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The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

#121: June - Aug. 2013 (Fiction)
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Chris OConnor

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The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

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The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)
By DANTE ALIGHIERI
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Robert Tulip

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Re: The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

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Thanks Chris, I am so pleased that The Divine Comedy is our fiction selection. Great books like this are really worth reading to get an understanding of the whole genre of the novel and core questions of cultural identity. Dante stands at the hinge between the Middle Ages and the modern world.

Here are my earlier comments.

I was thinking of using The Inferno as a model for my own story about heaven and hell. What I liked about it was the big picture, its role in the history of literature, the role of Virgil as guide, the science fiction style approach to heaven and hell, with the Jules Verne-style 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth', and then the imagination about purgatory as a mountain opposite Jerusalem, near Tahiti.



The Divine Comedy is another of the great classics that everyone should know, but it is quite hard to read, since it is 800 years old, standing at the dawn of modern times. I think it would be interesting to have as our selection if people can use it as an imaginative springboard.

For example, people could just look at the five minute youtube summary at the bottom of this post and react to that without reading it.

The idea of the nine circles of hell was taken up by Solzhenitsyn in his book The First Circle, with the Soviets putting non communist scientists into a sort of 'least damned' category. This book is ironic, suggesting that Russia is hell.

I tend to think of creationists as occupying one of the circles of hell, since they do not read the Bible properly and have no idea of how their mad ideas are so destructive. I wonder who other people would imagine in hell?

Some links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_Comedy
http://manuvegeta.hubpages.com/hub/Summ ... -Alighieri
http://www.novelguide.com/divinecomedy/ ... mmary.html
http://www.christianbooksummaries.com/l ... bs0421.pdf

The Gates of Hell were a great theme in art, for example Rodin. Dante said the inscription on the gates included the text "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." This is quite a famous line. Maybe he could instead have put Jean-Paul Sartre's statement "Hell is other people" (or maybe Plato's line on the lintel of his Academy - "Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here").

I think of hell as a metaphor for everything bad, delusional and destructive. It would be interesting to use this book to discuss how people imagine hell, purgatory and heaven, whether they are meaningful in any way, and whether Dante's depiction still resonates at all.

Short youtube video about The Divine Comedy
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... hzchIVyzvg[/youtube]
The Gates of Hell by Rodin
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And then, the latest take on the Inferno, current #1 best seller by Dan Brown...
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ant

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Re: The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

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I tend to think of creationists as occupying one of the circles of hell, since they do not read the Bible properly and have no idea of how their mad ideas are so destructive.
Oh this is just ducky.
We're going to get a militant atheist spin on the Divine Comedy from Robert Tulip.
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Re: The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

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"militant atheist"

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Militant atheism below.
http://www.booktalk.org/militant-atheists-t14895.html
In the absence of God, I found Man.
-Guillermo Del Torro

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?
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Re: The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

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:lol:
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Robert Tulip

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Re: The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

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This is Dante's vision of the descent into the maelstrom.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inferno_(Dante)

The nine circles of Hell
First Circle (Limbo)
Second Circle (Lust)
Third Circle (Gluttony)
Fourth Circle (Greed)
Fifth Circle (Anger)
Sixth Circle (Heresy)
Seventh Circle (Violence)
Eighth Circle (Fraud)
Ninth Circle (Treachery)

I am interested in how this order of sin matches with modern views. It reminds me of Edgar Allen Poe...
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The story that upsets me most is this one, from Canto 33 in the Ninth Circle...

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Re: The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

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Robert, have you discovered anything by way of the tricky subject of translation, I mean which of the many translations might be "best"? In my student days, John Ciardi's relatively new translation was the fav (and his preface on the translator's art was superb in itself). There is always this crucial matter of how to tell the poem in English, for those of us who have no Italian.
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Re: The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

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DWill wrote:Robert, have you discovered anything by way of the tricky subject of translation, I mean which of the many translations might be "best"? In my student days, John Ciardi's relatively new translation was the fav (and his preface on the translator's art was superb in itself). There is always this crucial matter of how to tell the poem in English, for those of us who have no Italian.
I started off reading the Penguin Classics 1948 translation, but it uses Dante's verse structure, and as a result is unreadable. So I looked around and found Tony Kline's free pdf translation on the internet, and have found it extremely readable, as well as including Dore's great art as a bonus. Other older translations are available, such as by Longfellow, but I recommend Kline. He is an amazing person by the way, providing great accessible translations of some wonderful books, plus commentaries.

