“Dante’s Cosmic Inferno

“In Dante’s Inferno – the first part of The Divine Comedy – the poet describes Hell as a series of nine concentric circles, each representing an order of wickedness greater than the one that preceded it until finally arriving at the center of the Earth, where Satan is imprisoned. One might imagine his depiction of Hell as something like an infernal, subterranean solar system with locked Hellish loops acting as parallel universes of sin under the relentless pressure of poetic justice revolving around the embodiment of evil. As one might expect, the Inferno is filled with images of fire – the classical elemental symbol long associated with divine wrath and punishment – with unsettling and supernatural, near-animistic qualities. In Canto XII, for example, those who’ve committed acts of violence are condemned to eternal immersion in the river Phlegethon, described by Dante as consisting of boiling blood, but originally imagined by the Greeks as a river of fire: the name itself means ‘flaming.’ His other Hells are no less unpleasant.

“Had Dante been allowed access to, say, radio telescopes and modern technology, he might well have imagined justice being meted out to souls trapped on Hellish exoplanets: intemperate places – some worlds of fire, others of ice – where not even the faintest idea of life can persist amidst cosmic severity. ” [. . .]    –K.S. Anthony, Outer Places, July 11, 2018.

Check out the circles of Hell as planets on Outer Places.

From Dante’s Circles of Hell to Academic Freedom

“The focus of Hindrik Mulder’s research is on the metabolism of insulin-producing beta cells. The question he studies is what goes wrong in type 2 diabetes: why do the insulin-producing beta cells fail? Why are they no longer able to release as much insulin as is needed to keep blood sugar levels under control?

“’The cells’ powerhouses – mitochondria – play a key role in this. The mitochondria give the cells energy and control their metabolism. However, if their workings are disturbed, the beta cells are not able to respond with sufficient insulin release when blood sugar levels rise, and this results in diabetes’, says Hindrik Mulder.” —  Tord Ajanki and Hanna Mellors, Lund University Diabetes Centre, December 10, 2018

Read the rest of the article here.

Charles Patterson, In Dante’s Footsteps: My Journey to Hell

“This modern divine comedy, based on the original Divine Comedy that Dante wrote 700 years ago, tells the story of Tom Reed and how his early interest in Dante inspired him to make his own viaggio (journey) to the Underworld.

“After describing Tom’s church upbringing and his joining, then leaving the church, the story continues in the Underworld (a.k.a. Hell) with a cast of characters Dante never could have imagined: Tanya, the CEO; Umberto, the Guest Master; Rachel, a young Dante scholar from Berkeley; visitors from China, India, Kenya, and Germany; and famous people in history woken up from the Big Nap for a ‘Great Minds and Personalities’ conference attended by such greats as Socrates, Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, Einstein, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Groucho Marx. Tom also visits his father who’s in a ‘Purgatory precinct’ and talks to Hashem, his ‘wife’ Naomi, and somebody called Satan who wears a cowboy hat and walks with a swagger.

“The climax of Tom’s viaggio is his visit to the Crusaders who used to be in charge because he wants to include them in the book he plans to write that could make him the next Dante. However, because the Crusaders disapprove of his being a ‘defrocked priest,’ when he arrives, they withdraw their invitation and put him on trial.” — Charles Patterson, Press Release

The Forgotten Inferno: Tinderbox and the Up Stairs Lounge Fire”

“It was 45 years ago this month that a man bought a can of Ronsonol lighter fluid at a Walgreens on Canal Street, walked to the Up Stairs Lounge, emptied its contents on the stairs and struck a match. Within minutes, the bar was engulfed in flames and choking smoke. Ceiling tiles and fabric melted and stuck like napalm to the skins of the people inside. With the entrance blocked and the windows barred, an emergency exit hidden and a fire escape with no stairs, patrons were trapped.

“Though the blaze was controlled in 17 minutes, firefighters found the room a crematorium with 28 bodies inside — ‘stacked like pancakes,’ in the words of The States-Item the next morning. Four more people died from injuries in the days afterward. (Had bartender Buddy Rasmussen not led 15 to 20 people out the hidden emergency exit, the death toll would have been higher.) The bodies were burned so badly that positive identification was impossible; New Orleans Police Department officers relied on scraps of identification. One of them, Maj. Henry Morris, cautioned, ‘We don’t even know if these papers belonged to the people we found them on. Some thieves hung out there, and you know this is a queer bar.’

“‘The fire came quickly and it was snuffed out quickly,’ wrote Lanny Thomas in The States-Item. ‘But the holocaust is one of the worst this city has seen.’ The Times-Picayune’s headline compared the scene to ‘DANTE’S INFERNO, HITLER’S INCINERATORS.'” [. . .]    –Kevin Allman, The Advocate, June 11, 2018.

