“Did Dante Alighieri Suffer From a Sleep Disorder?” by Henry Nicholls

“I was at a conference, standing in the queue for coffee during a break between sessions, and the woman in front of me went down. As she fell, she resembled a push puppet, one of those little elasticated toys that collapses when you press the button on the base. It all happened very quickly, but if it had been possible to slow down the motion, I would have seen her head drop first, chin onto chest, her shoulders relax, arms flop to her sides, and legs buckle.

[. . .]

“This is cataplexy, a condition in which emotions can cause the body’s muscles to fail; it affects many people with narcolepsy. Nathaniel Kleitman understood the difference between narcolepsy (the sleep) and cataplexy (the collapsing fits) only too well. ‘Boredom and monotony favor narcolepsy; gaiety and excitement, cataplexy,’ he wrote in Sleep and Wakefulness.

[. . .]

“Giuseppe Plazzi, head of the sleep lab at the University of Bologna, has argued that Dante Alighieri might have suffered from narcolepsy with cataplexy all the way back in the 14th century, as his autobiographical masterpiece The Divine Comedy features most of the symptoms, including cataplexy. In the middle of his journey through Hell, for instance, Dante hears the tragic love story of two lost spirits and collapses. ‘I fainted out of pity, and, as if l were dying, fell, as a dead body falls.’

“The idea that Dante suffered from narcolepsy is certainly intriguing, but most sleep specialists—including Plazzi—date the first unequivocal description of cataplexy to 1877, when German psychiatrist Karl Westphal presented a case at a meeting of the Berlin Medical and Psychological Society. [. . .]”   –Henry Nicholls, “Did Dante Alighieri Suffer From a Sleep Disorder?” LitHub (September 7, 2018)

The passage is an excerpt from Nicholls’s 2018 book Sleepyhead: The Neuroscience of A Good Night’s Rest.

See also the related discussion from The Guardian, posted here.

“Sending Trump to Hell,” by Ariel Dorfman

“My name, sir, is Dante Alighieri. Among the innumerable dead that inhabit these shores, I have been chosen to speak to you because an expert on the afterlife was needed to describe what awaits your soul when it passes, as all souls must, into this land of shadows. I was chosen, whether as an honor or not, to imagine your fate once you wind your way toward us.

“Having accepted this task, I was tempted, sir, as I watched your every act in that life before death, to make this easier for myself and simply conjure up the circles of Hell I had already described in my terza rima. I would then have guided you down my cascade of verses, step by step, into the depths of darkness I had designed for others.

“Were you not the selfish embodiment of so many sins I dealt with in my Commedia? Lust and adultery, yes! Gluttony, yes; greed and avarice, oh yes; wrath and fury, certainly; violence, fraud, and usury, yes again! Divisiveness and treachery, even heresy — you who did not believe in God and yet used the Bible as a prop — yes, one more time!”   –Ariel Dorfman, “Sending Trump to Hell,” Nation of Change (October 22, 2020)

Contributed by Justin Meckes

Ying Zheng, poetry (2020)


Out of the Ante-Inferno
After Gustave Doré’s Charon, the Ferryman of Hell

Fear not the wrath of God!
Those who are beckoned here
Know better than to comply.

Below the sullen skies,
Where stars hardly survive,
Stand pale precipices

Guarding the dim muzzle
Of a deadly, sodden
Passage, and listening

To it ceaselessly burp,
Bellow, bawl, and belch
Out a whirl of white spume.

Forward! Forward! The oar
That no one can wrench free
From his grip grunts and gasps,

[…]

Read the full poem here, along with two others: “Inferno” and “Dante and Beatrice.”

Ying Zheng was born and grew up in Shanxi, China, where she received her first Master’s degree from Shanxi University, and has since been working for the English Department of Taiyuan Normal University. In 2019, she earned her second Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, England. While in Lancaster, she had the privilege of studying a module on “Visualising the Poem” under Professor Paul Farley. Under the guidance of Dr. Eoghan Walls, her first poetry tutor and mentor, she completed a portfolio of ekphrastic poetry mainly based on visual arts on the subject of Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy. Currently she is pursuing PhD studies at Renmin University of China, Beijing, China. In a recent national creative writing competition held by Sun Yat-Sen University, she won the second prize with her poem “The Heavily Armoured Eyes.”

