The Dilemmas of Friendship in Dante’s Italy

The Italian Research Seminar, a core event of the Center for Italian Studies, aims to provide a regular forum for faculty, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and colleagues from other universities to present and discuss their current research. The Seminar is vigorously interdisciplinary, and embraces all areas of Italian literature, language, and culture, as well as perceptions of Italy, its achievements and its peoples in other national and international cultures. The Seminar constitutes an important element in the effort by Notre Dame’s Center for Italian Studies to promote the study of Italy and to serve as a strategic point of contact for scholarly exchange.

The Center for Italian Studies is pleased to host a lecture by Professor Elizabeth Coggeshall, of Florida State University, titled “The Dilemmas of Friendship in Dante’s Italy.” In late medieval Italy, amicizia was not an unequivocal moral or affective good. Instead, it was an ambiguous term to be deployed strategically, describing a wide range of social relationships: allies, collaborators, servants, patrons, rivals, and enemies. Drawing on the tactical uses of the term “amico” in the correspondence poems, dedications, narratives, and treatises composed by Dante and his interlocutors, Elizabeth Coggeshall’s lecture examines the way they skillfully negotiated around the dilemmas friendship raised in the spheres of medieval Italian literary society. Employing sociological theory, Coggeshall traces Dante’s innovative justifications of friendship within the landscape of his peers’ complex negotiations around the term. Dante presents amicizia as simultaneously unifying and exclusive, transactional and yet morally legitimate, and equalizing while retaining social hierarchies. This new definition, Coggeshall argues, paves the way for the expansive possibilities of and unqualified reliance on amicizia that we see in the writings of the early humanists who follow.

Elizabeth Coggeshall (PhD, Italian, Stanford University) is Assistant Professor of Italian in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics at Florida State University. Her research centers on late medieval Italian literature and culture, especially Dante, as well as the transmedia reception of Dante’s works in the 20th and 21st centuries. She has published in Bibliotheca Dantesca, Italian Culture, Italianistica, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching, ACMRS’s The Sundial, and several edited volumes. With Arielle Saiber, she is Editor of the site Dante Today: Citings and Sightings of Dante’s Works in Contemporary Culture, a digital archive cataloguing Dante’s sustained presence in the 20th- and 21st-century culture. She recently served as the Vice President of the Dante Society of America (2021-2023) and currently as the DSA’s Director of Education and Outreach (2023-). Her presentation derives from her first book, On Amistà: Negotiating Friendship in Dante’s Italy, published by the University of Toronto Press (spring 2023).

The event is co-sponsored by the Medieval Institute.

For more information visit the event website.

November 2, 2023

Art and HistoryReligion and PhilosophyCenter for Italian StudiesCollege of Arts & LettersDanteDigest181Elizabeth Coggeshall

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