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Imagining the Woman Reader in the Age of Dante$
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Elena Lombardi

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198818960

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198818960.001.0001

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Francesca and the Others

Francesca and the Others

(p.154) 5 Francesca and the Others
Imagining the Woman Reader in the Age of Dante

Elena Lombardi

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the most famous episode of medieval reading—the moment in which Francesca da Rimini and her lover Paolo simultaneously kiss and fall into perdition while reading the story of Lancelot in Inferno 5, which has long been at the centre of my research. Here I investigate further aspects of this rich episode of reading, such as the connection to the visual (for instance, to illuminations of the scene of the kiss in the Lancelot) and the highly nuanced ways in which Dante has Francesca using literary texts in her speech. Next, I explore the ways in which ‘reading together’ has performative effects in medieval courtly literature, and then I contextualize Francesca’s reading within a genealogy of unconventional women readers: Heloise and Alyson of Bath, Mary and Flamenca, bringing to light the force of their heterodox, bodily, and creative ways of reading ‘as a woman’.

Keywords:   Inferno 5, reading as a woman, performative reading, Francesca da Rimini, Heloise, the Wife of Bath

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