“Dante Alighieri, Florentine Exile and Writer”

dante-alighieri-florentine-exile-and-writer-2021Nowadays Dante Alighieri is primarily remembered as the author of the Divine Comedy, but there was a lot more to him than that. Politician and poet, he ended his life in exile from a city which he had once ruled. He elevated the language of the common man in order to give literature to the people, and laid the foundation stone that Italy’s Renaissance would be built upon. The exact year of Dante Alighieri’s birth isn’t recorded, but it’s been estimated as being around 1265 by working back from the age he gave for himself later in life. His father, Alighiero di Bellincione, was either a moneylender, a lawyer or both. Either way he was a solid middle-class professional, active in politics without being prominent enough to suffer consequences when those politics turned nasty. At the time there were two political factions in the independent Italian city-states, reflecting the two poles of power they were caught between. On one side were the Ghibellines, who supported the Holy Roman Empire. [1] On the other side were the Guelphs, who aligned themselves with the Pope and more generally with the idea of autonomy for the city-states. At least, that was the theory; by the 13th century they had become basically fronts for local rivalries and power-broking. That didn’t make the battles they fought any less vicious though, with thousands being killed in the Battle of Montaperta five years before Dante was born. Like most Florentines his father was a Guelph, and Dante would be raised in that faction as well.” [. . .]    —

Dinaw Mengestu, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007)

“Dinaw Mengestu belongs to that special group of American voices produced by global upheavals and intentional, if sometimes forced, migrations. These are the writer-immigrants coming here from Africa, East India, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Their struggles for identity mark a new turn within the ranks of American writers I like to call ‘the in-betweeners.’ The most interesting work in American literature has often been done by such writers, their liminality and luminosity in American culture produced by changing national definitions (Twain, Kerouac, Ginsberg), by being the children of immigrants themselves (Bellow, Singer), by voluntary exile (Baldwin, Hemingway) and by trauma (Bambara, Morrison).

[. . .]

“Judith, a white woman who moves into the predominantly black Logan Circle, becomes Sepha’s Beatrice, and, as with Dante, she leads him from his exile to purgatory and, eventually, to redemption. They meet over the counter in Sepha’s store, which is where all the community eventually comes together – to buy, to hang out, to shoplift, to receive and pass along gossip. Sepha’s relationship with Judith is facilitated by the wonderful connection he has to Judith’s precocious daughter, Naomi. And like Dante and Beatrice, they have a love that remains fraught and unconsummated but powerful and transformative nonetheless. Part of the difficulty is that Judith represents the new wave of gentrification and Sepha’s decision to date her is seen as an act of betrayal by the other residents. Neighborhood tensions build because of Judith (since she symbolizes the oppressor), and her home is firebombed by local thugs. Sepha’s own redemption and the choice he makes in this matter are what shape his new self.”   –Chris Abani, “Dante, Beatrice in a narrative of immigration,” The Baltimore Sun (March 11, 2007)

Contributed by Francesco Ciabattoni (Georgetown University)

Dante receives his COVID-19 vaccine

Posted to Instagram by La Repubblica and L’Espresso Settimanale illustrator Mauro Biani (@maurobia) on Dantedì (March 25) 2021. The image was also shared on La Repubblica.

Contributed by Carmelo Galati (Temple University)

Victoria Ocampo, Autobiografía II: La rama de Salzburgo (1980)

“Victoria utilizará también una serie de referentes literarios, teniendo siempre como principal a la pareja Francesca y Paolo, dos amantes que aparecen en la Divina Comedia en el Canto V del Infierno. Dante habla con ellos y siente gran compasión por su amor, de modo que entabla un diálogo con ellos – algo que el autor no hace con casi nadie de los personajes en los tres libros. Asimismo, habla de Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Emily Brönte, entre otros.”   –Review on El buen librero (August 8, 2014)

Ocampo also published De Francesca à Beatrice, a commentary on Dante’s Divine Comedy, in 1923.

