Daniel Berrigan, The Discipline of the Mountain: Dante’s Purgatorio in a Nuclear World (1979)

“In The Discipline of the Mountain Daniel Berrigan offers ‘ways of imagining our plight’ through the poetic vision of Dante’s Purgatorio. There can be found ‘a faithful vision, an alternative, a truthful image of God, of ourselves, of history.’ Berrigan employs free, poetic adaptation of the original–its themes, moods, discourses, encounters–with a prose commentary relating the text to political-moral issues of the present day. With its themes of lust and hatred, religious strife and ecclesiastical corruption, military power and oppression, the Purgatorio is an apt allegory of modern society. Thirteenth-century kings and princes shade into twentieth-century colonels and shahs and juntas.”   —Description from Wipf and Stock Publishers

In a review published in the magazine Sojourners, Lionel Basney writes, “Berrigan writes that he went to the Purgatorio in search of “ways of imagining our plight.” Looking for new vision in an old work is a familiar activity; but when it means reforging that work to make a new vision, it becomes complicated for both writer and reader. Unlike translation, an ‘imitation’ does not replace the original text. Instead it offers a new work through which the old text is still visible; to read it is to read two texts. Its author writes in the confidence, or hope, that the vision of the older text is still valid, assuming that for his readers as for himself the vision’s fundamental values remain true and compelling.

“But are we close enough to Dante to make this complicated process work? That depends on what we need from him. Berrigan needs terms in which to grasp the barrenness and violence of a way of life that constantly threatens war. Wanting Christian terms for this, terms powerful to Christian consciences, he naturally turns to Dante as the great poet of the Christian vision. And certainly Dante’s world was no less violent than ours.”   –Lionel Basney, “Berrigan’s Reawakening of Vision” (Review), Sojourners, August 1980

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).

Stranded on Purgatory Island

“A Dantean reflection on the ecological disaster of isolation (and why this is not Hell).”  Essay by Filippo Gianferrari (UC-Santa Cruz) for Breaking Ground, July 27, 2020

Pizzeria Drago Verde (Firenze)

Pizzeria-Drago-Verde-Purgatorio-XXXI

Photo taken at Pizzeria Drago Verde, Florence, Italy (January 17, 2019).

Scenes From the Mountain, a score for Purgatorio by Zachary Cheng (2020)

Scenes From the Mountain is a musical score for Purgatorio by Zachary Cheng (DeMatha Catholic High School ’21).

Of his composition, Cheng writes: “This small movement, which is only around six-and-a-half minutes long, was incredibly difficult to complete despite its length. I returned to it many times over quarantine though I could not seem to find any musical ideas that would stick with me. That changed for the better when I returned to the work in late August and decided to shift my approach. Instead of specifically cataloguing the tale of Dante, I decided to use music to describe the general environment of the Mountain of Purgatory. This ended up giving me more musical freedom. I also shifted the orchestration from a traditional orchestra towards something I am much more familiar with, that being the wind ensemble. The specific movement here encapsulates the base of the mountain (Canto I) up to just before the Valley of Princes (Canto VII).”

The score, with Cheng’s interlinear notes, are available to view here. Listen to it on Soundcloud.

Many thanks to Zachary Cheng and his teacher, Mr. Homer Twigg of the Department of Theology at DeMatha Catholic High School, for permission to share the composition.

Selections from Graba”s 2003 Divina Commedia

Selection from Divina Commedia – Inferno by Graba’

Selection from Divina Commedia – Purgatorio by Graba’

Selection from Divina Commedia – Paradiso by Graba’

View Graba”s full gallery here.

Jennifer D. Upton, The Ordeal of Mercy (2015)

jennifer-d-upton-the-ordeal-of-mercy-2020“The Ordeal of Mercy is a book of wide erudition and simple style; its goal is to present the Purgatorio, according to the science of spiritual psychology, as a practical guide to travelers on the Spiritual Path. The author draws upon many sources: the Greek Fathers, notably Maximos the Confessor; St. John Climacus; Fathers and Doctors of the Latin Church, including St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas; John Donne, William Blake and other metaphysical poets; the doctrines of Dante’s own initiatory lineage, the Fedeli d’Amore; the modern Eastern Orthodox writers Pavel Florensky and Jean-Claude Larchet; and the writings of the Traditionalist/Perennialist School, including René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings, Leo Schaya, and Titus Burckhardt. Other exegetes of Dante have dealt with the overall architecture of the Divine Comedy, its astronomical and numerical symbolisms, its philosophical underpinnings, and its historical context. Jennifer Doane Upton, however—while preserving the narrative flow of the Purgatorio and making many cogent observations about its metaphysics—directs our attention instead to many of its ‘minute particulars,’ unveiling their depth and symbolic resonance. She presents the ascent of the Mountain of Purgatory as a series of timeless steps, each of which must be plumbed to its depths before the next step arrives; in so doing she demonstrates how the center of this journey of purgation is everywhere, and its circumference nowhere. In the words of the author, ‘The soul in its journey must divest itself of extraneous tendencies and desires in order to become the ‘simple’ soul of theology — the soul of one essence, of one will, of one mind. If it can do this it will reach Paradise, its true homeland.'” [. . .]    –Jennifer D. Upton, Angelico Press

Check out the Angelico Press website to read praise for The Ordeal of Mercy.

Radiohead, “Pyramid Song,” Amnesiac (2001)

“According to Colin Greenwood, it was the image of ‘people being ferried across the river of death’ that most affected Yorke. This is reflected in the song’s many references to Dante’s imaginary journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, Divine Comedy. These include the black-eyed angels, a moon full of stars and jumping into the river.”    –Anonymous user on songfacts.com

Contributed by Justin Meckes

For an academic take on Radiohead’s Dantesque influences, see the discussion of “Pyramid Song” in Brad Osborn, Everything in its Right Place: Analyzing Radiohead (Oxford UP, 2017), p. 192 [log-in required]:

“In addition to depicting images directly correlating to the song’s lyrics, the song’s music video suggests further allusions to this scene—Dante’s fifth circle of Hell—not directly found in those lyrics (‘let us descend now unto greater woe; already sinks each star that was ascending’).19 The greater woe of the music video is the environmental fallout of a warming planet—precisely what Yorke identifies as Dante’s ‘lukewarm’ (both literally in terms of global temperature, and figuratively regarding humankind’s collective inertia for change). Global warming reappears continually in Radiohead’s multimedia output. Take for example the short Kid A promotional video—affectionately refereed to by fans as ‘blips’—that promoted ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ (2000–10). In this video the iconic ‘minotaur’ that accompanies nearly all of the Kid A and Amnesiac artwork is reimagined as a polar bear stranded on a sinking floe of ice. What immediately follows cements the link between global warming and Dante. As the polar bear slowly sinks to the tune of ‘I will see you in the next life,’ a sinister, red-eyed, black-cloaked minotaur sails across the river—now blood-red—in a tiny row boat brandishing a sickle.”

See also Giulio Carlo Pantalei, “The Middle Ages of Postmodernism: Dante, Thom Yorke, and Radiohead,” Dante e l’arte 6 (2019): 127-142.

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.

“Lelouch’s Little Light Reading” in Code Geass R2 (2006)

“Eagle-eyed viewers of Code Geass R2‘s first episode may have spotted that Lelouch is reading Dante’s Divina Commedia while Rollo gives him a lift. (As a child, I never loved anyone enough to give them my last Rolo.)

Slightly more obsessive viewers will have discovered that he is in fact reading the Purgatorio Canto XXII.”    –Thaliarchus, Animanachronism, April 9, 2008

Learn more about Sunrise’s 2006 anime Code Geass here.