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Beneath the Law

Beneath the Law


(p.13) 1 Beneath the Law
Dante and the Limits of the Law
Justin Steinberg
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines Dante’s engagement with the poetics of reputation. In particular, it argues that Dante’s celebrated mimetic style is a direct reaction to the uses of verisimilitude in courtroom procedure, especially when determining a defendant’s fama or infamia (good or bad reputation). The poetics of reputation are especially notable in his treatment of sodomy in the Commedia. In his portrayal of the sodomites, Dante creates a form of realism based on the intransigent and often brutal detail. The revelation of the hidden sins of Florence’s most outstanding citizens, such as Dante’s own beloved teacher Brunetto Latini, highlights the disconnect between the verisimilar “picture” of society and the jarringly realistic detail— between the evident and evidence.

Keywords:   mimesis, infamia, verisimilitude, sodomy, Brunetto Latini, evidence, realism, fama

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