Dante Alighieri’s COVID-19

person-wearing-mask“‘Lasciate ogni Speranza, voi ch’entrate.’ Abandon all hope, ye who enter.

“The words inscribed on the gates of hell, according to Dante Alighieri in the Divina Commedia, could be the best way to describe the tumultuous year we have experienced so far…

“The COVID-19 world crisis has shed light into how broken some systems are, how a social net would have helped the ‘most developed country in the world’ be the hero it is in the Hollywood movies.

“Instead, residents of the United States find themselves trapped in a hell only known to them and a select group of countries, like Brazil and Mexico. We currently have no Virgil that will guide us through the complex planes of hell. At this rate, Dante would have never gotten out of the Inferno to ever meet the concentric circles of the Paradiso.” []    –Jorge Luis Galvez Vallejo, Iowa State Daily, July 30, 2020

COVID-19: Indians Going Through Nine Circles of Hell

“Akin to how characters in Dante’s poem paid for their sins in hell, Indians are paying with their lives during a pandemic for electing a government that is utterly incompetent and bigoted. [. . .]

“Dante and his imaginary guide Virgil were travelling through nine circles of hell on their way to heaven. Hell was used as a metaphor for human suffering for sins committed on earth. Although the punishment was severe, Dante’s poem portrayed them as fair and proportionate to the sins committed. The sufferings in India are not imaginary, but real, taking place while people are still alive, and most importantly, whatever their sins are, the fairness and proportionately of the punishments are definitely questionable. Yet the reference is fair and this column is designed to explain why.

“India is now in the proverbial ‘Ante-Inferno’ with a clear inscription written all over her, ‘Abandon all hope, you who enter here.’ India is now the case study of ‘what not to do’ in a pandemic, thanks to the conceit, egotism, and self-approbation of the Modi government.” [. . .]    –Debasish Chakraborty, The Wire, May 20, 2021

My Phone Demon Made Me Buy…

adult baby blanket
“I’m not sure at what point I said ‘I’d love to be swaddled in an adult baby blanket’ loud enough for the ad-targeting demon in my iPhone to hear me, but like Virgil leading me through the nine rings of Amazon hell, I was ultimately guided down to adult baby blanket Paradiso. Now that I own this organic cotton muslin gauzy piece of heaven, I need to pass on its cozy ways.”   –Marissa Rosenblum, Refinery29, April 8, 2021

Contributed by Kate McKee (Bowdoin, ’22)

“How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think”

“Our ancestors developed their ideas of Hell by drawing on the pains and the deprivations that they knew on earth. Those imaginings shaped our understanding of life before death, too. They still do.

[. . .]

“The great poetic example of the blurriness between the everyday and the ever after is Dante’s Inferno, which begins with the narrator ‘midway upon the journey of our life,’ having wandered away from the life of God and into a ‘forest dark.’ That wood, full of untamed animals and fears set loose, leads the unwitting pilgrim to Virgil, who acts as his guide through the ensuing ordeal, and whose Aeneid, itself a recapitulation of the Odyssey, acts as a pagan forerunner to the Inferno. This first canto of the poem, regrettably absent from the ‘Book of Hell,’ reads as a kind of psychological-metaphysical map, marking the strange route along which one person’s private trouble leads both outward and downward, toward the trouble of the rest of the world.

[. . .]

“Dante, writing in the early fourteenth century, drew on a bounty of hellish material, from Greek, Roman, and, of course, Christian literature, which is rife with horrible visions of Hell.”   –Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 2019

Read the full article here.

Uffizi Galleries’ TikTok video featuring Dante and Virgil

“This TikTok video by the Uffizi Galleries uses works by Emilio Demi and Carlo Albacini and the song ‘Gotta Go My Own Way’ from Disney’s hit 2007 movie High School Musical 2. It plays on the moment Virgil leaves Dante in Purgatorio.”   –Contributor Kate McKee

The TikTok video was posted on Dantedì (March 25) 2021 in honor of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death.

Contributed by Kate McKee (Bowdoin College ’22)

Pinacoteca Dantesca

pinacoteca-dantesca-2021“Nel gennaio del 1994 quando riceve dal Prof. Corrado Gizzi l’allora Direttore dell’istituto di Studi e Ricerche ‘Casa di Dante in Abruzzo’ l’invito a realizzare un’ opera con soggetto dantesco a scelta dell’artista da destinare alla Pinacoteca F. Bellonzi , Sughi sta ancora lavorando ad un gruppo di dipinti dal Titolo Andare dove? Il nucleo principale del ciclo risale agli anni 1991-1992, Sughi a proposito scrive :

“’Sono gli anni dell’implosione dell’Unione Sovietica , la fine per molti di una speranza di un’ideologia che aveva attraversato tutta la prima metà e una parte cospicua della seconda metà del 900. Tanti avevano creduto in questa ideologia , in questa prima grande rivoluzione socialista , ma sappiamo tutte le rivoluzioni hanno il destino di essere tradite e alla fine gettano nello smarrimento , nella paura, nella lontananza da se stessi tutti gli uomini che ci avevano creduto. … Da questo presupposto è nato il ciclo Andare dove ? … poi si è dilatato e non riguardava più l’implosione, la caduta del Comunismo come nei primi dipinti ( L’uomo con le valigie, Addio alla casa rossa)ma il destino dell’uomo, e sono venuti questi quadri verdi con degli uomini nel paesaggio o che guardano da una terrazza o che sembrano persi nel contemplare, tutti intitolati Andare dove? Quasi che l’uomo si trovi in una situazione critica, di passaggio e cerchi la sua identità all’interno di un labirinto che in questi quadri è rappresentato dalla natura.’
in A.C. Quintavalle, Sughi, Catalogo della mostra al Complesso del Vittoriano, Roma, Skira editore, Milano 2007, pag. 190.

