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Political theorists have long invoked the miracle as an analogue to the sovereign’s right to operate outside the law in times of crisis. Just as God can intervene within the reigning order of creation by directly suspending the laws of nature, the Monarch can suspend the constitutional laws of the community he is charged to protect—a secular miracle. Dante, however, does not subscribe to this voluntarist view of the miracle. His own account is much more normative—almost “constitutional.” In this talk I will argue that Dante’s discussion of miracles in this treatise Monarchia is a direct response to the contemporary politics of the miracle as it was practiced by the proponents of papal absolutism.
JUSTIN STEINBERG is professor of medieval Italian literature at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Accounting for Dante: Urban Readers and Writers in Late Medieval Italy (Notre Dame, 2007), recipient of the MLA’s Scaglione Publication Prize and Dante and the Limits of the Law (Chicago, 2014), recipient of the MLA’s Howard. R. Marraro Prize. He is currently writing a book on Boccaccio and the law. Professor Steinberg is also the Editor‐in Chief of the journal Dante Studies.