Tracy Daugherty, Dante and the Early Astronomer: Science, Adventure, and a Victorian Woman Who Opened the Heavens (2019)


[…] “Dante and the Early Astronomer is an eclectic and engaging look at the Victorian and Edwardian ages, from the perspective of minor-league astronomers working in the hinterlands. The story centers on Mary Acworth Evershed (pen and maiden name M.A. Orr), an Englishwoman born in 1867. She was a lover of both poetry and the celestial sky, and a trip to Italy at the age of 20 set the foundation for her life’s quest: to closely examine all the astronomical references in Dante’s The Divine Comedy, not only to catch the mistakes but to find the ‘poetic prologue to future discoveries,’ as the author puts it.” […]    –Marcia Bartusiak, The Washington Post, May 24, 2019

“The Hellish Descent of the Central African Republic”

“The death records of the Bangui morgue in the Central African Republic read like a chapter out of Dante’s Inferno: page after page of people killed by machetes, torture, lynchings, shootings, explosions and burning. The overwhelming stench makes it impossible to stay there for long. On really bad days only the number of dead is recorded – not their names nor the causes of death – before the bodies are buried in mass graves

“The morgue is a terrible symbol of the toll of communal violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), which has raged for months and claimed tens of thousands of lives, displacing even more. Recently, the Séléka, a predominantly Muslim group of fighters that seized Bangui, the capital, and toppled the CAR’s government in early 2013, have lost some ground – although they continue to terrorise wherever possible. In response Christian forces known as anti-balaka (balaka means ‘machete’ in Sango, the local language) have stepped up attacks against Muslim civilians in places where the Séléka no longer holds the sway it did a few months ago. ” [. . .]    –Peter Bouckaert, The Telegraph, February 19, 2014.

“On the Road with Dante” – Dante and Protestantism

“What might medieval Catholic poet Dante Alighieri teach Protestants today? A lot, actually. ” [. . .]

“While The Divine Comedy most clearly reflects the Catholic faith of the poet and his medieval world, it hints at some principles the Reformation would bring to bear on the church two centuries later. Dante purposely wrote in a low style that would have popular appeal despite its highly spiritual subject matter. While the church produced works in Latin, Dante wrote in the vernacular. His choice was revolutionary, ensuring the work could and would be read by common men as well as by women and children (who still study the work extensively in Italian schools today).

“Despite its loftiness, The Divine Comedy is firmly grounded in the gritty and the mundane. In fact, Dante didn’t use the word divine in his title. He simply titled it Commedia, which at the time meant a work with a happy ending as opposed to a tragic one. (The word ‘divine’ was added by a later editor and has stuck through the years.) In casting a fictional version of himself as the central figure, The Divine Comedy is prophetically personal, confessional, and autobiographical. In this way it emphasizes a surprisingly modern sense of self-determination, one that foreshadows the famous ‘Protestant work ethic.’ Moreover, in its accent on the salvation and purification of the individual soul, this work of the Catholic Dante anticipates the spiritual autobiographies of Puritans such as John Bunyan. The Divine Comedy is a story of someone seeking salvation. In Dante’s own words, the poem’s purpose is to lead readers from ‘a state of wretchedness to a state of happiness.’ And while depicting salvation in the afterlife, it’s clear Dante intends readers to find abundant life in the here and now.” [. . .]    –Karen Swallow Prior, The Gospel Coalition, October 21, 2015.

“Inferno Strikes Dante’s Bar in U-District”

“Dante’s erupted into a small inferno Tuesday morning after overheated electrical wiring caused a blaze at the popular University District bar.

Firefighters were called about 9 a.m. to the bar in the 5300 block of Roosevelt Way Northeast, dispatch records show. Initial reports described light smoke emanating from the building, but responding firefighters entered the bar to find heavy smoke.

Because Dante’s is made up of three separate buildings that became connected over time, crews experienced difficulty finding the fire and dug through the bar’s walls and ceiling to track it down, Seattle Fire spokesman Kyle Moore said. The blaze has since been brought under control.” [. . .]    –Lynsi Burton, SeattlePI, August 18, 2015.

Unfortunately, in the years since this fire, Dante’s has been permanently closed, with the land bought for apartment development.

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.

