The Poet’s Inner Child: Early Childhood and Spiritual Growth in Dante’s Commedia
At its core the Commedia is a poem written for and about adults, but children (and references to children) appear throughout. In this essay, I argue that the juvenilization of the main character relates directly to the poet’s ages of man, namely the contrasting nature between adolescenza and gioventute, an intertextual connection between the Convivio and the Commedia that has never been previously explored. Dante thus allegorizes his afterlife journey within the context of life’s ages of man relating the pilgrim to a figurative state of adolescenza, essentially condemning the protagonist to a developmental fall from the author’s more advanced age with the poet/narrator emerging in his actual state of gioventute (i.e., maturity) recaptured through the completion of his afterlife experience. Although Dante inherently recognizes children’s deficiencies, the poet will take advantage of them to foreground growth and maturation, especially in his portrayal of the protagonist’s spiritual development.
McMenamin, James F. "The Poet’s Inner Child: Early Childhood and Spiritual Growth in Dante’s Commedia." Italica 93, no. 2 (2016): 225-250.