Jim Shaw, Donald and Melania Trump descending the escalator into the 9th circle of hell reserved for traitors frozen in a sea of ice (2020)

Jim Shaw’s silkscreen print Donald and Melania Trump descending the escalator into the 9th circle of hell reserved for traitors frozen in a sea of ice (2020) depicts the former US President and First Lady passing into the ninth circle, populated by members of the Trump inner circle: John Bolton, Michael Cohen, Omarosa Manigault, Anthony Scaramucci, Jeff Sessions, and others. The lake of Cocytus appears to have been displaced to the ground floor of a dilapidated American shopping mall.

Simon Lee Gallery describes Shaw’s collected works thus: “The practice of American artist Jim Shaw (b. 1952, Midland, Michigan) spans a wide range of artistic media and visual imagery. Since the 1970s, Shaw has mined the detritus of American culture, finding inspiration for his artworks in comic books, pulp novels, rock albums, protest posters, thrift store paintings – his ever-growing collection of found artworks has been the subject of its own exhibition on several occasions – and advertisements. At the same time, Shaw has consistently turned to his own life and, in particular, his unconscious, as a source of artistic creativity. Providing a blend of the personal, the commonplace and the uncanny, Shaw’s works frequently place in dialogue images of friends and family members with world events, pop culture and alternate realities. Often unfolding in long-term, narrative cycles, the works contains systems of cross-references and repetitions, which rework similar symbols and motifs, allowing a story-like thread to be perceived.”   –“Biography,” Simon Lee Gallery

See a discussion of Shaw’s exhibit Hope Against Hope, hosted by the Simon Lee Gallery (London) from October 20, 2020, to January 16, 2021, in The Art Newspaper.

Contributed by Deborah Parker (University of Virginia)

Tomás Eloy Martínez, Purgatorio (2008)

“It should be noted from the outset that unlike Dante’s Purgatorio, which explores the painful processes of self‐examination of those who sinned, repented before they died, and are preparing themselves to enter Paradise’s realm of bliss, Martínez’s Purgatorio is a meditation on a state of suffering by the innocent victims of Argentina’s dictatorial regimes of the 1970s. The notion of a ‘purgatory’ for repentant sinners in Dante, therefore, is creatively transformed in Martinez’s Purgatorio to suggest a shameful period of Argentina’s history plagued by repression and violence, but most importantly, by the pain it generated for decades to come in those who were affected by it.”   –Efrain Kristal, “What Is, Is Not: Dante in Tomás Eloy Martínez’s Purgatorio,” Bulletin of Latin American Research, 2012 (abstract publicly available; full text behind paywall)

The novel, originally published in Spanish in 2008, was translated into English by Frank Wynne (Bloomsbury, 2011).

“Dante, Inferno light up DeWine on new song”

“John Dante has a message for Gov. Mike DeWine.

“John Dante and the Inferno will debut a new song called ‘Hello Gov’ner’ on a live EP set for release on Friday.

“The EP will be accompanied by a video version that was shot at Nexus Sound Studio in Youngstown and will debut on YouTube.”   –Andy Gray, Tribune Chronicle, 2020

Read the full article here.

“Dante Alighieri racconta la politica”

See the whole “Dante Alighieri racconta la politica” Facebook page here (last accessed January 13, 2021).

Charles Sykes, “The Agony of the Anti-Anti-Trumpers” (2020)

vision-of-hell-charles-sykes-agony-anti-anti-trumpers-2020“They are destined to be forgotten. ‘The world will let no fame of theirs endure,’ Virgil explains. ‘Let us not talk of them, but look and pass.’ Dante describes the vast horde who chase after the elusive banner that “raced on so quick that any respite seemed unsuited to it.” Behind the banner, he writes, ‘trailed so long a file/ of people—I should never have believed/ that death could have unmade so many souls.’

“This, of course, got me thinking about the anti-anti-Trumpers and their season of agita.

“A cry went up this week from the precinct of the anti-anti-Trumpers suggesting that the selection of Kamala Harris was the moment for their decisive break into formal indecisiveness. As much as they loathed Donald Trump, they insisted, there was no way that they could support a Biden-Harris ticket.

“But the choice of Harris wasn’t really a tipping point, because the anti-antis were never going to support a viable opponent to Trump. The essence of anti-anti-Trumpism is the full recognition of the awfulness of Trump and all of his works, but a firm resolve not to actually do anything to confront them.” [. . .]    —Charles Sykes, The Bulwark, August 14, 2020

“Sending Trump to Hell,” by Ariel Dorfman

“My name, sir, is Dante Alighieri. Among the innumerable dead that inhabit these shores, I have been chosen to speak to you because an expert on the afterlife was needed to describe what awaits your soul when it passes, as all souls must, into this land of shadows. I was chosen, whether as an honor or not, to imagine your fate once you wind your way toward us.

