“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.

“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.” [. . .]    —

“Tutti pazzi per Dante,” puntata di La lingua batte (RAI Radio 3)

“‘Tutti pazzi per Dante’ è il titolo della puntata odierna della Lingua Batte alla luce delle innumerevoli iniziative e pubblicazioni previste per il settimo centenario della morte del poeta #Dante2021. Con l’occasione si inaugura una nuova rubrica, Dante tascabile, in cui il linguista Giuseppe Patota per 12 settimane terrà delle mini lecturae dantis che di concludono tutte con una canzone pop, a conferma delle infinite declinazioni di popolarità attribuibili allo scrittore fiorentino. Tra gli altri ospiti del conduttore Paolo Di Paolo lo studioso Enrico Malato, curatore della Divina Commedia pubblicata dall’editrice Salerno, e Laura Banella che, per le Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, l’anno scorso ha firmato il saggio Rime e libri delle rime di Dante tra Medioevo e Rinascimento. Nello spazio musicale la cantautrice Flo presenta il suo ultimo album ’31salvitutti’. Infine, Cristina Faloci intervista l’italianista Giulio Ferroni a proposito del volume L’Italia di Dante. Viaggio nel paese della Commedia uscito per La Nave di Teseo nel 2019.”   –Description from RAI Radio 3

Click here to access the podcast episode, which aired on RAI Radio 3 on January 17, 2021.

Contributed by Carmelo Giunta

Adoyo, Rain: A Song for All and None (2020)

Adoyo’s Rain: A Song for All and None is a genre-crossing novel published by Zamani Chronicles in 2020. Rain is at the same time the oral history of several generations of a fictional Kenyan family, centered on Maya, a Dream Walker—endowed with a clairvoyance that grants Dreamers a cross-temporal empathic vision of human history—and an incisive interrogation of the history of colonial conquest in Africa. In the “Afterword” Adoyo (a scholar and teacher of Dante) describes the relationship of the novel’s relationship to the Divine Comedy:

“And each of the multitude voices and stories flowing into Rain is a vital tributary to a dynamic polyphony that explores and illuminates the conflict between sanitized histories of colonialist aggression and the unvarnished accounts of their savagery. It will not surprise readers familiar with the voice of Dante Alighieri’s Commedia that the Great Poet’s most important animating influence in Rain is the way it emboldens this story to draw back the veil of recorded History and bear witness, with an unflinching and conscientious gaze, to the brutality of the agents of colonial dominion — figures celebrated for the Age of Discovery whose incursions wreaked unconscionable horrors on peoples around the world for Coin in the name of Church and Crown and set the precedent for presumptuous appropriations like the Scramble for Africa centuries later. The poetic voice of Dante artifex also permeates the comprehensive structure of Rain, from its general architecture to the network of internal memory manifest in the story’s narrative refrains, as well as the musical rhythm and flow of the storyteller’s language. The most dulcet tones of Dante’s voice resonate deeply in the contemplative strains of Rain devoted to singing the unspoiled beauty of Nature in the bounty of Africa’s expansive savanna grasslands, gleaming equatorial mountain glaciers, opulent Rift Valley, cascading waters and wending rivers, and shimmering Great Lakes.”   –From the “Afterword” of Adoyo’s Rain: A Song for All and None (Zamani Chronicles, 2020)

Lawrence M. Ludlow, “Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Divine Origins of the Free Market”

lawrence-ludlow-dantes-origins-divine-comedy-and-the-divine-origins-of-the-free-market

“We already are familiar with the Marxian social gospel that is so popular among many current theologians and their followers. In the verses I will cite, Dante himself voices an understanding of the marketplace that shares this erroneous communitarian view of economics. In particular, he describes his adherence to what is known among libertarians as the fallacy of zero-sum economics. Those who hold the zero-sum view claim that in a free marketplace, the gains of one participant are exactly balanced by the losses of another. If the total of the gains and losses are added up, the sum will be zero. In other words, if the sum total of all wealth were embodied in a single chocolate cake, one person’s share of cake would be another’s loss. Furthermore, the addition of each new market participant requires the slicing of thinner and thinner pieces of this cake. We libertarians, of course, despise this theory. If it were correct, the seven billion inhabitants of planet Earth would now be sharing and dividing infinitesimally small pieces of the very same chocolate cake that was first made available in the mists of Mexican pre-history. If such were true, I frankly wonder if there would be so much as a single calorie available to any of us – and very stale calories at that. Furthermore, the current spectacle of American obesity appears to belie this interpretation without my assistance.

