Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Journey Without End by Ian Thomson (Review)

“None of us today would have heard of Beatrice di Portinari had Dante, Italy’s greatest poet, not decided to retain the suggestive name (‘Beatrice’ signifies blessings) of a Florentine girl whom he conveniently first met at the age of nine – forms of three represent the Trinity in The Divine Comedy’s innovative terza rima – as his celestial Guide. Beatrice takes over from Virgil. No pagan, however distinguished, may enter Dante’s paradise. Beatrice is the initially reproachful (‘What right had you to climb the mountain?’) but eventually redemptive spirit who draws the purified poet into the heart of the eternal rose within which, in the bliss-filled closing lines of The Divine Comedy, Dante himself becomes annihilated and immortalised.” [. . .]    –Miranda Seymour, The Guardian, August 12, 2018

The Social Network of Dante’s Inferno

“The first product coming out from this crazy idea was “The Social Network of Dante’s Inferno“, presented in the 2010 edition of the “Arts, Humanities and Complex Networks” symposium of NetSci and then published in a 2011 special issue of the Leonardo journal. In this work we were moved by the question: is a network of characters following some particular predictive patterns? If so: which ones?

“So we took a digital copy of Dante’s Inferno, where all interactions and characters were annotated with extra information (who the character was, if she was a historic or mythological figure, when she lived, …). We then considered each character as a node of the network. We created an edge between two characters if they had at least a direct exchange of words. Normal people would call this “a dialogue”.

“The double-focus point of the Commedia emerges quite naturally, as Dante and Virgilio are the so-called “hubs” of the system. It is a nice textbook example of the rich-get-richer effect, a classic network result. But contrary to what the title of the paper says, we went beyond that. There are not only “social” relationships. Each character is also connected to all the information we have about her. There is another layer, a semantic one, where we have nodes such as “Guelph” or “Middle Ages”. These nodes enable us to browse the Commedia as a network of concepts that Dante wanted to connect in one way or another. One can ask some questions like “are Ghibelline characters preferably connected to historic or mythological characters?” or “what’s the centrality of political characters in the Inferno as opposed to the Purgatorio?” and create one’s own interpretation of the Commedia.” […]    Michele Coscia, Michele Coscia, 12 December, 2013

Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and the Internet Inferno

“I’ve seen several references to various social media apps and the Seven Deadly Sins, but as I consider the darkness that seems to breed in social media circles — from teen bullying on Snapchat and Instagram, to Twitter trolls threatening female reporters in India with rape and abuse, to child pornography on the Dark Web and the children who suffer miserably, literally living in hell for predators’ public pleasure — Dante’s Inferno comes to mind, and how this ancient story from 1300 might actually describe our reality right now, as we enter the Information Age of our human development.

[. . .]

“Unfortunately our technology is held hostage by the worst of us. Until we can turn the technology around and use it against those who commit such evil, we can’t get out of the woods. However, Dante and Virgil do make it out of Hell. Interestingly the poets cross through the barren wasteland and to the river of forgetfulness, emerging from Hell on Easter morning.

“I find it interesting that they must forget the darkness in order to leave Hell and make their way to Heaven, where true connection, love and solidarity await. What must we forget in order to fulfill the promise of the Internet and the idea of a globally connected world?

“Our hate? Our jealousy? Our anger? Our fear? Our ignorance? Our greed? Our lust? Our mistrust?

“I imagine so. In the meantime, our experiences online seem to be on one hand accelerating and enabling those who wish to sow the seeds of discontent and on the other hand bringing us together, enabling the collection and sharing of information and knowledge, and making us aware of those places and people in our community who are in need. If we can rid ourselves of our lower natures and focus on the fact that when we’re online, we’re actively creating a world together, perhaps someday we will hold Beatrice in our embrace, and finally find human connection at the deepest, most satisfying level.”    –Nicole Sallak Anderson, “Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and the Internet Inferno,” Medium, October 25, 2017

The Circles of Hell on a Trip to Mount Bromo (Indonesia)

Mount-Bromo-Indonesia-Ninth-Circle-Dantes-Inferno“Mount Bromo is located at about 4 hours drive from Surabaya, the capital of East Java, in Indonesia and it is part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. It is considered one of the top bucket list destinations in Indonesia, one of the places to visit in Indonesia. I suppose it deserves to be one of them.

“You see, I am an atheist and hardly a believer that heaven and hell exist. Yet, if I have to describe my experience in Mount Bromo, the first thing that comes to my mind are the Nine Circles of Hell of Dante’s Inferno. Much like Dante’s journey through hell, accompanied by his guide Virgil, I felt that I was also going through the nine circles, although in my case there was no real guide in sight but just other members of the tour group.” — Claudia Tavani, “Ring of Fire or Circle of Hell? Crossing Dante’s Inferno on Mount Bromo,” My Adventures Across the World, November 10, 2015

Read more about Tavani’s adventure on Mount Bromo here.

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

“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.

[. . .]

“Insecurity is a tomb; these are the kinds of midlife crises from which few people recover. ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ is as applicable to certain poisonous habits of mind as to the gates of Hell. One leads, inexorably, to the other.” — Vinson Cunningham, “How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think,” Review of The Penguin Book of Hell in The New Yorker (January 21, 2019)

Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built (2018)

The-House-That-Jack-Built-Dante-Delacroix

“Director Lars von Trier has shared a new piece of art for his controversial The House That Jack Built that echoes Eugène Delacroix’s ‘The Barque Of Dante’ (1822), which is loosely based on fictional events taken from canto eight of Dante’s Inferno.

