Cite as: Judith Revel, ‘Lefort/Dante: lire, déformer, transformer’, talk presented at the symposium Dante’s Political Modernities: Claude Lefort Reads the Monarchia, ICI Berlin, 6 July 2019, video recording, mp4, 51:37 <>
6 Jul 2019

Lefort/Dante: lire, déformer, transformer

By Judith Revel

Video in French

Format: mp4
Length: 00:51:37
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin

Part of the Symposium

Dante’s Political Modernities: Claude Lefort Reads the Monarchia

In the second decade of the fourteenth century, Dante wrote the Monarchia, a treatise of political theology deeply rooted in the philosophy of his time, yet conspicuously original in its treatment of secular and ecclesiastical authority. Immediately attacked by the Church, and later banned until 1881, the treatise was long relegated to the margins of the history of political theory. In 1993, Claude Lefort re-established the importance and contemporary relevance of the treatise in an extensive introduction, entitled ‘La modernité de Dante’, for a French translation of the Monarchia.

The symposium takes its cue from Lefort’s suggestive invitation to reconsider Dante’s endorsement of a ‘temporal monarchy’, that is, a secular order restricted to humankind’s common pursuit of earthly happiness and hence fully independent from the Church. Lefort sketches the political reception of Dante’s treatise, referenced by humanist advisors of princes, jurists of absolutist rule, and historians of nation-states alike, which, for him, testifies to a profound historical eccentricity of Dante’s conception rather than a teleology inherent to the modern history of the West. For Lefort, ‘the past always interrogates our present’.

But how can a text of many context-bound contestations such as the Monarchia interrogate present political circumstance? Can Lefort’s reading serve as a model of a historically reflected political philosophy? How to account for historical efficacy without risking a reamalgamation of history and ideas into a redemptive philosophy of history? How to make sense of the entanglement the Monarchia posits between knowledge, happiness, and politics? What is Dante’s conception of the common, what its relation to an essentially collective knowledge that can only be pursued in universal peace?

The symposium brings together scholars from different fields in order to reconsider the Monarchia in dialogue with Lefort’s suggestions and discuss its potentials and limits for imagining politics today.

Judith Revel (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense) will give the keynote lecture.


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)


Franco Costantini
Karl-Heinz Ladeur
Andrea Lanza
Franziska Meier
Jennifer Rushworth
Judith Revel
et al

Organized by

Christiane Frey
Manuele Gragnolati
Christoph F. E. Holzhey
Arnd Wedemeyer