Journal Article

‘Illuminating’ and ‘Illuminated’ Light: A Biblical-Theological Interpretation of God-as-Light in Canto XXXIII of Dante's <i>Paradiso</i>

Diego Fasolini

in Literature and Theology

Volume 19, issue 4, pages 297-310
Published in print November 2005 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online October 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/fri039
‘Illuminating’ and ‘Illuminated’ Light: A Biblical-Theological Interpretation of God-as-Light in Canto XXXIII of Dante's Paradiso

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Light is a very common metaphor for the divine, but it can be a deceiving symbol because light is, in a sense, absolute. Taking lessons from Dante, and considering in particular Paradiso XXXIII, this essay engages in a biblical-theological interpretation of God-as-light with the following thesis: in Dante's Divine Comedy there is a ‘phenomenology of gazes’. Dante-pilgrim, looking at God-as-light, interprets himself as a person-stared-at-by-the-light, as a looking-individual-who-is-being-looked-at, a knowing-person-who-is-already-known. Dante understood well the theological significance of God's absolute primacy. Two gazes meet in Paradiso XXXIII, one belonging to the ‘illuminating light’ (God), and the other belonging to the ‘illuminated light’ (the pilgrim). The primacy belongs to God, to that overwhelming Light that reaches the pilgrim and transforms his conscience, but it is the human freedom that brings this ‘phenomenology of gazes’ to a perfect closure. Focusing on Dante's figuration of light, the essay concludes with a ‘biblical-theological’ interpretation of God-as-light, engaging theology, religion and culture both theoretically and imaginatively, and with an awareness of recent critical theory on issues such as visuality, light and seeing.

Journal Article.  6183 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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