“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

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.

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.

Sherman Irby’s Inferno

“Hell’s never sounded as suave and soulful as it does on Sherman Irby’s Inferno by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) with Wynton Marsalis. Irby, the lead alto saxophonist for the JLCO, cleverly interprets Dante Alighieri’s epic poem from The Divine Comedy to create a sweeping work that takes listeners on a lyrically swinging tour of the underworld’s nine circles.

“The epic composition, recorded live in 2012, lets the JLCO’s all-star improvisers give life to the colorful denizens of hell and casts the late, legendary baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley as the voice of Dante. Irby’s Inferno both stands alone as an irresistible musical narrative and sheds new light on Dante’s classic; this unique exploration of the epic poem captures its timeless quality and ingeniously places it in conversation with the jazz canon.”   —wyntonmarsalis.org

You can download the album or access it through various streaming services here.

Recorded May 19, 2012.

Released January 17, 2020.

Sherman Irby discussed his work on Inferno, his circuitous path to Dante (starting with a Divine Comedy anime!), and his plans to set all three canticles to music at the webinar “African American Interpretations of Dante’s Divine Comedy” (Oct 4, 2020).

See our previous posts on Irby’s Inferno here and here.

Frank Bruni, “From Trump, No Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the Rules”

Photo by Gage Skidmore (Wikimedia Commons)

“‘The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,’ Trump told supporters at a rally in Wisconsin last month. He has repeatedly made versions of that claim, at one point exhorting North Carolinians to monitor polling sites and ‘watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing’ by Democrats, who will work to lift Biden to victory by ‘doing very bad things.’

“And it’s a perfect example of Trump’s tendency to assign his own motives and methods to others. He worries that they’ll cheat because he has always cheated — on his taxes, on his wives, in his business dealings, in his philanthropy. He imagines them cheating because he actually is cheating.

[. . .]

“But Trump’s cheating is its own virus, infecting everyone around him. Trump’s cheating is its own ecosystem. Abandon all scruple, ye who enter here.”   — Frank Bruni, “From Trump, No Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the Rules,” New York Times (September 19, 2020)

Contributed by Dan Christian

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.’

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue S01E02

“On Season 1 Episode 2 of Rupaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue, Yvie Oddly claims that she is ‘in the seventh circle of hell’ when describing the chaos backstage of a live performance.”   –Contributor Ellie Marvin

Watch the full episode, which aired August 28, 2020, on VH1.

Contributed by Ellie Marvin (Florida State University MA ’21)

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)