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

Margaret Wertheim on Science and God

“Centuries after Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, contemplated the relationship between science and religion, and decades after Carl Sagan did the same in his exquisite Varieties of Scientific Experience, physicist-turned-science-writer Margaret Wertheim offers perhaps the most elegant and emboldening reconciliation of these two frequently contrasted approaches to the human longing for truth and meaning.

“Wertheim is the creator of the PBS documentary Faith and Reason, author of deeply thoughtful books like Pythagoras’s Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender War and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, and cofounder of The Institute for Figuring — ‘an organization dedicated to the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science, mathematics and engineering’.”

“[Wertheim:] ‘I don’t know that I believe in the existence of God in the Catholic sense. But my favorite book is the Divine Comedy. And at the end of the Divine Comedy, Dante pierces the skin of the universe and comes face-to-face with the love that moves the sun and the other stars. I believe that there is a love that moves the sun and the other stars. I believe in Dante’s vision.'”   –Maria Popova, “Dante and the Eternal Quest for Nonreligious Divinity,” Brainpickings, 2015

See the full article here.

Natsume Sōseki, The Wayfarer (Kojin) (1912)

“[I]t gradually becomes clear that marriages good and bad, arranged and romantic are constants in this narrative. Suffering from a kind of existential crisis, Ichiro’s marriage to Nao is in trouble. Ichiro even suspects that his feckless younger brother Jiro has been carrying on with Nao, and voices despairing references to Paolo and Francesca from Dante’s Inferno. The third part of the book covers the period after they all return to Tokyo from their travels. As Ichiro and Nao’s marriage continues to deteriorate, Nao is tight-lipped, refusing to argue or complain, while Ichiro seems close to a nervous breakdown.”   –B. Morrison, “The Wayfarer (Kojin), by Natsume Sōseki” (March 22, 2010)

See also our post on Sōseki’s 1908 novel The Miner.

Purg. 2, Alison Cornish and Leonardo Chiarantini for “Canto per Canto: Conversations with Dante in Our Time”

“Dante has just arrived in Purgatory and runs into an old friend — but finds he cannot embrace him. The souls in this canto share a moment of nostalgia for their earthly life and affections when Dante’s friend Casella sings one of Dante’s canzoni, a poem about love. Alison Cornish and Leonardo Chiarantini explore this canto’s relationship to life in a pandemic: the experience of moving into a new state of being, with new laws, where community must be forged in new ways; the importance of thinking globally, communicating across time-zones; the longing for and the strangeness of a simple hug between friends. Lock-down is its own kind of purgatory. Every day, there are failed embraces.” But, like Dante, we move forward.”    –Katherine Travers

Canto per Canto: Conversations with Dante in Our Time is a collaborative initiative between New York University’s Department of Italian Studies and Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, and the Dante Society of America. The aim is to produce podcast conversations about all 100 cantos of the Divine Comedy, to be completed within the seventh centenary of Dante’s death in 2021.

#stoacasacondante, Flashmob in honor of Dantedì 2020

The Società Dante Alighieri promoted a flashmob on the first annual celebration of Dantedì (25 March 2020), while Italy and much of the world was under shelter-in-place orders due to the spread of COVID-19. Below, the message from the President of the Società Dante Alighieri, Andrea Riccardi:

“mentre il coronavirus ci tiene separati dai luoghi e dalle persone che amiamo, l’Amore e Dante ci uniscono. La Società Dante Alighieri invita tutti ad aprire le finestre delle proprie case, a leggere due terzine del V Canto dell’Inferno (Divina Commedia), a registrare le letture con gli smartphone e a condividere i video nei social network con hashtag #stoacasacondante e #Dantedì.

“Ecco il testo da leggere: «Amor, ch’al cor gentil ratto s’apprende, prese costui de la bella persona che mi fu tolta; e ‘l modo ancor m’offende. Amor, ch’a nullo amato amar perdona, mi prese del costui piacer sì forte, che, come vedi, ancor non m’abbandona».”  —ladante.it

For news coverage, click here.

Paolo and Francesca Necklace

“The story of Paolo and Francesca, two lovers entwined in an eternal whirlwind, was first told in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and has been the inspiration for countless classical artworks ever since.”    —NET-A-PORTER

Teatro delle Albe’s fedeli d’Amore (2018)

fedeli d’Amore (Love’s faithful) is a ‘polyptych in seven panels’ written by Marco Martinelli ‘about’ Dante Alighieri and our present day. Different voices speak to us in the individual panels: the fog of a dawn in 1321, the demon of the pit where the merchants of death are punished, a donkey that carried the poet on his last journey, the ‘scolding’ imp who incites brawls about money, Italy kicking herself, Alighieri’s daughter Antonia, and ‘an end that is not an end’.

“These voices speak to us of the refugee, of the poet fled from his own city which has condemned him to burning at the stake; and now he is on his deathbed, exiled in Ravenna, sick with ague. First the fog slips in through the window cracks, enters that little room, and it describes him on the threshold of the extreme transition. Those voices are suspended between the fourteenth century and our own day, and Martinelli’s writing accepts, and not from today, the Dantesque challenge to hold together political and metaphysical ‘reality’, chronicle and spirituality.

