Elizabeth Coggeshall, “Bad Apples and Sour Trees”

“Among the Times photographs, there is an image of a Black protester in Atlanta, cutting through the smoke, his open palms raised. He cries out, a vox clamantis in deserto, in righteous rage against the injustice that killed George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans. His defiant approach is a picture of the words Virgil uses to describe his charge at the entrance to Purgatory: ‘He goes seeking freedom, which is so precious, as one knows who gives up his life for its sake.’

Dante. The Vision of Art Exhibition

“The Uffizi is providing Dante-centric artworks for the major exhibition Dante. The Vision of Art held in Forlì from March 12 to July 4, 2021.

The show is part of the nationwide celebrations for the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, but also aims to symbolize the rebirth of Italy and the art world.

The project is based on an idea by Eike Schmidt, director of the Gallerie degli Uffizi, and Gianfranco Brunelli, director of major exhibitions of the Fondazione Cassa dei Risparmi di Forlì, while Professors Antonio Paolucci and Professor Fernando Mazzocca are the show curators. The decision to hold the exhibition in Forlì is part of an overall strategy to promote the area that acts as a natural bridge between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. Dante sought refuge in Forlì in the Autumn of 1302 after leaving Arezzo. The poet stayed with the city’s noble ruling family, the Ordelaffi, for more than a year.

Several works will be loaned to Forlì by the Uffizi, including Andrea del Castagno’s portraits of Dante and Farinata degli Uberti, which are not usually not public view in Florence, given their placement in the San Pier Scheraggio church, which is where the council met on which Dante once served. A second Dante portrait, by Cristofano dell’Altissimo, will be displayed in the Forlì exhibition. Pontormo’s Exile from Paradise and a Michelangelo’s drawing depicting a doomed man in Divine Comedy’s Inferno, in addition to a selection of fine sketches by Federico Zuccari for the 500th illustrated edition of the text. Other highlights include a marble bust of Virgil by the eighteenth-century sculptor Carlo Albacini, and the nineteenth-century canvas by Tuscan proto-romantic Nicola Monti, titled Francesca da Rimini in the Inferno.”    –Editorial Staff, The Florentine, July 10, 2020

“You Have Seven Mountains to Climb to Find Your True Self”

“When I think of life as climbing mountains, the Purgatorio of Dante Alighieri comes to mind, the second part of the Divine Comedy.

In grand poetic style, Dante says the struggle a person faces to find his true self involves not one but seven mountains. And each mountain represents a type of suffering we must go through to rid ourselves of the sin, vices, peccadillos, the falsity that keeps us confined.

Like the Desert Fathers, he called those barriers-to-selfhood ‘seven deadly sins,’ each an attitude-cum-behavior that turns us against ourselves.

Among them are: being envious of what other people have or do (envy); acting with rage in our interactions with others (wrath); seeking more than we need in life (greed); and using power like a god to protect our possessions (pride).

[. . .]

And Dante said that, when a person faces up to the transformations purgatory exacts, he becomes a spiritual being, that is, he lives with an equanimity close to happiness.

And ‘spiritual’ does not mean something wispy and ethereal but the life of a body grounded in purpose, a body in communion with others, when political and economic realities align with justice.

In the third part of his trilogy, the Paradiso, Dante says no one gets to heaven who’s at odds with himself; heaven is for those who answer their calling. Such people treat others like they want to be treated, what Christians call being ‘Christ-like.'”    –Dennis Sullivan, The Altamont Enterprise, July 2, 2020

Final line of C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed

“In the last chapter of A Grief Observed, Lewis admits that grief is, ‘like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’ If you’ve grieved over someone’s death, you know the image Lewis is casting. Happiness almost feels a little haunted, but time evaporates the wetness from some of the tears, albeit gradual, ‘like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight,’ says Lewis.

[. . .]

The end is akin to the beginning of A Grief Observed, if only in the questions it doesn’t answer and the doubts that are still raised as a result of the horrible occurrences of this world. In the end, Lewis knows that God is more mystery than reason, and his reliance on Him, and the hope in the resurrection of the dead, is wrapped in a faith in a God who can be found.

‘Poi si torno all’ eternal fontana,’ ends the book. It is from Dante. Beatrice turns to the eternal fountain and keeps walking. Lewis doesn’t dismiss his grief, but he is more at peace with God at the end of his notes, and, like Joy’s last words to the chaplain, Lewis is at peace with God.”    –Zach Kincaid, cslewis.com, February 29, 2012

Contributed by Daniel Christian

Dan Christian, All My Life’s A Circle… A Harry Chapin and Dante Alighieri Anthology (2006)

“Taking ideas and putting them into action is a specialty of Baltimore, Maryland, English teacher Dan Christian. In his quarter century of teaching at The Gilman School, Christian has successfully merged his two passions, the music of Harry Chapin and the teaching of Dante’s poem the Divine Comedy. The result is a thought-provoking and insightful spiral-bound book of student essays called All My Life’s A Circle…A Harry Chapin & Dante Alighieri Anthology.