Tony Kline Translation of The Divine Comedy by Dante: http://www.poetryintranslation.com/klineasdante.htm

Tony Kline Commentary on The Divine Comedy:
http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITB ... edhome.htm
Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sat Jun 08, 2013 7:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

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I am interested in how this order of sin matches with modern views. It reminds me of Edgar Allen Poe...
Most of these aren't really evils in of themselves, but all the same I'll rank my evils in order of severity like so:

The nine circles of Hell

First Circle (Limbo)
Meh

Second Circle (Heresy)
Speaking out is no crime, not when you are merely wrong. The only thing is to speak what you know. What could be a crime is refusing to aknowledge where there is good evidence against your position, yet you refuse to examine what you think you know, vs what evidence suggests is true. But i would class that as something other than heresy. Willful ignorance?

Third Circle (Lust)
If this means simple desire, then it also is no crime. It's just part of being an animal. Indulging lust at the cost of your responsibilities is bad. A failure to uphold the promises you keep. But lust in itslef is no crime at all.

Fourth Circle (Anger)
Anger is not a crime. Not in itself. What do you do with anger? It's just an emotional driver, like happiness or sadness. Anger can drive you to achieve what you would otherwise not. Anger can get you to stand up for yourself or others. It can be a very positive motivator.

Fifth Circle (Gluttony)
I see this as the first on this list which seems bad in of itself. The little brother to greed. I see gluttony as over indulgeance in the things which you have been able to attain through above the board practices. Imagine a movie star who finally can afford that first farrari for 300,000 dollars. Buying that car, in my mind, is unforgivable gluttony. You could buy that one car, which you will drive for perhaps 70 hours in your life and spend the rest of it's time sitting in your garage, or you could repave a neighborhood road and benefit people for years to come. Me and Peter Parker think that with great power comes great responsibility. If you have so much money that you actually have nothing legitimate to spend it on, you should be using it to help people.

Sixth Circle (Violence)
The second thing on this list which may be wrong in of itself. But there certainly are times when violence is necessary. A necessary evil. I have no problem at all with a sniper taking out somebody going on a gun rampage. To phrase another way, don't let your desire not to cause harm allow somebody else to reap havoc.

Seventh/Eighth Circle (Treachery/Fraud)
I'm not sure which should come first, Fraud or Treachery. Both are intentionally misleading others to believe things you know to be incorrect. The two of these cover a very wide range of territory, with little good to come of them.

Ninth Circle (Greed)
To me the worst sin of this lot. Greed is not simple over indulgeance in the things you have achieved on your own, but taking the things you really have no right to, even if the law provides you with a way to gather them. Greed is how the other "sins" on this list are misused. It's how lust is corrupted into breaking up families, how anger is used to fan the flames of un-needed violence. The underlying reason to use treachery and fraud.
In the absence of God, I found Man.
-Guillermo Del Torro

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?
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Re: The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Hell)

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johnson1010 wrote: I'll rank my evils in order of severity like so:
The nine circles of Hell
The context of Dante's Divine Comedy is an assertion of the Christian dogma that belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is the key to eternal salvation in a heavenly afterlife. This idea is absurd on face value. The traditional myth of heaven and hell is primitive and obsolete and untrue. Humans do not go to heaven or hell after they die.

However, Dante’s use of these mythological religious tropes is quite profound, to illustrate that earth can be made more heavenly or more hellish by the consequences of human action. Against a modern rational consequentialist ethical framework, Johnson has outlined a useful update on Dante’s moral priorities regarding the circles of hell.