Love is evoked as the polestar of the fedeli d’Amore, a force that frees humanity from violence, that saves ‘the garden plot that renders us so fierce’. The voices of this ‘polyptych’ are one single voice that can contain numberless voices, that of Ermanna Montanari: air, fire, sound, matter.

“This ‘polyptych’ for the stage enriches the itinerary which, together with Ravenna Festival, Martinelli, Montanari and Teatro delle Albe began in 2017 with Inferno, and which will continue in 2019 and 2021 with the other two parts of The Divine Comedy.

“fedeli d’Amore is one more tessera in their ceaseless dramaturgical, vocal, musical and visual research, alongside such wise folk as Luigi Ceccarelli and Marco Olivieri, Anusc Castiglioni and Simone Marzocchi; and it lies in that furrow where the vocal-sound alchemy of the figure is central.” [. . .]    —Teatro delle Albe, 2018.

Debuting on June 15, 2018, fedeli d’Amore was devised and directed by Marco Martinelli and Ermanna Montanari, and produced by Teatro delle Albe/Ravenna Teatro in collaboration with Fondazione Campania dei Festival – Napoli Teatro Festival Italia 2018 (progetto cofinanaziato da POC Campania 2014-2020) and Teatro Alighieri-Ravenna.

Read more about the details of the production at Teatro delle Albe.

Relatedly, Teatro delle Albe staged L’inferno delle Albe, which you can read about here.

“Ivresse” by Pablo Neruda

“Hoy que danza en mi cuerpo la pasión de Paolo
y ebrio de un sueño alegre mi corazón se agita:
hoy que sé la alegría de ser libre y ser solo
como el pistilo de una margarita infinita:

“oh mujer -carne y sueño-, ven a encantarme un poco,
ven a vaciar tus copas de sol en mi camino:
que en mi barco amarillo tiemblen tus senos locos
y ebrios de juventud, que es el más bello vino.

“Es bello porque nosotros lo bebemos
en estos temblorosos vasos de nuestro ser
que nos niegan el goce para que lo gocemos.
Bebamos. Nunca dejemos de beber.

“Nunca, mujer, rayo de luz, pulpa blanca de poma,
suavices la pisada que no te hará sufrir.
Sembremos la llanura antes de arar la loma.
Vivir será primero, después será morir.

“Y después que en la ruta se apaguen nuestras huellas
y en el azul paremos nuestras blancas escalas
-flechas de oro que atajan en vano las estrellas-,
¡oh Francesca, hacia dónde te llevarán mis alas!”

–Pablo Neruda, “Ivresse”, 1904-1973.

Pablo Neruda was a 20th-century Chilean poet. The poem “Ivresse” is a part of The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems, which you can purchase on Amazon.

From Dante to “I Love Dick”: 10 books about Unrequited Love

“Katherine Mansfield’s exquisite long short story At the Bay, Beryl, a middle-aged woman still fantasising about the young girl she once was and the lovers she could have captured then, stands in a darkened room half-imagining someone is out there in the dark, desiring her. So much of fiction is about desire, a yearning of some kind or another … the love of reading itself a sort of intense affair.

“These thoughts and more were whirling around in my mind when I wrote my own novel about unrequited love, Caroline’s Bikini, the story of middle-aged Evan’s great love for his landlady, the desirable but always just out of reach Caroline Beresford.

“The Divine Comedy by Dante- Dante follows hard on his heels, of course, and was writing before him – his Divine Comedy a kind of early novel, as I think of it, in three parts, that was inspired by a similar kind of experience. Dante never knew his Beatrice either, yet the idea of her propelled his great work about visiting Hell and Purgatory and Heaven, to be met there by her: another fantasy made true in words.” […]    –Kirsty Gunn, The Guardian, June 27, 2018

What Rod Dreher Ought to Know About Dante and Same-Sex Love

“Dante saved my life,” testifies Rod Dreher, senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative, in his recent book, How Dante Can Save Your Life (Simon & Schuster, 2015) about how the poet’s Divine Comedy can save yours as well. His soul-baring account of how Dante Alighieri and two other spiritual guides — a Christian Orthodox priest and an evangelical therapist –helped him escape a dark wood of stress-induced depression and physical illness is smart, moving, and thoroughly engaging. Dreher’s Dante, like Virgil in the poem, does the lion’s share of the guiding, and so earns top billing and occupies most of the narrative’s prime real estate. In showing how the poem brought deeper understanding of himself and his relationships with his father, sister, and God, and in sharing the substance of those life lessons with readers (mostly in appendices to the chapters), the author does not disappoint.

“For those of us who have studied, taught, and written on Dante’s works and their legacy over many years, Dreher’s understanding and use of the Commedia will undoubtedly raise legitimate doubts and objections. However, I found myself more often than not nodding in recognition at his deft discussion of characters, scenes, and themes of the poem. Most of his sharpest points pierce the surface of famous inhabitants of Hell — amorous Francesca, proud Farinata, worldly Brunetto, and megalomaniacal Ulysses are among the highlights; oddly for a book on rescuing lives and souls, he devotes fewer words to the saved individuals in Purgatory and Paradise.” […]    –Guy P. Raffa, Pop Matters, January 21, 2016