“Dante and The Divine Comedy: He took us on a tour of Hell”

“Literary ambition seems to have been with Dante, born in 1265, from early in life when he wished to become a pharmacist. In late 13th Century Florence, books were sold in apothecaries, a testament to the common notion that words on paper or parchment could affect minds with their ideas as much as any drug.

“And what an addiction The Divine Comedy inspired: a literary work endlessly adapted, pinched from, referenced and remixed, inspiring painters and sculptors for centuries. More than the authors of the Bible itself, Dante provided us with the vision of Hell that remains with us and has been painted by Botticelli and Blake, Delacroix and Dalí, turned into sculpture by Rodin – whose The Kiss depicts Dante’s damned lovers Paolo and Francesca – and illustrated in the pages of X-Men comics by John Romita. Jorge Luis Borges said The Divine Comedy is ‘the best book literature has ever achieved’, while TS Eliot summed up its influence thus: ‘Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them. There is no third.’ Perhaps the epigraph to The Divine Comedy itself should be ‘Gather inspiration all ye who enter here.’

“But it’s not just as a fountainhead of inspiration for writers and visual artists that The Divine Comedy reigns supreme – this is the work that enshrined what we think of as the Italian language and advanced the idea of the author as a singular creative voice with a vision powerful enough to stand alongside Holy Scripture, a notion that paved the way for the Renaissance, for the Reformation after that and finally for the secular humanism that dominates intellectual discourse today. You may have never read a single line of The Divine Comedy, and yet you’ve been influenced by it.”   –Christian Blauvelt, BBC, 2018

Read the full article here.

“How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think”

“Our ancestors developed their ideas of Hell by drawing on the pains and the deprivations that they knew on earth. Those imaginings shaped our understanding of life before death, too. They still do.

[. . .]

“The great poetic example of the blurriness between the everyday and the ever after is Dante’s Inferno, which begins with the narrator ‘midway upon the journey of our life,’ having wandered away from the life of God and into a ‘forest dark.’ That wood, full of untamed animals and fears set loose, leads the unwitting pilgrim to Virgil, who acts as his guide through the ensuing ordeal, and whose Aeneid, itself a recapitulation of the Odyssey, acts as a pagan forerunner to the Inferno. This first canto of the poem, regrettably absent from the ‘Book of Hell,’ reads as a kind of psychological-metaphysical map, marking the strange route along which one person’s private trouble leads both outward and downward, toward the trouble of the rest of the world.

[. . .]

“Dante, writing in the early fourteenth century, drew on a bounty of hellish material, from Greek, Roman, and, of course, Christian literature, which is rife with horrible visions of Hell.”   –Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 2019

Read the full article here.

“Dante’s Inferno :: book fanart (non-TØP)”

Amino user F R Ø S T Y creates Inferno fan art. View more of their art here.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Inferno Translation

Nineteenth century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translates Inferno, featured in this 2013 book. More information about this translation can be found here.

“The Divine Parody of Dante Alighieri: Inferno Canto 3”

 

DeviantArt user randomnessrox92 recreates Canto 3 of Inferno with comic art. View more pieces by this user here.

Deirdre Bennett’s Oil Paintings

Deirdre Bennett is a contemporary mixed-media artist, several of whose works are inspired by Dante’s Inferno. To the left is pictured her oil painting Apathy and Non-Committal, which she describes thus on her site: “In Canto 3, Verse 55 Dante is confronted by the apathetic, cowards and non committals. They are drawn by a white banner, worms at their feet and forever tortured by hornets and wasps. I feel apathy is a terrible plague of our century.”   —Deirdre Bennett Fine Art

See other pieces from Deirdre Bennett—including her City of Dis, Paolo and Francesca, and the Malebranche—on the artist’s site here.

UCLA’s Dante in the Americas

“The literary appropriation of Dante over the last century has been enormous. His influence has been front and center in all major modern literary traditions—from T.S. Eliot to William Butler Yeats, from Albert Camus to Jean-Paul Sartre, from Jorge Luis Borges to Derek Walcott, from Giorgio Bassani to Giuseppe Ungaretti. Why such fascination? What are the textual characteristics of Dante’s Commedia that make it an ideal vehicle for literary appropriation, thereby allowing it to enjoy a sustained cultural afterlife? What, moreover, are the more accidental factors (e.g., taste, world view, political agenda, religious, and mystical convictions) which account for the popularity of Dante—after 300 years of neglect during which the Florentine poet was relegated to the shadows of Petrarch and his works—among artists, novelists, poets, playwrights, and cinematographers? This symposium, co-organized by Professor Massimo Ciavolella (Italian, UCLA), Professor Efraín Kristal (Comparative Literature, UCLA), and Heather Sottong (Italian, UCLA), considers these questions, concentrating on Dante’s influence in North America and especially in Latin America.”   —UCLA Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, 2011

“Maybe Hell on Earth Looks Like the Australian Wildfires”

“LET’S TALK ABOUT HELL. In David Bentley Hart’s remarkably important book That All Shall Be Saved, he outlines the reasons that we should not fear an afterlife of unending torment in a Dantesque lake of flame. ‘It makes no more sense, then, to say that God allows creatures to damn themselves out of his love for them or out of his respect for their freedom than to say a father might reasonably allow his deranged child to thrust her face into a fire out of a tender regard for her moral autonomy.’ Read the book—really, read it. It will inoculate you against some of the ideas about God that can’t help but edge their way into your psyche.”   –Bill McKibben, Sojourners, 2020

View the full article here.

“Where Did Our Ideas About Hell Originate?”

“The recent dispute over whether Pope Francis denied the existence of hell in an interview attracted wide attention. This isn’t surprising, since the belief in an afterlife, where the virtuous are rewarded with a place in heaven and the wicked are punished in hell, is a core teaching of Christianity.

“So what is the Christian idea of hell?

[. . .]

“Perhaps the most fulsome description of hell was offered by the Italian poet Dante at the beginning of the 14th century in the first section of his ‘Divine Comedy.’ Here the souls of the damned are punished with tortures matching their sins. Gluttons lie in freezing pools of garbage, while murderers thrash in a river of boiling blood.”   –Joanne M. Pierce, Sojourners, 2018

Read the full article here.

“(Almost) Everything I Know About Hell I Learned From Buffy

“Almost everything I know about hell’s eschatological aspects I learned from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer — sort of an interactive Divine Comedy. Valley-girl Buffy Summers and her Virgil (embodied by tweedy professor Rupert Giles) battle soulless creatures that slither out of the ‘hell mouth’ (conveniently located under the high school), returning the creatures to blazing torment forever.

“I would feel bad about this pop theological education, except I’m not alone.

“For 700 years, Dante’s epic poem — mainly the Inferno — has been the source of inspiration for preachers, pastors, and not a few theologians, who promoted hell as a physical place with its own address, zip code, and smoking embers. Add to their oratorical brimstone the fiery images from artists — Gustave Doré, Hieronymous Bosch, or Buffy producer Joss Whedon — and you’ve got a potent pedagogy.”   –Rose Marie Berger, Sojourners, 2015

Read the full article here.