Dr. Beth Coggeshall (Italian) publishes new book on friendship in Dante's Italy

On Amistà: Negotiating Friendship in Dante's Italy

Thu, 03/30/23
On Amistà: Negotiating Friendship in Dante's Italy
Book Cover

Elizabeth Coggeshall, On Amistà: Negotiating Friendship in Dante's Italy (University of Toronto Press)

Although we often think of friendship today as an indisputable value of human social life, for thinkers and writers across late medieval Christian society friendship raised a number of social and ethical dilemmas that needed to be carefully negotiated. On Amistà analyses these dilemmas and looks at how Dante’s strategic articulations of friendship evolved across the phases of his literary career as he manoeuvred between different social groups and settings. Elizabeth Coggeshall reveals that friendship was not an unequivocal moral good for the writers of late medieval Italy. Instead, it was an ambiguous term to be deployed strategically, describing a wide range of social relationships such as allies, collaborators, servants, patrons, rivals, and enemies. Drawing on the use of the language of friendship in the letters, correspondence poems, dedications, narratives, and treatises composed by Dante and his interlocutors, Coggeshall examines the way they skillfully negotiated around the dilemmas that friendship raised in the spheres of medieval Italian literary society. The book addresses instances of inclusivity and exclusivity, collaboration and self-interest, hierarchy and equality, and alterity and identity. Employing literary, historical, and sociological analysis, On Amistà presents a genealogy for the innovative and tactical use of the terms of friendship among the works of late medieval Italian authors.