“But as soon as Dante expresses his zero-sum analysis of marketplace economics, Virgil – who acts as Dante’s divinely appointed guide throughout his journey down into the Inferno and during his wonderful ascent of the Purgatorio – immediately upbraids him and provides the correct alternative, an unabashed free-market perspective. In Dante’s poem, this perspective is a reflection of the divine perspective of God. Let’s now examine the text itself.” [. . .]    –Lawrence M. Ludlow, Strike The Root, May 14, 2013.

“Writing/Righting Your Life the Dante Way,” a Coffee & Cocktails podcast episode (2020)

Podcast-Writing-Righting-your-life-the-Dante-Way“‘Writing/Righting Your Life the Dante Way,’ Or ‘How to awaken your potential, pin-point your goals, and discover a way forward in tough times’ with Dr. Kristin Stasiowski of Kent State University.

“This incredible talk by Dr. Stasiowski speaks to the importance of learning from our past and how historical literature can be a source of inspiration and motivation especially during dark times.”   —The Coffee & Cocktails Podcast with Dr. Ann Wand (November 23, 2020)

Alessandro Barbero’s “Lezione su Dante e il Potere” (2020)

alessandro-barbero-lezione-su-dante-e-il-potere-2020“Grazie alla consolidata collaborazione con la Casa Editrice Laterza, la Fondazione del Teatro Grande propone per questa Stagione una speciale Lezione di Storia che vede protagonista Alessandro Barbero, storico e scrittore italiano tra i più acclamati degli ultimi tempi. Domenica 18 ottobre alle 15.30, anticipando gli eventi legati alle celebrazioni per i 700 anni dalla morte del Sommo Poeta, il Professor Barbero darà vita a una imperdibile Lezione sul tema “Dante e il potere.” Un incontro che insisterà soprattutto sulla grande passione di Dante per la politica.

“Oltre alla poesia, e a Beatrice, la politica è stata la passione dominante di Dante. Non solo la politica fatta di riflessione teorica e di alti ideali, ma quella concreta e sporca, fatta di gestione del potere, di lotte fra correnti, di disciplina di partito e di appoggio agli amici, di interventi in aula e di votazioni pilotate, di scelte drammatiche e di espedienti meschini. Alla fine della sua carriera lo aspettava un processo – politico anch’esso – per malversazioni e abuso di potere, un processo che gli sarebbe costato l’esilio, e grazie a cui noi oggi abbiamo la Commedia.

“Alessandro Barbero è considerato uno dei più originali storici italiani ed è noto al largo pubblico per i suoi libri – saggi e romanzi – e per le sue collaborazioni televisive. Studioso di prestigio, insegna Storia medievale presso l’Università del Piemonte Orientale, sede di Vercelli.” [. . .]    —QuiBresica.it, October 14, 2020

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.

In the Footsteps of Dante 2018

“Dr. Alvis has led us with the right blend of overview patterns and delicious historical tidbits as he weaves the narrative of Dante’s Renaissance world through its fragmented political entities, community structures, waves of republican and tyrannical governments, along with the artists and architects that illuminate the countless points of light on this complex palate. At the center of all is the narrative of Dante himself, and both the secular and religious references and implications of his works.”    –Montrose School, In the Footsteps of Dante 2018, June 22, 2018

Dante’s Tour of Hell

“All hope abandon ye who enter here.”

“That’s the inscription on the gate to Hell in one of the first English translations of The Divine Comedy, by Henry Francis Cary, in 1814. You probably know it as the less tongue-twisting ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here,’ which is the epigraph for Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, hangs as a warning above the entrance to the Disney theme park ride Pirates of the Caribbean, appears in the videogame World of Warcraft, and has been repurposed as a lyric by The Gaslight Anthem.

“But it’s just one line of the 14,233 that make up The Divine Comedy, the three-part epic poem published in 1320 by Florentine bureaucrat turned visionary storyteller Dante Alighieri. 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.” […]    –Christian Blauvelt, BBC, June 5, 2018