The Six Circles of Hangover Hell

1st Circle: The Ducked Bullet 
No pain. No real feeling of illness. Your sleep was deep and all those carbo-loaded beers have gifted you with a week’s worth of misplaced energy. During lunch you torture your less fortunate coworkers, bragging about how you can pound booze all night, drink warm gin out of a dirty ashtray for breakfast, and still show up fifteen minutes early for work. You crave a steak sub and a side of gravy fries.” — The Drunkard Staff, Modern Drunkard Magazine, August 5, 2018

Read the rest of the article here.6-circles-hangover-hell

Camp Fire in Paradise, CA (2018)

california-2018-paradise-fire“The burned-out wrecks of abandoned cars lining the roads out of this once-picturesque mountain town bear silent witness to residents’ frantic efforts escape the hellish advance of the raging Camp Fire.

“Tires melted down to their steel belts. Windows blown out. Paint evaporated. Rims liquefied and then solidified after running down the pavement. Fire leaping across the road.

‘It just looked like Dante’s Inferno,’ said evacuee John Yates, 65. ‘Black and red was all you could see.'” — Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY, November 10, 2018

Read more about the fire here.

Chris Orr, Divine Comedy – not waving but drowning (2018)

chris-orr-divine-comedy-not-waving-but-drowning“As part of the ongoing Academicians in Focus series, The Miserable Lives of Fabulous Artists exhibition presents around 28 new unique works on paper by Chris Orr RA. His eclectic range of subjects includes some of the great names from art history, such as John Constable, Vincent van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Frida Kahlo, Edvard Munch, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso, all of whom he depicts using a characteristically humorous visual language. With extraordinary attention to detail, Orr portrays each artist in a scenario that elaborates inventively around well known elements of their life and art.

“‘Artists have a lonely job and success is often elusive,’ says Orr. ‘Life in the studio is not all it’s cracked up to be, but it is there that dross can be turned into gold. Each of my Miseries is subjected to the cliché and reputations that haunt them.

“‘In his paintings and etchings Reginald Marsh gave us a vision of a dystopian ‘utopia’ in Manhattan and on Coney Island Beach. […] There are photographs of Marsh drawing at Coney Island, dressed in a grey flannel suit – a very different outfit to the holidaymakers. He stands like Dante on his epic journey, observing the bodies of the tormented souls around him.'” — Artwork description from Royal Academy Shop

See more of Chris Orr’s work on his website.

Contributed by Claudia Rossignoli

Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built (2018)

The-House-That-Jack-Built-Dante-Delacroix

“Director Lars von Trier has shared a new piece of art for his controversial The House That Jack Built that echoes Eugène Delacroix’s ‘The Barque Of Dante’ (1822), which is loosely based on fictional events taken from canto eight of Dante’s Inferno.

“’A leaden, smoky mist and the blazing City of the Dead form the backdrop against which the poet Dante endures a fearful crossing of the River Styx,’ wiki explains. ‘He is steadied by the learned poet of antiquity Virgil as they plough through waters heaving with tormented souls.’

“In the film, Matt Dillon (Wayward Pines) stars as a serial killer who views each of his murders as a work of art.” — Brad Miska, “The House That Jack Built Art Recreates Dante’s Inferno,” Bloody Disgusting, May 16, 2018

Throughout the film, Jack confesses his exploits in a retrospective narrative to a character named “Verge,” a nod to Virgil, voiced by Bruno Ganz and pictured in the role of Virgil in the image above.

Refund High School (2018)

Refund-High-School-DanteThe fantasy webcomic Refund High School by South Korean artist LICO features an infernal spirit named Dante (see image). Here is the synopsis of the comic, provided on the site webtoons.com: “Do you want a refund on your life? Start earning karma at The Refund High School to reincarnate as an ideal version of yourself.”

Contributor Savannah Mikus notes, “The students take a field trip to hell, specifically in Chapter 53 they visit “Glutton’s Hell” where the spirits have an insatiable hunger.”

Contributed by Savannah Mikus (Florida State University, 2020)

Cartoonist Steve Bell’s “Brexit Hell”

Steve-Bell-Brexit-Hell-Cartoons-TreacheryIn early December 2018 British cartoonist Steve Bell published a series of Dante-inspired images in his If… cartoon strip. Adapting Doré’s illustrations of Cocytus (with one addition from the Malebolge), Bell’s cartoons comment on the Parliamentary Debate over Brexit. Contributor Nick Havely glosses, “[the cartoons] depict Theresa May’s journey through ‘Brexit Hell’ accompanied by Arlene Foster (leader of the N. Ireland ultra-Protestant DUP on whom May is dependent for her majority). The Dantean sequence began on 29 November and seems to have culminated last Thursday [6 December] in an encounter with Trump as Lucifer.”

The If… cartoons can be viewed on The Guardian‘s website at the following links: Nov 29, Dec 3, Dec 4, Dec 5, and Dec 6.

Contributed by Nick Havely