“I Wish to Thank Donald Trump for His Inspirational Presidency”

“Thank you Donald for the wake-up call and for providing an unwanted preview of Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice In Wonderland staged in your nine circles of hell: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery.”    –J. P. Curtis, Sparta Independent, July 28, 2020

Andrew Frisardi, Love’s Scribe: Reading Dante in the Book of Creation (2020)

frisardi-loves-scribe-reading-dante-in-the-book-of-creation-2020“In a few passages of his writings, Dante identifies himself as ‘Love’s scribe’—the scribe, that is, of all love, from natural and human love to the “Love that moves the sun and the other stars.” Another fundamental notion in Dante, and in medieval thought in general, is that the manifold things of the creation are like pages bound together by divine love into a unified book, a series of successive analogies of God—a book written by God, in which can be discerned images and resemblances of divinity. As the current volume shows, this way of reading the creation also opens a vista into Dante’s or any traditional metaphysical-symbolist author’s works as an analogia entis—as a series of signs corresponding to multiple levels of reality, each resonating with others in the hierarchical chain of being…” []    –Andrew Frisardi, Angelico Press, 2020

Check out the Angelico Press website to read praise for Love’s Scribe.

“Will Coronavirus Continue to Hold SEC Football Hostage?”

“A fall without college football sounds like the wickedest episode of the ‘The Twilight Zone’ or maybe even one of Dante’s nine circles of Hell.”    –Terry J. Wood, Fayetteville Flyer, July 28, 2020

Justin Meckes, Inferno (2020)

Inferno is a novella, a portion of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, in prose rather than the original verse. Inferno finds our protagonist enduring the very same tormenting journey through the rings of hell but in an expanded format.

“The work is retold in its original period, but it has been infused with somewhat less overt references to today’s politics. Thus, this Inferno will maintain a universal appeal and be made available in a Russian Flag edition.

“[. . .] Within this version, multiple Trump associates (e.g., Paul Manafort, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner, etc.) make appearances in the place of their Florentine counterparts.”

Read a short excerpt here.

“What’s the Sneeze Etiquette in a Mask?”

“I’ll continue to comply and wear a mask— even with threat of a sneeze—because the benefits do seem to outweigh the negatives. Save the world and eliminate the need for Scope. That’s not a bad combo, and honestly, I’ll wear a mask through the nine circles of hell (AKA Columbia in August) if it helps bring back high school and college sports.”    –Mike Maddock, Columbia Star, August 13, 2020

“Great Moments in PC Gaming: Guiding Noobs Through a Co-Op Session”

“We were all that noob at some point. I have fond memories of a friend convincing me to give Halo a shot in co-op, him playing Master Chief and me playing his buddy, ‘The Spartan Who Disappears During Cutscenes.’ The first time I tried Portal 2‘s multiplayer mode it was at a gaming bar with an engineering student who, even drunk, knew everything there was to know about thinking with portals. Being able to return these favors by acting as Virgil to someone else’s Dante—except instead of the nine circles of Hell, it’s Borderlands 2 or whatever—feels like paying the experiences forward, ensuring some kind of cosmic scale is balanced.”    –Jody Macgregor, PC Gamer, August 15, 2020

Teddy Roosevelt and Dante

Portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt seated in garden, circa 1910s. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images).

“Thomas Bailey and Katherine Joslin have recently argued in their book Theodore Roosevelt: A Literary Life (ForeEdge, 2018) that there is much to be gained in examining Roosevelt through the lens of his prolific writing and voracious reading throughout his life. By focusing our attention on Dante in particular, we can uncover a long-standing relationship that finds voice in particular aspects of Roosevelt’s political convictions and intellectual life.”   –Akash Kumar, Digital Dante, 2018

Check out the Digital Dante site to view the article.