Paolo Pizzimento

Panel 5C: Performance, Dance and Theatricality
Session 5 – July 3, 11:00 – 13:00

Liturgy and Theater at the Gates of Dis (Inf. VII, IX). The Divine Comedy as a Transcodification of Medieval Theater

This communication aims to investigate some performative and theatrical aspects of the Divine Comedy; at this purpose, we won’t proceed by questioning exclusively the classics of ancient and modern literary criticism, but we will try to apply the broad methodological possibilities offered by the Performance Studies as they have been theorized by Victor Turner and Richard Schechner. Through this lens, in fact, what Paul Zumthor defines a finalité performancielle – moreover perfectly ascribable to the principles and methods of medieval literature – of the Comedy is clearly manifested; above all it is shown how the «sacred poem» itself embraces and transcodes many elements of the theatre – or, better, of the theatres – of the Middle Ages. An episode in which this appears with particular evidence is the pugna spiritualis at the gates of Dis (Inf. VIII, IX), which Umberto Bosco has defined a real “sacred drama”. Here Dante and Virgil are no longer implicated as spectators but as real actors on stage within a representation in which a deep ritual tension is one with a clear, tangible theatricality. The analysis of this episode through the filter of Performance Studies, therefore, can provide a useful tool for understanding the transcoding processes of theatre in literature and for the reconstruction of an aspect – the performative and theatrical one – that appears far from being secondary in the writing of Dante’s Poem.


Paolo Pizzimento graduated with honours in Modern Philology at the Department of Humanities of the University of Catania. He is currently a PhD student at the Department of Cognitive Science, Psychology, Education and Cultural Studies (COSPECS) of the University of Messina. Collaborator of the chair, he is a member of the editorial board of the magazine «Mantichora». He’s mainly interested in literature and theatre of the Middle Ages, in the relationships between the two areas and in their performative aspects. He is particularly concerned in Dante studies, to which he has dedicated several publications dealing specifically with hermeneutics, intertextuality, metaphorology and the contacts of Dante’s work with the theological, philosophical and theatrical culture of his time. On the contemporary literature front, he dedicated surveys to Curzio Malaparte and to Sicilian authors of the late twentieth century.