“The Devil Wears Crocs”

the-devil-wears-crocs“With modern presidencies, we have to watch the poignant tableau of such leaders realizing that they have squandered their chance for greatness even as they suffer the indignity of rejection by those who once sought their blessing.
These painful periods for W. and Bill Clinton, falling low after starting with such grand hopes, are recounted in two new books. . .
The pen-and-tell by Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer, ‘Speech-less,’ is being denounced by some former Bushies and Republican commentators as a ‘Devil Wears Prada’ betrayal. (Except, in this case, the Devil wears Crocs. Preparing to make a prime-time address explaining why the 2008 economic bailout wasn’t socialism–‘We got to make this understandable for the average cat,’ the president tells his speechwriters–W. pads around the White House in Crocs, an image that’s hard to get out of your head.)
‘The guy is a worm,’ Bill Bennett told Wolf Blitzer about Latimer, adding: ‘He needs to read his Dante. He probably hasn’t read The Inferno. The lowest circles of hell are for people who are disloyal in the way this guy is disloyal, and at the very lowest point Satan chews on their bodies.'” [. . .]    –Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, September 26, 2009

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.”

Cover of “The New Yorker,” April 21, 1997

Seen in the Edward Sorel illustration are three tiers of political sinners: “Politicians Who Promised to Cut Taxes,” “Politicians Who Promised to Balance the Budget,” and finally (and most egregiously) “Politicians Who Promised to Cut Taxes and  Balance the Budget” (detail shown below).


Watercolor Lithograph by “Mata”


Bettino Ricasoli as Count Ugolino attacks Urbano Rattazzi, who ousted him in 1892 from his leading role in the government. This piece was on exhibit at the “150 Years of La Nazione” in Florence, Italy at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, March 7 – April 30, 2009.

Pdf close-ups of the re-written terzine:
1Download file
2Download file
3Download file
4Download file

Contributed by Kavi Montanaro

“You Will Feel the Heat” Penny Arcade Comic (2008)


Found at Penny Arcade.

Contributed by Charlie Russell-Schlesinger (Bowdoin, ’08)

Cgil Strike, Genova, December 2008

cgil-strike-genovaThe sign cites (with a little alteration) from Inferno XXVI, 118-120
Considerate la vostra semenza:
fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza.’
Consider well the seed that gave you birth:
you were not made to live your lives as brutes,
but to be followers of worth and knowledge.
(trans. Mandelbaum)

Contributed by Virginia Jewiss (Humanities Program, Yale University)

City of Florence Pardons Dante


“The city of Florence has issued a pardon for the poet, 700 years after it sentenced him to death for his political beliefs. Peter Popham reports on the man who turned Italian into a literary language.” [. . .]    —The Independent, June 19, 2008

Contributed by Patrick Molloy

Artist Sergio Vega on Dante


Sergio Vega, detail from The Golden Age with Mosquitoes, 1999

“Nicolas Guagnini: The first piece of yours I’d ever seen was a small painted sculpture, a parrot with the face of Dante Alighieri. My obvious reaction was amusement. Dante could not stop writing, just as parrots can’t stop talking. Once the humor subsided, I understood what you were getting at: Dante was giving us a version of biblical themes, namely heaven and hell, in his own contemporary terms. Are you a theological commentator or an evolutionist?
Sergio Vega: I am glad you bring up that piece, Dante-parrot, because it functions as an axis upon which most of the work I have produced in the last eight years hinges. At the time I made it, I was puzzled by the term U.S. politicians were using, when they referred to the countries of Latin America as “our backyard.” Immersed as I was in Dante’s work, I decided to make a cast from a replica of his death mask to represent a habitant of that backyard, like one of those cement dwarfs people use to decorate their gardens. Dante is turned into a parrot as if someone had put a spell on him; he is entering the Garden of Eden (in Canto 28 of Purgatorio). Besides the joke that the parrot’s beak is in this case Dante’s famous nose, the piece proposes a paradox of ideas about originality, staging the contradictions of a constituted Latin subject: Dante, the author who articulated a new language in order to produce his own work, is embodied in the vernacular representation of a bird that mimics speech.” [. . .]    –Nicolàs Guagnini, Bombsite, 2001

Contributed by Hope Stockton (Bowdoin ’07)

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