Vinson Cunningham, “How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think”

“The  great poetic example of the blurriness between the everyday and the ever after is Dante’s Inferno, which begins with the narrator ‘midway upon the journey of our life,’ having wandered away from the life of God and into a ‘forest dark.’ That wood, full of untamed animals and fears set loose, leads the unwitting pilgrim to Virgil, who acts as his guide through the ensuing ordeal, and whose Aeneid, itself a recapitulation of the Odyssey, acts as a pagan forerunner to the Inferno. This first canto of the poem, regrettably absent from the Book of Hell, reads as a kind of psychological-metaphysical map, marking the strange route along which one person’s private trouble leads both outward and downward, toward the trouble of the rest of the world.

[. . .]

“Insecurity is a tomb; these are the kinds of midlife crises from which few people recover. ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ is as applicable to certain poisonous habits of mind as to the gates of Hell. One leads, inexorably, to the other.” — Vinson Cunningham, “How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think,” Review of The Penguin Book of Hell in The New Yorker (January 21, 2019)

How a Museum Reckons With Black Pain (2016)

A woman passes a display depicting the Mexico Olympic protest during a media preview at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2016. The museum will open to the public on September 24. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. - RTSNR10

A woman passes a display depicting the Mexico Olympic protest during a media preview at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2016.

“The Smithsonian’s new memorial of African American history and culture is at once triumphant and crushing.” […]

“The descent and ascent achieve an effect similar to Dante’s harrowing journey in Inferno, and the walk upwards through Reconstruction, Redemption, the civil-rights movement, and into the present day is a reminder of the constant push and pull of horror and protest.”    –Vann R. Newkirk II, The Atlantic, September 23, 2016

Contributed by Pamela Montanaro

“Map of Hell” on National Geographic Channel (May 2016)

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“Short of booking Satan himself, the National Geographic Channel could not have found a better celebrity guide than Danny Trejo for its Sunday special, “Map of Hell.” Mr. Trejo is everything you want in an underworld escort: scary, snarly, seeming as if he could reach out of the television set, slash your throat and eat you at any moment.

Credit his persona from the movies, where he tends to play extremely nasty characters. He takes enthusiastic advantage of that image here as he leads a tour of the evolution of ideas about hell, beginning with Virgil and proceeding to early Christianity, Dante, evangelicals and so on, with side trips to things like horror movies. […]”

–Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times, May 13, 2016

See also, Mark Strauss, “The Campaign to Eliminate Hell,” National Geographic, May 13, 2016

Deborah Parker and Mark Parker, Inferno Revealed: From Dante to Dan Brown (2013)

Deborah Parker and Mark Parker, Inferno Revealed: From Dante to Dan Brown (2013)“Using Dan Brown’s book as a jumping off point, Inferno Revealed will provide readers of Brown’s Inferno with an engaging introduction to Dante and his world. Much like the books on Leonardo that followed the release of the Da Vinci Code, this book will provide readers with more information about the ever-intriguing Dante. Specifically, Inferno Revealed explores how Dante made himself the protagonist of The Divine Comedy, something no other epic poet has done, a move for which the ramifications have not yet been fully explored. The mysteries and puzzles that arise from Dante’s choice to personalize the epic, along with his affinity for his local surroundings and how that affects his depiction of the places, Church, and politics in the poem are considered–along with what this reveals about Brown’s own usage of the work.
The authors will focus on and analyze how Dan Brown has repurposed Inferno in his newest book–noting what he gets right and what errors are made when he does not. Of course, Dan Brown is not the first author to base his work on Dante. The Comedy has elicited many adaptations from major canonical writers such as Milton and Keats to popular adaptations like David Fincher’s Se7en and Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice– all of which will be discussed in detail within Inferno Revealed.”    —Amazon

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“In this sneak peek into Inferno, Dan Brown’s brand new novel, Interpreting Dan Brown’s Inferno will provide readers with an engaging introduction to Dante and his world—and the ways in which Brown has repurposed Dante’s famous work in his newest Robert Langdon novel. This teaser explores the Prologue and first chapter of Inferno and details to the reader what important facts—and mistakes—they should be aware of while beginning Brown’s book. The connection between the Prologue’s narrator, aptly named “the Shade,” and Langdon is exposed, and the characters are even further illuminated by their relationship to Dante’s poem.  The reader will come away with an understanding of what Dante’s poem can reveal about these characters and the mystifying city of Florence—and perhaps, where the rest of the book may lead.”    —Amazon

Historyteachers, “The Divine Comedy” (Blondie, “Rapture”)

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Click image above to watch video.

Contributed by Lisa Flannagan