Rowan Williams at the TLS:
So this is a satisfying and enormously suggestive book, arguing not the obvious point that Dante’s poetry is consistently inflected by theological concerns (which is like saying that it’s written in Italian), but a more radical thesis – that the poem seeks to enact its subject matter. It does so, Montemaggi contends, not only by inviting us into the mystery of divine love in general terms, but by two very specific kinds of challenge. We are invited to ask ourselves as readers what it would mean for us to become signifiers of God as Dante claims to be, finite agents of an infinite authorship; and we are reminded – in the light of this – that we as readers are equipped to make a difference to the author of the poem – and, indeed, to those he writes about insofar as they are in need of our solidarity and prayer. And this recasts entirely the way in which we look for theology in the work. These are not questions about “content”. Montemaggi argues provocatively that there can be no “doctrine or content” in the Commedia within the metaphysical framework that Dante assumes. The poem is not a versification of doctrinal propositions, but an attempt to allow the being of the Christian God to become transparent and actively transformative in the words recited and read or heard. The poem is an incarnation, remotely comparable to that focal and unique coincidence of finite and infinite action which is Christ’s life. The reader may or may not accept the terms of the relationships presupposed in the poem (namely the relationships between God and poet, poet and reader, reader and fellow believer or needy soul), but an agnostic or otherwise detached reader will not understand the poem without grasping that this is the sort of thing it is.