Another good wiki is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_i ... iddle_Ages It quotes Dante about allegory in his work as saying that words have many senses.
Dante wrote:A first sense derives from the letters themselves, and a second from the things signified by the letters. We call the first sense "literal" sense, the second the "allegorical", or "moral" or "anagogical". To clarify this method of treatment, consider this verse: When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people: Judea was made his sanctuary, Israel his dominion (Psalm 113). Now if we examine the letters alone, the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt in the time of Moses is signified; in the allegory, our redemption accomplished through Christ; in the moral sense, the conversion of the soul from the grief and misery of sin to the state of grace; in the anagogical sense, the exodus of the holy soul from slavery of this corruption to the freedom of eternal glory.. they can all be called allegorical.-
johnson1010 wrote: First Circle (Limbo) Meh
The entire concept of limbo is bizarre, obsolete and stupid. The general idea is that hell is the hopeless abode of the unrepentant, those who have done wrong but do not recognise or apologise for their error, so are damned as eternally reprobate sinners. This naturally includes some, such as dead babies and pagan philosophers, who were never exposed to the universal vaccine of lamb’s blood (Christian indoctrination). This is all just imperialist politics, because there is no basis to say that evil believers in Christ are better people than good non-believers. For the church to use the blackmail threat of going to hell is just bullying and intimidation.

The journey of Dante and Virgil to Helen Back starts on Easter Thursday and ends on Easter Sunday, reflecting the traditional creed which states that in the forty hours between his death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday Jesus Christ descended to hell. One tradition, the harrowing of hell, imagines Jesus as finding the prophets who were in hell, not through any fault of their own but just because they lived before Christ and so had no opportunity to hear the saving word, and taking them to heaven.

What I find philosophically fascinating regarding this concept of limbo is that it may be possible and reasonable to reconstruct the story of Christ as having a unique saving power. I see this as quite different from the traditional interpretation of John 14:6 – ‘I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to God except by me’. Rather, if Christ was saying he represented the way of life in truth, then where ever people sincerely seek the truth to live by, they are part of the body of Christ. That is a way to rescue Aristotle and Richard Dawkins from the First Circle of Hell.

As I mentioned earlier, this first circle of limbo is imagined by Solzhenitshyn as the location for the anti-communist scientists who Russia used despite their unbelief. The First Circle presents a way of imagining the whole Soviet Union as hell on earth, with its lower circles explored in A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch and The Gulag Archipelago.
johnson1010 wrote: Second Circle (Heresy)
Speaking out is no crime, not when you are merely wrong. The only thing is to speak what you know. What could be a crime is refusing to aknowledge where there is good evidence against your position, yet you refuse to examine what you think you know, vs what evidence suggests is true. But i would class that as something other than heresy. Willful ignorance?
I read a very good book titled Heresy by Joan O’Grady. This argues that heresy has come to acquire some cachet, as indicating courage to speak truth to power. Heresy is primarily a crime against empire, based on the right of a ruler to enforce political stability through suppression of free speech, as we see today in countries such as China.

So for Dante to place heresy deep in the bowels of hell indicates his suck-up loyalty to pope and king. He understands that in an imperial world, only those who are loyal to empire will gain preferment. When the king sets the faith, anyone who questions prevailing dogma is a heretic by definition, and you get the stagnant backward idiocy of conformist failure to innovate.

The attitude towards heresy is a big part of the problem of Islam. Its aggressive opposition to perceived heresy produces a fear of diversity and innovation, leading to an absence of discussion of new ideas, and a stultifying poverty and anger.

Heresy has these days often come to mean just the voicing of a taboo, making a statement that is viewed as morally unacceptable by the general society. The concept of heresy is also used rhetorically in political debate. For example climate deniers accuse scientists of seeing them as heretics, in order to claim some cachet for being daring and sceptical, when in fact climate deniers are just prostitutes who have sold their souls to the devil.

Some heresies are in fact really bad, such as promotion of holocaust denial, racism, pedophilia and climate change denial. Others are scientific, such as Christ denial. But the problem in using heresy as a moral category is that it assumes acceptance of an orthodoxy which is understood to be good. Often, orthodoxies have been bad, and the heretics have been the good ones. And as with the example of belief in Christ, it is possible to have a complex analysis of the moral content of the text that seeks ethical meaning in a critique of conventional views.
Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sat Jun 08, 2013 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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