et revelationis

ratione infallibilis et veracis denunciationis” (my emphasis). See S. Bonaventurae, Commentaria

in quatuor libros sententiarum, liber 3, dist. 34, pars 2, art. 1, quaest. 1, con- clusio, in Opera

Omnia, tomus 3, 1887, 755: "Quoddam vero est donum, quod est a Spiritu sancto

quod est ad Spiritus sancti manifestatio- nem, et est ordinatum non solum ad propriam utilitatem, sed etiam ad alie- nam, sicut donum prophetiae et donum scientiae, quae aliquando in bonis, aliquando in malis reperiri habent.” See also Aquinas, Summa 2—2, q. 172, a. 4, ad 1.

etiam [


sicut donum,


Stephen L. Cook, Prophecy and Apocalypticism: The Postexilic Social Setting (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1995), 21.


See Apocalypse 1.3, 22.7, 9, 10, 18, 19.


Martin Buber, "Prophecy, Apocalyptic, and the Historical Hour, ” in M. Buber, On the Bible:

Eighteen Studies, ed. Nahum N. Glatzer (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), 175. See, for instance, 1 Maccabees 9.27. According to David Weiss Halivni, Ezra's redaction of the Torah signs the end of the age of prophets. See Halivni, Revelation Restored, 76. The controversy about the in- sertion or exclusion of the Book of Daniel in the prophetic canon exemplifies the elusiveness of matters relating to the precise delimitation of the age of


prophecy and the age of apocalypticism. Christianity inherited from the Greek canon the

designation of Daniel as a prophet; his book follows in fact that of Ezekiel, "the last of the great prophets.” The Hebrew canon, instead, relegates Daniel to the post-Exilic historiographies included in the Kethuvim (Writings), placing it between the Book of Esther and the Book of Ezra- Nehemiah. See Shemaryahu Talmon, "Daniel, ” in Robert Alter and Frank Kermode, The Liter- ary Guide to the Bible (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 344—45.


H. H. Rowley, The Relevance of Apocalyptic (New York: Harper, 1946), 13. In Old Testament Theology, trans. D. M. G. Stalker (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 2.303—4, Gerhard von Rad

challenges this view, and argues instead the derivation of apocalyptic literature from Wisdom.) See also Paul D. Hanson, Old Testament Apocalyptic (Nashville: Abingdon, 1987), 33.


See S. Nogami, "La struttura del mondo d'oltretomba nelle letterature greca, romana, e cristiana,

” in Studi Italici, vol. 3 (Kyoto: 1954), John Freccero, "Dante e la tradizione del Timeo, ” in Atti e Memorie dell'Accademia Nazionale di scienze, lettere e arti di Modena, s. 6, t. 4 (1962).


Gershom Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism, trans. Michael A. Meyer and Hillel Halkin (New York: Schocken Books, 1995), 5.


Altizer, Genesis of God, 165.


Ibid., 165—66.


In Balsamo, Pruning the Genealogical Tree, my concept of "degenera- tion” defines a revisionistic practice oriented toward the reformulation and re- utilization of the essential paradigms of an anachronistic literary or discursive genre; see chapter 12: "Procreation and Degeneration in Plato's Republic” (239—65.)


John T. Collins, "The Jewish Apocalypses, ” in Semeia 14 (1979), 22.


David E. Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Medi- terranean World (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983), 113—14.


Buber, "Prophecy, Apocalyptic, and the Historical Hour, ” 183.


William Franke, "Apocalypse and the Breaking-Open of Dialogue, ” 72. See also Paul, Letter to the Corinthians 1, 15.20—54.


Stephen Cook has some interesting observations about the linguistic and ontologic dualism, or dichotomy, inherent to apocalypticism. See Cook, Prophecy and Apocalypticism, 23—24, 24n.16. William Franke, "Apocalypse and the Breaking-Open of Dialogue, ” 72.


Altizer, Genesis of God, 165.


See Moseley, Joyce and the Bible, 1—11.


According to S. Girolamo's Prologus galeatus to the Latin Vulgate ver- sion of the Bible, the

elders of Revelation symbolize the twenty-four books of the Old Testament. See Carlo Grahber, ed., La Divina Commedia di Dante, Purgatorio (Bari: Laterza, 1964), 352 n.82—84.


This vision is usually taken to symbolize the virtue of knowledge of things past and future.


Isidori Hispaliensis, Originum libri viginti (Basilae: Per Petrum Per- nam, 1577), liber 7, 2 ("De Filio Dei”), 154.


Dante Alighieri, Vita Nuova, in Tutte le opere di Dante, ed. Fredi Chiap- pelli (Milano: Mursia, 1965), 39.1; see also 2.3, 3.4. Hereafter translations are mine, unless otherwise specified.




Revelation, 22.8—10.


Singleton, trans., Dante's Purgatorio, 367, modified.


See my detailed treatment of Joyce's narrative variants of the Biblical story of Noah and his youngest son, Ham in Scriptural Poetics in Joyce's Fin- negans Wake, part 3.


See Balsamo, Pruning the Genealogical Tree, 136—38.


See Bruce M. Metzger and Roland Murphy, eds., New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha (New York:

Oxford University Press, 1991), iv.


See Stephen Cook, Prophecy and Apocalypticism, 23.


See Charles S. Singleton, Dante Studies I: Elements of Structure (Cam- bridge: Harvard University Press, 1957), 62.


See Auerbach, Mimesis, especially 195—97.


Et tanto maior poeta omnibus alijs est censendus, quanto magis sub- l