‘Everyman’s Dante’
Philip H. Wicksteed and Victorian mass readerships
in Dante beyond influence
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Chapter four explores Philip H. Wicksteed’s manifold, and yet largely unrecognised, contribution to the popularisation of Dantean knowledge in Britain achieved through an unconventional (and historically unprecedented) selection of topics, literary genres, target audience and institutions. Through a comprehensive biographical reconstruction, it retraces the evolution of Wicksteed’s scholarly persona: from Unitarian preacher interested in the spiritual and uplifting use of Dante’s theological message in his Six Sermons to Dante lecturer working for the University Extension Movement; from the translator and editor of the Dent’s Temple Classics to internationally recognised scholar with a large body of academic publications. In so doing, the chapter demonstrate that Wicksteed achieved authorship status and critical authority as a pioneering practitioner of what I term commercial dantismo: a materially affordable and academically accessible form of scholarship purposefully designed for the growing middle- and lower-class public, which fostered an unprecedented growth of the opportunities for dissemination and (creative and critical) appropriation of Dantean knowledge in British literary culture.

Dante beyond influence

Rethinking reception in Victorian literary culture

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