Heidi Wastweet’s Dante Medal (2006)

Dante Inventing Beatrice 10″ x 13″ Cast Bronze Limited Edition of 20

“I challenge this romantic notion of love. I see this Beatrice we know as an invention of Dante’s imagination. Here Dante, near death, is remembering the young beautiful Beatrice as he conjured her, never even having had an intimate conversation or ever having touched her. Did he regret having constrained himself by other peoples’ standards? Or did it bring him peace to keep her safely, purely, in his head? Did she know? Did she love him back? As he lay dying he imagines she is on the other side waiting to greet him. His isolated hand reaches out longingly but touches her only on the very pages that he wrote.”   —Heidi Wastweet

Heidi Wastweet is a leading American Medallist and sculptor working in the San Francisco Bay area. In conjunction with a wide variety of private mints she has produced over 1000 coins, medals, and tokens since 1987. […]”.
American Medallic Sculpture Association

Contributed by Ying Zheng

Anthony Valerio, Dante in Love (2017)

Dante in Love is a modern re-telling of the immortal love story of Dante and Beatrice. The power and beauty of their original story of unrequited love shines through with new insights and accessible prose.”    —Amazon

See Anthony Valerio’s website for more information

Dante and Beatrice, Florence, Italy

dante-and-beatrice-florence-italy-2021

“Typical Tuscan restaurant in the heart of Florence both for our history and for our position.” [. . .]    —Dante and Beatrice.

To find more about this restaurant visit the website here.

Andy Warhol at Ristorante Dante e Beatrice (Naples, Italy, circa 1980)

Andy Warhol at Ristorante Dante e Beatrice (Naples, Italy) circa 1980
Copyright © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc
Stanford University Libraries

Contributed by Sabrina Lin (Bowdoin College, ’21)

Ying Zheng, poetry (2020)


Out of the Ante-Inferno
After Gustave Doré’s Charon, the Ferryman of Hell

Fear not the wrath of God!
Those who are beckoned here
Know better than to comply.

Below the sullen skies,
Where stars hardly survive,
Stand pale precipices

Guarding the dim muzzle
Of a deadly, sodden
Passage, and listening

To it ceaselessly burp,
Bellow, bawl, and belch
Out a whirl of white spume.

Forward! Forward! The oar
That no one can wrench free
From his grip grunts and gasps,

[…]

Read the full poem here, along with two others: “Inferno” and “Dante and Beatrice.”

Ying Zheng was born and grew up in Shanxi, China, where she received her first Master’s degree from Shanxi University, and has since been working for the English Department of Taiyuan Normal University. In 2019, she earned her second Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, England. While in Lancaster, she had the privilege of studying a module on “Visualising the Poem” under Professor Paul Farley. Under the guidance of Dr. Eoghan Walls, her first poetry tutor and mentor, she completed a portfolio of ekphrastic poetry mainly based on visual arts on the subject of Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy. Currently she is pursuing PhD studies at Renmin University of China, Beijing, China. In a recent national creative writing competition held by Sun Yat-Sen University, she won the second prize with her poem “The Heavily Armoured Eyes.”

“Alasdair Gray’s Translation of Dante’s Purgatory

“Following on from his translation of Hell (published last year), Alasdair Gray has turned his attention to the second part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Unlike Lanark, Gray’s epic debut novel from 1981, Purgatory is a short read at around 130 pages. It is divided into 33 cantos – essentially chapters – each of which are divided in turn into three-line stanzas. The plot is linear: guided by the poet Virgil, Dante must ascend Mount Purgatory in order to be reunited with his love Beatrice. Along the way, he encounters the poor souls forced to linger in heaven’s waiting room until they are cleansed of their earthly sins. As in Hell, the narrative is littered with historical figures, for instance ‘Cato, Caesar’s foe, who stabbed himself / rather than see the Roman Empire kill / the glorious Republic that he loved.’ Reading Purgatory, written in the early 14th century, it is easy to see the crucial role Dante played in the Renaissance, when Italian artists rediscovered the glories of antiquity.”    –Chris Dobson, The Herald, November 17, 2019

Check out our original post on Alasdair Gray’s Hell here.