“Having accepted this task, I was tempted, sir, as I watched your every act in that life before death, to make this easier for myself and simply conjure up the circles of Hell I had already described in my terza rima. I would then have guided you down my cascade of verses, step by step, into the depths of darkness I had designed for others.

“Were you not the selfish embodiment of so many sins I dealt with in my Commedia? Lust and adultery, yes! Gluttony, yes; greed and avarice, oh yes; wrath and fury, certainly; violence, fraud, and usury, yes again! Divisiveness and treachery, even heresy — you who did not believe in God and yet used the Bible as a prop — yes, one more time!”   –Ariel Dorfman, “Sending Trump to Hell,” Nation of Change (October 22, 2020)

Contributed by Justin Meckes

Beth Coggeshall and Deborah Parker on Purg. 16 for “Canto per Canto”

Deborah-Parker-Beth-Coggeshall-Purgatorio-16-Canto-per-Canto“’When I teach this canto I always like to get my students to think with me by analogy of other determining factors or determining forces that are external to ourselves, that we think of as placing some kind of condition or constraint on our free moral agency.’ To think about Purgatorio 16 ‘in light of the conversations about systemic racism and systemic injustices that we are confronting as a culture right now’ means to ask the right questions. Just like those that Dante asks Marco Lombardo. But it also means to entrust someone or something (Virgil? Reason?) in the dark, with our eyes bound to the fog, and with the intimate conviction of reaching the light, sooner or later, through questioning. Join Deborah Parker and Elizabeth Coggeshall in conversation about the compelling richness of this canto: the moral architecture of the poem, the visual aspects and its visual reception, the encounter with Marco Lombardo, the dichotomy ira bona (good anger)/iracondia (irascibility), the singing of penitents, the vacuum of leadership. All aspects that will lead to a concrete questioning of our modern society.”  –Maria Zilla

Watch or listen to the video of “Purgatorio 16: The Poem’s Moral Center” here.

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.

Frank Bruni, “From Trump, No Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the Rules”

Photo by Gage Skidmore (Wikimedia Commons)

“‘The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,’ Trump told supporters at a rally in Wisconsin last month. He has repeatedly made versions of that claim, at one point exhorting North Carolinians to monitor polling sites and ‘watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing’ by Democrats, who will work to lift Biden to victory by ‘doing very bad things.’

“And it’s a perfect example of Trump’s tendency to assign his own motives and methods to others. He worries that they’ll cheat because he has always cheated — on his taxes, on his wives, in his business dealings, in his philanthropy. He imagines them cheating because he actually is cheating.

[. . .]

“But Trump’s cheating is its own virus, infecting everyone around him. Trump’s cheating is its own ecosystem. Abandon all scruple, ye who enter here.”   — Frank Bruni, “From Trump, No Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the Rules,” New York Times (September 19, 2020)

Contributed by Dan Christian

JFK’s Favorite Quote: “The hottest places in Hell…”

“One of President Kennedy’s favorite quotations was based upon an interpretation of Dante’s Inferno. As Robert Kennedy explained in 1964, ‘President Kennedy’s favorite quote was really from Dante, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”‘ This supposed quotation is not actually in Dante’s work, but is based upon a similar one. In the Inferno, Dante and his guide Virgil, on their way to Hell, pass by a group of dead souls outside the entrance to Hell. These individuals, when alive, remained neutral at a time of great moral decision. Virgil explains to Dante that these souls cannot enter either Heaven or Hell because they did not choose one side or another. They are therefore worse than the greatest sinners in Hell because they are repugnant to both God and Satan alike, and have been left to mourn their fate as insignificant beings neither hailed nor cursed in life or death, endlessly travailing below Heaven but outside of Hell.”   –“John F. Kennedy’s Favorite Quotations: Dante’s Inferno,” from the JFK Library

For more, see Deborah Parker’s essay “The Historical Presidency: JFK’s Dante,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 48.2 (June 2018): 357-372.

The frequently misattributed quotation was also cited by Martin Luther King, Jr., in a 1967 address on the Vietnam War (see here).

Martin Luther King, Jr., on Nonviolence (March 31, 1968)

“It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat would be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine.   Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” Address delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. (March 31, 1968)

Read the full transcript at the website of the King Institute, Stanford University.

The image above comes from here, courtesy of the DC Public Library.