In Ante-Purgatory, gestures take on a primary importance in opening dialogic relations between individuals and thus building the foundations upon which personhood can be properly reconstructed. By reference to cognitive literary theory, this chapter suggests ways in which the text presents description of gesture as juxtaposed with more abstract concepts in order to develop the reader’s sense of the personal presence of the character. The chapter works towards an excavation of Dante’s understanding of gesture as communicative of person, or the soul’s relation to other souls through the aerial body, by examination of some gestural encounters in Ante-Purgatory and their cultural contexts: Manfred’s revelation of his wounds and of his identity; Belacqua’s slow lift of his head; Buonconte da Montefeltro’s act of making his body into a cross; and the prayer gestures of the anonymous soul of Purgatorio 8.
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