“’A leaden, smoky mist and the blazing City of the Dead form the backdrop against which the poet Dante endures a fearful crossing of the River Styx,’ wiki explains. ‘He is steadied by the learned poet of antiquity Virgil as they plough through waters heaving with tormented souls.’

“In the film, Matt Dillon (Wayward Pines) stars as a serial killer who views each of his murders as a work of art.” — Brad Miska, “The House That Jack Built Art Recreates Dante’s Inferno,” Bloody Disgusting, May 16, 2018

Throughout the film, Jack confesses his exploits in a retrospective narrative to a character named “Verge,” a nod to Virgil, voiced by Bruno Ganz and pictured in the role of Virgil in the image above.

When Seagulls Cry (2007)

Umineko no Naku Koro ni is a Japanese visual novel developed by 07th Expansion. The title translates to When Seagulls Cry in English. The series was released in Japan from 2007-2011, and globally through 2016-2017.

“The story focuses on a group of eighteen people on a secluded island for a period of two days, and the mysterious murders that befall them. Readers are challenged to discern whether the murders were committed by a human or of some other supernatural source, as well as the method and motive behind them.” [. . .]    —Umineko When They Cry, Wikipedia, 2018.

Fans of the series have pointed out several references to Dante’s work in the series, such as these found by readers on MyAnimeList:

“I’ve started reading Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy few days ago and I found several analogies with Umineko.

  1. “Names:
    Beatrice – name of deceased Dante’s love, his guide through Heaven
    Virgil – name of Dante’s guide through Hell and Purgatorio
  2. “Structure of Mt. Purgatorio is of the form 2+7+1=9+1=10, with one of the ten regions different in nature from the other nine ( last – Earthly Paradise). It may resemble 10 twilights of the Witch’s Epitaph.
  3. “Dante meets Beatrice at 10th floor, Battler meets Beato at 10th twilight
  4. “Seven Stakes resemble floors 3rd- 9th of Mt. Purgatorio (each floor represents 1 of 7 deadly sins.)
  5. “Magic circles in Umineko have a same names as the Spheres of Heaven:
    First Sphere of the Moon –> First Circle of the Moon” [. . .]    —Azakus, MyAnimeList, October 11, 2009.

To see more of the Dante references fans of When Seagulls Cry have found, check out the full forum discussion on MyAnimeList.

You can buy When Seagulls Cry and check out other games in the series on Steam.

Contributed by Philip Smith (University of the Bahamas)

Penn Station and the Circles of Hell

“On March 8, 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo compared America’s least-loved train station, Penn Station, to ‘the seven levels of hell.’ Here’s the full quote:

‘It is a disgrace. More people go through Penn Station every day than Newark, Kennedy, and La Guardia airports combined. It’s the most heavily traveled transportation hub in the hemisphere, and imagine what they say when they get off: “This is New York? Looks like the seven levels of hell. I’m in New York?”‘ [. . .]

“Penn Station is so viscerally awful that you can’t help but look for sin in relation to this place as causes for, results of, or simply in association with, its awfulness. So let’s humor the Governor and his imperfect analogy and try to map these different sins to activity occurring in (or near) Penn Station. I’ll be the Virgil to your Dante. Come with me across the River Acheron, or in this case, the stream of vomit and human misery running along West 34th Street.” [. . .]    –Mark Lee, Overthinking It, March 18, 2016.

You can read the full article at Overthinking It.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005, dir. by Cristi Puiu)

Death-of-Mr-Lazarescu-Cristi-Puiu-Dante“Set in Bucharest, Romania, an ailing old man is carried by an ambulance from hospital to hospital during one night, while doctors refuse to treat
him. The ever-worsening journey of Mr Lazarescu, whose first name is Dante becomes a descent into the Underworld of Romania’s medical
services. Echoes to Dante abound.” — Contributor Cristian Ispir

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is the first instalment in a projected series of ‘Six Stories from the Bucharest Suburbs’. Puiu cites Eric Rohmer’s Moral Tales as his chief inspiration, but on this evidence an equally telling parallel would be Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Dekalog, though Puiu is more inclined towards self-conscious symbolism than the Pole. There are characters called Dante and Virgil and an unseen Dr Anghel, and the various hospital trips and their cyclical routines would match anyone’s idea of hell. And although the film’s title and mounting medical evidence suggests the opposite, Lazarescu’s own name hints that some kind of miraculous resurrection might be in prospect. It’s not just the film’s ambiguous ending that supports this, but also Fiscuteanu’s uncannily convincing portrayal of a man increasingly aware that he’s crossing the bridge between life and death but fiercely determined not to go without a fight, even as his faculties betray him. If Puiu’s main theme is the absence of love, his film is ultimately about the love of life.” — Review by Michael Brooke for the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound magazine

Contributed by Cristian Ispir (University College London/Université de Lorraine)

“La Divina Brick-Commedia,” Fabio Broggi

“Ho ripercorso il viaggio di Dante attraverso l’utilizzo dei mattoncini più famosi al mondo. Le diverse immagini rappresentano altrettanti passaggi del poeta lungo la discesa nei gironi infernali, fino all’incontro con Lucifero e la sua fuoriuscita nell’emisfero australe.” — Fabio Broggi

See Fabio Broggi’s Instagram account (@ilcarota) for more images from La Divina Brick-Commedia.