Karl Marx, “Das Kapital” (1867)

karl-marx-das-kapital-1867Ending his preface to the first edition of Das Kapital, Marx states the following:

“I welcome every opinion based on scientific criticism. As to the prejudices of so-called public opinion, to which I have never made concessions, now, as ever, my maxim is that of the great Florentine: ‘Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dire le genti.'”    –Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, trans. Ben Fowkes, ed. David Fernbach, Fowkes, and Ernest Mandel (New York: Penguin Classics, 1976), p. 93.

As the editors note, Marx actually altered Dante’s words for his own purposes. The original line, Purgatorio V 13, is as follows: “Vien dietro a me, a lasica dir le genti.”

Nick Reding, “Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town” (2009)

nick-reding-methland-the-death-and-life-of-an-american-small-town-2009“Think globally, suffer locally. This could be the moral of Methland, Nick Reding’s unnerving investigative account of two gruesome years in the life of Oelwein, Iowa, a railroad and meatpacking town of several thousand whipped by a methamphetamine-laced panic whose origins lie outside the place itself, in forces almost too great to comprehend. . .
In the grisliest passage of Methland, which deserves to be quoted at some length so as to convey its hellish momentum, he invites us to share in the torments of Roland Jarvis, a paranoid small-time meth cook, in the Dante-like interlude after the combustion of his improvised home lab (just one of hundreds in the area).
‘Jarvis looked down and saw what he thought was egg white on his bare arms. It was not egg white; it was the viscous state of his skin now that the water had boiled out of it. Jarvis flung it off himself, and then he saw that where the egg white had been he could now see roasting muscle. His skin was dripping off his body in sheets. . . . He’d have pulled the melting skeins of skin from himself in bigger, more efficient sections but for the fact that his fingers had burned off of his hands. His nose was all but gone now, too, and he ran back and forth among the gathered neighbors, unable to scream, for his esophagus and his voice box had cooked inside his throat.'” [. . .]    –Walter Kirn, The New York Times, July 1, 2009

Kathryn Harrison, While They Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family (2008)

kathyrn-harrison-while-they-slept-an-inquiry-into-the-murder-of-a-family-2008“In the Inferno of Dante, Count Ugolino, forced to cannibalize his children’s corpses, is led to narrate the horror by Dante’s offer to retell the story up in the world above. Genesis 19 not only tells the story of incest between Lot and his daughters, but proceeds to name their offspring: Moab and Ben-ammi, and the Moabites and Ammonites descended from them. Abel’s blood ‘cries out’ with its story, and the fratricide Cain is marked.” [. . .]    –Robert Pinsky, New York Times, June 8, 2008

Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (2007)

philip-zimbardi-the-lucifer-effect-understanding-how-good-people-turn-evil-2007From Chapter One:
“Lucifer’s sin is what thinkers in the Middle Ages called ‘cupiditas.’ For Dante, the sins that spring from that root are the most extreme ‘sins of the wolf,’ the spiritual condition of having an inner black hole so deep within oneself that no amount of power or money can ever fill it. For those suffering the mortal malady called cupiditas, whatever exists outside of one’s self has worth only as it can be exploited by, or taken into one’s self. In Dante’s Hell those guilty of that sin are in the ninth circle, frozen in the Lake of Ice. Having cared for nothing but self in life, they are encased in icy Self for eternity. By making people focus only on oneself in this way, Satan and his followers turn their eyes away from the harmony of love that unites all living creatures.
The sins of the wolf cause a human being to turn away from grace and to make self his only good–and also his prison. In the ninth circle of the Inferno, the sinners, possessed of the spirit of the insatiable wolf, are frozen in a self-imposed prison where prisoner and guard are fused in an egocentric reality.”    –Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect (2007)

Contributed by Aisha Woodward (Bowdoin, ’08)

Barbara Reynolds, Dante: The Poet, the Political Thinker, the Man (2006)

barbara-reynolds-dante-the-poet-the-thinker-the-man-2006“. . .But the novelties come thick and fast, beginning (so far as I was concerned) with the suggestion on page 10 that Dante and other poets he associated with in Florence as a young man might have given their visionary and dreamlike imaginings a boost with the stimulus of love-potions. These herbal stimulants, cannabis perhaps, may, it turns out later, be what Dante is referring to in the comparison, near the start of Paradiso, between his own ‘trans-human’ experience and what Glaucus felt ‘on tasting of the herb’ (nel gustar dell’erba) which made him into a sea-god. As Reynolds explains at greater length when she comes to the final vision of the Godhead, mystics did often use drugs of one kind or another in conjunction with fasting and meditation in their pursuit of visionary illumination. There is no reason, she argues, why Dante should not have done so too. Dante as a substance abuser? It is not a key argument and Reynolds may be being provocative, even mischievous. She herself gives much more importance to her decoding of the two prophecies that have always been a problem for Dante commentators. . .”    –Peter Hainsworth, The Times Literary Supplement, October 18, 2006 (accessible only with a subscription)

Contributed by Jenny Davidson

Anne Isba, “Gladstone and Dante: Victorian Statesman, Medieval Poet” (2006)

anne-isba-gladstone-and-dante-victorian-statesman-medieval-poet-2006“From the point at which he first read the Commedia, at the age of twenty-four, William Gladstone was to consider Dante Alighieri one of the major influences in his life, on a par with Homer and St Augustine, and to identify himself strongly with the poet. Both were statesmen as well as scholars, for whom civic duty was more important than personal convenience. Both were serious theologians as well as simple spiritual pilgrims. Both idealised women. This book shows how Gladstone found in Dante an endorsement of his own beliefs as he negotiated a path through life. Isba traces the development of his enthusiasm against the background of a resurgent Italy in a new Europe, and in the context of the Victorian fashion for all things medieval. She also examines the parallels between the two men’s attitudes to sex and religion in particular, and closes by analysing the quality of Gladstone’s own writing on Dante (he was to become an internationally recognised Dante scholar).”    —Boydell & Brewer

Contributed by Michael Richards

Schaub and Schaub, “Dante’s Path: A Practical Approach to Achieving Inner Wisdom” (2004)

schaub-and-schaub-dantes-path-a-practical-approach-to-achieving-inner-wisdom“Dante’s Path: A Practical Approach to Achieving Inner Wisdom is primarily a self-help book. However, it is a self-help book with a difference. Authors Bonney Gulino Schaub and Richard Schaub use their perceptive, though simple reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy to guide their readers through a process that allows them to access their internal wisdom, or ‘wisdom mind,’ to achieve liberation from their fears and to realize their deeper potential.” [. . .]    —Amazon

Daniel Dorman, “Dante’s Cure: A Journey Out of Madness” (2004)

daniel-dorman-dantes-cure-a-journey-out-of-madness-2004“Catherine, nineteen years old and suffering from severe schizophrenia, sat in a mental hospital—mute, catatonic, and hearing voices. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Dorman, was convinced that his patient’s psychotic behavior was not merely rooted in chemical imbalances but rather in the dramatic circumstances of her family history. He was therefore determined to avoid the mind-numbing medications that had been so detrimental to Catherine’s well being. Dorman fought adamant opposition and criticism from his peers and superiors for a chance to guide Catherine out of madness. Dante’s Cure is the riveting true story of a woman’s triumph over her schizophrenia without medication, written by the psychiatrist who helped her.”    —Amazon