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Showing posts from August 2, 2015

David Denby and Dante : Reader Response Criticism

In 1996 David Denby, the New Yorker writer, published an account of his return to university, after thirty some years, to sit in on Literature seminars at Columbia University. This sit-in was not a protest against the canon and all it stood for, rather an older man’s attempt to observe, and maybe learn from, what students in the early 1990s made of major writers found in said canon. Reviewers at the time were divided over the worth of such a venture ( Great Books : My Adventure with Homer, Rousseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World. Simon & Schuster, 1996) and we read the book now as a snapshot of the American zeitgeist at the end of the Cold War. Chapter 16 is where Denby and his fellow literature students tackle the first book of the Dante’s Comedy. That the course doesn’t have time for the other two books proves in itself to be a fault in what follows, as the students judge the Florentine solely on what he creates in Inferno, without chancing