“Al centro della tela in piedi la figura di Dante ferma, quasi restia alla mano tesa, appena accennata di Virgilio , che gli si offre d’innanzi, a ragione della forte dominante nel canto I dell’Inferno del tema dello smarrimento, del dubbio e della paura si inserisce perfettamente,senza forzatura alcuna , nella discorso pittorico che Sughi allora stava svolgendo.” [. . .]    –Alberto Sughi, Arte32.

Kat Mustatea, Voidopolis (2020)

@kmustatea on Instagram (January 30, 2021)

Voidopolis is a digital performance about loss and memory that is currently unfolding over 45 posts on my Instagram feed (@kmustatea). Started July 1, 2020, it is a loose retelling of Dante’s Inferno, informed by the grim experience of wandering through NYC during a pandemic. Instead of the poet Virgil, my guide is a caustic hobo named Nikita.”   –Kat Mustatea

Featuring a Dantesque cast of characters ranging from the Virgilian Nikita to a mohawked Minos, a gruff ferryman named Kim and a withdrawn George Perec, Mustatea’s Voidopolis weaves through the pandemic-deserted streets of Manhattan, a posthuman landscape of absence and loss, bearing witness to its vanishings. Voidopolis won the 2020 Arts & Letters “Unclassifiable” Prize for Literature, and received a Literature grant from the Cafe Royal Cultural Foundation.

To read more about both the process of the piece and its influences, including Dante, see the interview with Mustatea featured in Dovetail Magazine (2020).

 

“How Dante and Virgil Can Guide Recovery From Mental Illness”

“In the epic poem ‘The Inferno,’ written by Dante Aligheri in the 14th century, the author journeys through ‘hell’ and is escorted by the great poet Virgil. Virgil is from the otherworld and can walk with Dante as a fellow traveller and let him experience the catastrophic existential restructuring to foundationally change a life, and, eventually, show him a way back to the world. This relationship model is not a treatment program or an informed guess but rather guidance based on a shared suffering.

“What is different in a Dante/Virgil relationship is that the roles are interchangeable. On some journeys of the self, you may be Dante or you may be Virgil, depending on your experience and the issue. Your suffering has utility.”   –Eric Arauz, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Learning Network, 2014

Read the full article here.

Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1947)

the-malcolm-lowry-project-under-the-volcano-1947Chapter 3. 65.6: “In Canto XIII of the Inferno, Dante and Virgil enter a pathless wood full of withered trees. Hearing a mournful wailing but seeing no one, the poet stops and is advised by Virgil to break off a twig from one of the trees. Dante does so; the tree becomes dark with blood and begins to cry: ‘Perché mi scerpi? / non hai tu spirto di pietade alcuno?’ (‘Why do you tear me? / Have you no spirit of pity?’). The trees are the suicides, those who have wantonly destroyed their lives and poisoned their souls and are therefore fixed for eternity in barren sterility. [. . .]”

Chapter 3. 65.7: “In Mexico, figures of Christ or the Virgin Mary are common features of house or garden walls as reminders of the suffering Christ assumed on behalf of all. The words also evoke the suffering figure of Faustus: the earlier ‘Regard’ recalls his hellish fall, but the emphasis here, as with the echoes of Eliot and Dante above, is on blood and sorrow and compassion. Faustus, in distress and anguish, cannot look up to heaven for the mercy that is there; one drop of Christ’s blood would save his soul, but he cannot avoid despair. Like Faustus, the Consul is unable to ask for relief, even though it is so immediately at hand. In an early draft [UBC 29-8, 1] Lowry was more explicit: ‘You have always secretly longed, like Christ, even like your own brother, to die.'” [. . .]    — The Malcolm Lowry Project: Under The Volcano, June 2012.

See these and many more Dante-related annotations to Under the Volcano at the hypertext resource the Malcolm Lowry Project, sponsored by University of Otago (NZ).

 

Marica Mentier, “The History of Happiness,” The Science of Emotions

“[Marica] Mentier recounts how she encountered Dante’s Commedia in college and cites the famous valedictory by Virgil in Purg. 27: ‘Take henceforth your pleasure as your guide.’ She continues, ‘Over the course of his journey, he has acquired the wisdom to know where true happiness lies, and now his heart will unerringly guide him there.’ (p.17)” –Contributor Alan R. Perry

Contributed by Alan R. Perry (Gettysburg College)