Solovyov’s Sophia as a Nineteenth-Century Russian Appropriation of Dante’s Beatrice

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This study argues for a broadened approach in understanding Solovyov's Sophia, reading her against the background of Dante's presentation of Beatrice. It re-examines a reading of Sophia by early 20th century Russian symbolists, who conflated her figure with those of Beatrice and the Virgin Mary, as representatives of the archetypal feminine. Our work finds this symbolist approach to be a mis-reading of Solovyov, for this approach show clears participation in romanticism, particularly on the theme of love and androgyny, and in aesthetics. For him, romanticism also meant rejection of personification. For romantics the lady, as object of love, is historical, or literal. Symbolists, on the other hand, apprecicated symbols and (allegorical) personification. Even so, in practice, Solovyov accepted personification of Sophia, as an implementation of the Theurgical task of incarnation of the divine in mortal, bodily reality.


"With so many scholarly studies on his spectulative and creative thought throughout all this time, one would think there could hardly be a novel key for opening up the integrative perspectives of Solovyov's worldview. With her engaging investigation, Helleman, for one, has proven this untrue." -- Prof. Robert F. Slesinski, Major Queen of the Apostles Major Seminary

"... an achievement in itself because it lays to rest, once and for all, an important discussion. This conclusion, moreover, is reach through a a meticulous textual analysis and comparisons between Solovyov's and Dante's texts." -- Prof. Oleg V. Bychkov, St. Bonaventure University

"The interesting research done by [the author] is certainly useful for those who have special interest in analysis of the work of Solovyov. Furthermore, the book can make a contribution for the study of feminine images in both literary and philosophical works. ... the work can support the renaissance of interest of that branch of philosophy which devotes attention to the image of Sophia and Eternal Femininity in the developments of its conceptions." -- E.V. Besschetnova

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Introductions

1.1 "Wisdom"
1.2 Solovyov's Understanding of Wisdom
1.3 Dante's Discussion of Wisdom
1.4 The Abstract Character of Wisdom
1.5 Wisdom Personified, from Proverbs to Kabbala
1.6 Approach and Methodology of the Present Study
1.7 Preliminary Questions
1.8 Further Questions
1.9 Goals for the Present Study
1.10 Some Notes on Important Literature

Chapter Two: Romanticism and Dante's Reception in Russia

2.1 Romanticism in Literature, Art and Culture
2.2 Dante in Early 19th Century Russia
2.3 Dante in Later 19th Century Russia

Chapter Three: Dante in Solovyov's Work: The Theocratic Project

3.1 "Free Theocracy"
3.2 Dante's De Monarchia
3.3 Solovyov's Reading of the of De Monarchia
3.4 Conclusion: Solovyov's Vision

Chapter Four: Dante in Solovyov's Work: Poetry, Aesthetics, and Ethics

4.1 Solovyov's Translations from Dante (and Petarch)
4.2 Literary Criticism: The Poets
4.3 Aesthetics
4.4 The Justification of the Good (1894-1897)
4.5 Dante Motifs in Three Encounters
4.6 Conclusions on Solovyov's Citations of Dante

Chapter Five: La Sophia

5.1 Introductory Concerns
5.2 The First Triad: On First Principles
5.3 La Sophia. Principles of Universal Teaching (The First Part of Two)
5.4 Principles of Universal Teaching. Second Part
5.5 Concluding Reflections on La Sophia

Chapter Six: Solovyov's Sophia and Dante's Beatrice

6.1 Lectures on Divine Humanity (1878-1881)
6.2 La Russie et l'eglise universelle (1887-1888)
6.3 Sophia in Poetry
6.4 Poetry and Life
6.5 Dante's Beatrice
6.6 Conclusions

Chapter Seven: Sophia and Beatrice: Love and Feminine Beauty

7.1 Solovyov on Love
7.2 Dante: Love for the Lady and Love for God
7.3 Solovyov and Dante on Love: A Few Comparisons
7.4 From Plato to Dante to Solovyov

Chapter Eight: Solovyov, Dante, and the Virgin Mary

8.1 Solovyov, Sophia and the Virgin Mary
8.2 Dante's Mary
8.3 Medieval Mary as Wisdom Figure
8.4 Mary and Beatrice
8.5 Dante's Mary and Solovyov's Mary
8.6 Conclusions on Solovyov and Mary

Chapter Nine: Conclusions

9.1 Wisdom Identified
9.2 Romanticism and the Issue of Personification
9.3 Feminine Personification
9.4 Sophia, "Divine Humanity" and "Total-Unity"
9.5 Platonism and Orthodoxy: Incarnational Poetry
9.6 The Augustinian Christian Tradition of Love and Beauty
9.7 Concluding Comments

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