Guy Raffa, “Dante and Don”

In celebration of the poet’s 750th birthday, Guy Raffa (University of Texas, Austin) published an essay in the magazine Pop Matters, comparing Dante with fellow Gemini Don Draper:


“Matthew Weiner’s brilliant decision to end the series with, in his words, the ‘greatest commercial ever made‘, meshes beautifully — ‘in perfect harmony’ — with the ending of what many believe to be the greatest poem ever written. The culmination of Dante’s journey through the afterlife is his vision of God. He sees the mystery of the Incarnation, the paradoxical union of complete human and divine natures, the Word made flesh. Don’s Moment of Zen produces an equally paradoxical revelation: the marriage of commerce and community achieved by the famous 1971 TV ad. The Word made cash.

“The comparison appears less strange when we consider that Dante himself has become both a product and an ad man. He has become a hot commodity not just for the spiritually, intellectually, or literarily inclined, and not only in Italy, where Roberto Benigni has electrified audiences — in the piazza and on TV — over the past decade with his TuttoDante performances, brought to North America in 2009.” —- Guy Raffa, “Dante and Don: The Word Made Flesh and the Word Made Cash,” Pop Matters

Dante in Mad Men


“A few photos from the filming of the sixth season of Mad Men hit the web today, and one of them showed Don Draper indulging in a not-so-light beach read alongside his wife, Megan. The book? Dante’s Inferno. The version in Don’s possession is John Ciardi’s English translation–specifically, the paperback version, which was first published in 1964. (The hardcover came out a decade before.) Ciardi’s version remains highly respected and is still in print. So why is Don reading it? And when?” […]    –Aisha Harris, Slate, October 25, 2012

See Also:

Vulture, October 25, 2012

– “Don as Dante, Stuck in a Revolving ‘Doorway'” by Lori Rackl, Chicago Sun Times, April 7, 2013

– “Dan Draper Does Dante” by Katherine Boyle, The Washington Post, April 8, 2013

– “Talking ‘Mad Men’: A Knee-Jerk Reaction” by Sloane Crosley and Logan Hill, The New York Times, June 10, 2013

– “Matthew Weiner Discusses the ‘Mad Men’ Season Finale” by David Itzkoff, The New York Times, June 24, 2013

– “Why did we see Don Draper reading Dante’s Inferno in Mad Men?” by Marta Bausells, The Guardian, April 5, 2015

Contributed by Steve Bartus (Bowdoin, ’07); Rebecca Ruquist; Fred Robson (Stanford, ’18)