Questions for personal reflection: Who would you choose to be your guides through Hell and to Heaven? If you reflect on your life's journey, when have you been stuck and in denial (Hell), in the painful place of accountability, growth and transformation ( Purgatory) and in a place of feeling in harmony with all the world (Paradise)? Where are you now?
Dante only became the poet we know, admire and cherish after a series of utter catastrophes. Without these, he may well have remained a family man, an involved citizen of Florence and member of the apothecary guild. He wrote the Comedy because he was desperate to make sense of his life and contain his grief and outrage.
Would it change your view of yourself or others if you considered "Death, Disaster and Disgrace" the first step of the journey to become fully yourself and realize your latent potential? Would the current chaos and collapse we are experiencing right now be easier to endure if you knew it was the prelude to healing and renewal?
Have you ever given your heart to something that has left you broken or broken open?
Dante suggests that Reason (Virgil) can get us through Hell, but only Love (Beatrice) can bring us to a place of belonging and peace. Has this been true in your life?
Recommended Resources and Reading:
There are two excellent choices if what you want is a scholarly approach with copious footnotes:
The Divine Comedy of Dante, translated by Allen Mandelbaum (Everyman Library) contains the evocative sketches of Botticelli .
The Divine Comedy translated by John Ciardi makes an attempt at a poetic rhyme scheme and has an excellent introduction and very helpful maps.
The translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a valiant poetic attempt by one of our country's most loved poets. What I find priceless about this book, however, are the images by Gustav Dore.
Several online sites will give you access to summaries, historical background and many of the amazing images. My favorites are:
Dante's World: http://danteworlds.laits.utexas.edu/ Digital Dante: http://dante.ilt.columbia.edu/
For those who want a psychological approach to Dante, Helen Luke's Dark Wood to White Rose is the classic Jungian -oriented guide, while Day by Day Dante by Dennis Slattery is a thoughtful summary of the Divine Comedy, woven together with questions for personal reflection.
Three invaluable resources for Dante's journey from a spiritual perspective:
The Soul's Journey by Alan Jones Falling Upwards by Richard Rohr
Here is an article by a Dominican nun about her personal experience of Dante:
To search out on youtube: video versions of "Vide Cor Meum", the gorgeous aria by Patrick Cassidy that depicts Dante's love for Beatrice, with a text drawn from La Vita Nova with images of Italy.
Loreena McKinett's haunting song Dante's Prayer, with reference to "the dark woods" and "the mountain"- imagine that this is Beatrice singing to Dante, but also the voices of everyone who has ever loved you singing to you.
Suggested Films to Watch:
Camille Claudel, earned Isabelle Adjani a well deserved Academy-Award nomination as the title character in this French film about the tempestuous relationship and collaboration between Camille and Rodin as they create the Gates of Hell (part of the subject of tomorrow's lecture). There is also another newer film with Juliette Binoche, but the 1988 film is the one to watch. You can rent or buy it on Amazon Prime.
L'Inferno: the first Italian movie ever created (1911). The version I prefer on You tube is the original silent one, but you can find other versions on youtube with scores ranging from pop-rock to Bach. The set designs are remarkable for a 1911 film and very inspired by Gustav Dore.