Matthew Pearl, “What Writers Can Learn From Dante—Seriously, From Dante”

matthew-pearl-what-writers-can-learn-from-dante“As a reader and writer, I was always drawn to historical fiction; later, I added writing narrative nonfiction to my interests, often with a historical bent. Dante’s Comedy projects a variety of lessons in those arenas. Dante recruits mythological and historical figures and mixes them into a high stakes story filled with danger and risk, much like we often do in historical fiction. In the process, Dante sometimes reshapes our perspective on those figures. Ulysses, for example, appears during Dante’s trek through hell, and Ulysses’s brief monologue marks one of the most striking versions of that character outside of Homer. Dante, of course, was not perfect, and his refashioning of his own persona through the course of the poem conceals some of his questionable life choices, including his failure to try to reunite with his wife and family after his political exile. As modern readers, we also have to contend with the fact that Dante’s attitudes toward other religions (outside of Catholicism, and an idiosyncratic version of Catholicism, at that) is very problematic.

“Purgatory is the middle child of Dante’s poem, sandwiched between the terrors of hell’s punishments and the heights of salvation in heavenly paradise. But Purgatory was always my personal favorite canticle (Dante’s term for each of the three sections). This canticle contains the most dramatic storytelling structure, in which Dante must carve out an independent track from his mentor Virgil (one of the historical and literary figures recruited into the story), and must rediscover his lost love, Beatrice (another historical figure). Beatrice’s appearance is one of the more surprising moments of the whole poem. I still have the first copy of Purgatory I read in college, and I remember reading the scene in which we finally meet Beatrice while on the edge of my seat.” [. . .]    –Matthew Pearl, Crime Reads, September 16, 2019.

Check out more of Matthew Pearl’s work here.

Jasmine Serna’s Measuring Love with Cups

“One of the most profound ways I’ve learned to see the world is based off a lesson in a class I took about Dante’s The Divine Comedy. My professor Dr. Glyer was explaining Dante’s vision of heaven in Paradiso.

“She brought up many different sized cups to the front of the classroom — some were tall and skinny, others short and wide, some small, others big. She explained that the cups represented each person’s capacity to love. The bigger the cup, the bigger the capacity to love.

“She explained that our cups were always changing while we’re alive. All of our little daily actions — from returning an item someone dropped, to listening to a friend in need, to showing patience for children — increase or decrease our cup size.

“Then she explained that in Dante’s spheres of heaven, the cup size we end up with at the end of our lives determines where we’ll end up in heaven. No matter our cup size, though, all of our cups will be completely full.”   –Jasmine Serna, Medium, 2019

Robert King on CBS’s Evil (2019)

CBS-TV-Series-Evil-2019-Season-1-Colter-Herbers-MandviIn an interview about the CBS series Evil (2019), showrunner Robert King made reference to the show’s resonance with Dante’s Inferno:

“Having the potential of 60 evil friends opens the show up to the possibility of a string of guest stars. This also gives the writers a good opportunity to go into the wide variety of types evil the Kings want to examine in society. ‘Some may be in the White House. Some may be in ICE. There are elements of evil all around so it’s a great world to explore. Dante had so much fun putting people in hell,’ Robert King extrapolated tongue-in-cheek.”  –Heather Taylor, “Exploring the Roots of Evil, a New Series on CBS,” Script Magazine (October 28, 2019)

See also the appearance of Doré’s Inferno illustrations in S01E07, posted here.

Evil (S01E07), CBS

CBS-Evil-Season1-Episode7-Herbers-Mandvi-Colter

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“In the television show Evil (2019, CBS) in Season 1, Episode 7, the main character receives a drawing in a journal given to her daughter by a demon, and the drawing is a sigil ‘from’ the Lesser Key of Solomon. When they research the sigil, they find it represents a demon called ‘Anatas’ who the show explains as a king of demons. While researching, they show multiple plates from the Doré illustrations from Dante’s Inferno. It is worth noting, however, that while the Lesser Key of Solomon is a real document, the symbols from the show are not exactly the same as the ones from the document, and the Lesser Key of Solomon was written after Dante’s time.”   –Contributor Alex Lee

See a recap of the episode on TV Guide‘s website.

Contributed by Robert (Alex) Lee (Florida State University ’21)

Dante, Virginia

 

“One such community is a former coal camp just north of St. Paul, Virginia. The unincorporated community of Dante, population 650, is enriched by its history and culture. Formerly the headquarters of Clinchfield Coal Corporation, Dante is located about 8 miles off of U.S. Route 58 Alternate, nestled cozily in the mountains and near the Clinch River. Dante is envisioning a path towards economic transition and vitality. In March 2016 the community formed the Dante Community Association (DCA), an all-volunteer group of residents and organizations that are striving to transform the town through the development and implementation of a strategic plan funded by numerous grants and partnerships.”    –Sara Lamb, Appalachian Voices, October 25, 2019

La Porta dell’Inferno – Beyond the Gate

“After Beyond the Castle’s success, we embarked in a new project that celebrates Italian culture. Together with the most prestigious school of Milan, the Collegio San Carlo, we created a new virtual reality experience that focuses on Dante’s Divine Comedy. In The Hell’s Gate students can embody Dante and walk through the dark forest. This will allow them to approach this masterpiece in an innovative and engaging way.”    —Beyond the Gate, 2019

“Parenting Hell” from Litterbox Comics

Posted October 27, 2019, on Litterbox Comics.

“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)

“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

Garry Shead Online Art Gallery

Online gallery of artist Garry Shead’s Divine Comedy inspired work.

Check out our original post on Garry Shead here.