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Michel Paul Guy de Chabanon's Vie du Dante (1773) is the first attempt to introduce Dante's life and works to a deeply sceptical French public, after a long period of silence and neglect. His brilliantly written « biographical fiction » shows some common misconceptions about the Divine Comedy, derived largely from Bettinelli's and Voltaire's polemical debate. According to neo-classicistic aesthetic and critical theories, Chabanon rejects the medieval forms of allegory, the « allegory of the theologians » and the « allegory of the poets » (Convivio). His poetic interest is mainly focused on the « Inferno » ; the « Paradiso » does not even figure in his work. Chabanon translates Inf. V, 82-142 (Paolo and Francesca), and Inf. XXXIII, 1-77 (Ugolino), as samples of naive and sentimental poetry and the sublime. A prominent place is given to the minor works, namely to the Vita Nova, which he deems to be a non-fictional memoir. La Vie du Dante also had a profound impact on visual representations of the Divine Comedy.
Michel-Paul-Guy de Chabanon et ses contemporains
Adrian La Salvia
Universität Erlangen
La vie du Dante