“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.

“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.

“The 5 Circles of Hell for Institutional Investment Professionals”

“If an institutional investment professional were to be guided through Hell (a la Dante’s Inferno), he would pass by five circles of torment … all of which would contain colleagues frantically checking calendars and clocks, desperate to get through to-do lists that grow faster than items can be checked off. Time is indeed a valuable commodity, and the lack of it can be hell on earth.

“While the only way out of the Inferno was through the center of earth, the way out for investment professionals is much easier, thankfully. While it is impossible to add hours to the day, it is possible to reclaim some of those hours and put them to better use. Let’s follow our guide – not Dante’s Virgil, but our own modern-day Technos – through the five circles of hell for institutional investment professionals.”   –Ken Akoundi, Backstop Blog, 2018

Read the full article here.

“The Forum: Dante’s Inferno: The Poetry of Hell”

the-forum-dantes-inferno-poetry-of-hell-2018“Inferno is the 14th century epic that tells the story of Dante Alighieri’s imaginary journey through the underworld. It is the first part of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, and is widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest poems.

“Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here, is the famous phrase inscribed on the gates of Dante’s Inferno. Here Hell is divided into nine circles, with cruel and unusual punishments afflicting the sinners – who range from the lustful and cowardly in the upper circles to the malicious and fraudulent at the bottom of Hell.

“Joining Rajan Datar to explore the ideas and legacy of Dante’s Inferno is Dr Vittorio Montemaggi, author of Reading Dante’s Commedia as Theology; Claire Honess, Professor of Italian studies at the University of Leeds, and Sangjin Park, Professor of Comparative Literature at Busan University in South Korea, who will be speaking about the increasing popularity of Dante in his country and the role Inferno played in shaping Korea’s national identity.” [. . .]    —BBC, February 27, 2018.

Selva Oscura Album, Lawrence English and William Basinski (2018)

“Tonight, as part of the Fulcrum Arts Annual Benefit fundraiser—which itself sits within Fulcrum Arts’ A×S Festival: City as Wunderkammer—Lawrence English and William Basinski will present the world premiere performance of their collaborative album Selva Oscura.”    –XLR8R Staff, XLR8R, November 7, 2018

“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.

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.

“An Architect’s Vision of Dante’s Hell”

“Based in Campinas, Brazil, Paulo de Tarso Coutinho is a professional architect with a passion for Dante who created the following videos to visually represent the spatial issues in play in the Dantean conception of hell. Drawing on the early modern reception of the Commedia, including Antonio Manetti (1423-1497) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Coutinho incisively reads Dante’s infernal journey in architectural terms and shows how the form of the spiral is a necessary solution for the way that the space of hell is narrated in the poem. In similar fashion, his video of Sandro Botticelli’s (1445-1510) illustration of hell puts an emphasis on the concrete, creating a cross-section of the globe to put this infernal model in real space and highlighting Botticelli’s idiosyncratic use of staircases to think through the mechanics of Dante’s descent. Coutinho’s work is an important way of showing the degree to which Dante’s poetry was infused by the real, martialing mathematical and scientific currents to narrate a space that would inspire the sort of reception by later artists and thinkers who sought to map it in precise geographical and spatiotemporal terms. As Coutinho shows, that process continues still.”   –Akash Kumar, Digital Dante, 2018

Check out the Digital Dante site to view the videos.

SEVENTEEN, Music Video for “Call Call Call!” (2018)

Seventeen-Call-call-call-Music-Video-Guido-da-Montefeltro

Citation from Inf. 27.66. Click the image above to access the full music video, released in 2018, on YouTube.

The Inferno Project by Eric Armusik

“I’ve chosen to paint 40 panels at 4ft x 5ft with the intent of displaying them together in the most comprehensive and realistic depiction of the poem to date. The reason for the size is simple, I want these images to take on an almost life-sized presence to draw us in body and soul to the world Dante Alighieri created almost 700 years ago. Because this tremendous undertaking requires vast knowledge on the subject of the Divine Comedy to render accurately, I began immediately searching for the most well-known expert. I was thrilled when Professor Christopher Kleinhenz, a world-renowned Dante scholar agreed to assist me in the creation of this series. For the next few years, we will be working together in the pursuit to create the most accurate visual depiction of the poem. You can see the progress on my blog at this link.  The completion of these paintings will then culminate in a traveling museum exhibition and a large, full-color painting book on the subject narrated by Professor Kleinhenz.  The goal for the projects is set for 2021 – the 700th Anniversary of Dante’s death.”    –Eric Armusik, erikarmusik.com, January 24, 2018

Check out the the project’s completed paintings on Eric Armusik’s website here.