Until this year, Christian’s in-class efforts had been informal, with references to Harry being made as ideas arose while teaching. Recalling a concept that emerged from a 1990 seminar for teachers of Dante’s work, this year Christian formally put ‘celestial cross-pollination’–the intersection of art and literature–into place. Christian notes, ‘I asked my students to answer the question: Why and in what ways could a character in Dante’s poem have benefited from or been enriched by listening to this particular song?'”    –Linda McCarty, Circle!, Summer 2006

Dan Christian was the 2017 winner of the Durling Prize of the Dante Society of America, which recognizes exceptional accomplishments by North American secondary school teachers who offer courses or units on Dante’s life and works. Read more about Dan’s teaching philosophy on his website https://danteiseverywhere.com/.

Epigraph to the Novel Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell what a wild , and rough, and stubborn wood this was, which in my thought renews the fear!”    –David Guterson, Epigraph to Snow Falling on Cedars, September 1994

Check out Snow Falling on Cedars on Amazon here.

Contributed by Daniel Christian.

“Dante’s Inferno has always been so funny to me…”


“Dante’s Inferno has always been so funny to me because its this really important classic that is constantly referenced, but at the same time it’s really just a burn book. Dante Alighieri is Regina George and he wrote an entire book about a bunch of people he hates and why he hates them. Dante took out his pink gel pen and wrote out in big cursive letters: Achilles is a slut.”   —aphrodarling on tumblr (April 24, 2019)

Regina George is the antagonist of the 2004 film Mean Girls.

Contributed by Kate McKee (Bowdoin College ’22)

Guy Raffa, “There’s a Special Place in Dante’s Inferno for Wafflers and Neutral Souls”

“Dante’s Divine Comedy, an epic poem recounting the Florentine’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, remains the go-to guide to the afterlife, the world’s most famous travelogue for the great beyond. But Dante matters more than that. Dante’s encounters with the dead offer enduring lessons for the living, including one that speaks with vital urgency to us today.

“Consider California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s press conference on June 5, 2020, as a Dantean case study. The governor insisted that ‘we’—institutions and the community at large—must change to combat systemic anti-Black racism. Urging individuals to ‘take a stand,’ he quoted the medieval Italian poet: ‘Dante infamously said that the hottest place in hell is reserved for those in a time of moral crisis that maintain their neutrality.’ The lesson drawn by Gov. Newsom? ‘This is not the time to be neutral.’

“This might be the place for me to stop, tear out my hair (or what’s left of it), and object, ‘Dante never said those words! They imply that neutrality is the worst sin for Dante, but treachery is, and the punishment for that sin isn’t fire but ice!’ But I won’t do that, because the complicated life of this fictitious quotation is so deeply embedded in U.S. history that the correction is pointless.”   –Guy P. Raffa, “There’s a Special Place in Dante’s Inferno for Wafflers and Neutral Souls,” Zócalo Public Square (August 31, 2020)

See also our posts on the use of the famous (mis)quotation by Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy.

“Trump Shows off His Own Circle of Hell”

“I’m the first guy to get a whole circle, it’s terrific. They evicted the Kennedys to put it in. Nobody, and I mean nobody else got this much abyss. Moody Judy Iscariot lives in a studio apartment in Satan’s mouth. Sad! Welcome to Mar-a-Lava.

Look at my pit. I have the deepest pit with the sharpest knives. These other guys, they have shallow fork holes, it’s pathetic. You should have seen how many demons came to my desecration. Packed like sardines. The noise was incredible. Biggest horde ever. They all wanted a piece of me. Good thing the pieces grew back. Very powerful agony!”    –Ella Gale, McSweeney’s, September 20, 2019

“Dante Knows Where Trump Can Go”

“I used to be a Dante scholar, so I’m accustomed to answering questions about the poet no one asked. Here’s one: Were he alive today, to which circle of hell would Dante consign President Donald Trump? Trump’s sins are many, so Dante would have options: there’s the second circle, which punishes the lustful, or the third, for bloated gluttons. Trump could also be at home in circle four (avarice and prodigality) and five (anger and acedia, or laziness). So much then for crimes of passion, or, in Dante’s Aristotelian framework, offenses that involve only the will. The penalties in those circles seem too lenient. So what about circles reserved for more cold-blooded transgressions, which require the intellect? Circles seven (violence), eight (simple fraud, including flattery, thievery, and barratry, or selling political office), and nine (treacherous fraud, reserved for the most serious felons, who betray relatives, country, guests, and benefactors) all seem viable. But sending Trump there is contingent on him demonstrating the conscious use of his intellect, which, of course, would be difficult. That leaves just circle six: heretics and atheists.”    –Griffin Oleynick, Commonweal, June 4, 2020