Who would YOU meet in a journey through the afterlife?

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Who would YOU meet in a journey through the afterlife?

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1Mithalogica
Ene 16, 2014, 8:51pm

This was a topic I asked my students to consider, but I'm listing it separately, since I think it might be fun to discuss.

In our introduction to the Commedia, we noted some of the figures in Dante's life (both those known to him personally and contemporary public figures, as well as those from literature) that we will soon encounter along Dante's journey (Latini, Cavalcanti, Boniface, Virgil, etc.)

To understand a bit of Dante's thought process, I asked them to consider what figures they would include if they were writing of such a journey. Though we haven't really grappled with the various circles yet, we had some fun imagining where we might place people like Obama, Bush, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Darwin, Gandhi, and so on, along with several figures of interest either locally or to the university.

It's a sort of silly exercise, but I think it reveals something of the degree to which Dante's work really reflected a broad view (and critique) of his times and his culture. So who do you think you might place along your journey, where, and why? (This could get political, so let's keep it polite!)

2razzamajazz
Ene 16, 2014, 11:39pm

Afterlife encounters? Some have experienced "death" and back to life after being dead momentarily. Would you believe their testaments of experiencing "heaven" or "hell"?

Death is just another dimension of "time", it is rather a "paranormal" living in a different "world" of
those who have departed from the living world, the Planet Earth.

It all depends which direction where our "spirits and souls" are going. Up or Down. Heavenly or
"Frozen in Hell"? You might meet your departed parents, relatives and enemies, I supposed that these things might happen in this way. Reunions and reconcillations will be taken place.

Time will tell when a person have to make a trip on a one-way ticket eventually.

3Mithalogica
Ene 17, 2014, 5:59pm

>2 razzamajazz: Well, actually, razzmajazz, I was speaking of a literary journey like Dante's. If they were to write a work LIKE the Divine Comedy, who might they want to include as characters along their fictional journey, as Dante included people from his own life, his own time, and from history in his fictional journey.

I make no claims whatsoever about any kind of afterlife outside the realm of literature!

4razzamajazz
Editado: Ene 17, 2014, 10:38pm

Misunderstood. If I am capable to write a fictional novel like a syle of Dante, I wish to write stories and aspirations relating to the famous and wise persons I would like to meet who had lived in my generation learning what they can offered about life going through the three phases of the Dante's journeys. A modern twist to a novel most likely.

What can we really obtained from Dante's novel ? Life lessons? Correct our mistakes in our present life?

Would you consider Dante's The Divine Comedy similar in nature to John Buchan, The Pilgrim's Progress? John Buchan's novel is about his encounters with different "personalities" on his journeys to Heaven.

Am I correct to say that? I have made many attempts to read Buchan's novel.

5Mithalogica
Editado: Ene 21, 2014, 11:38pm

>3 Mithalogica: I haven't read PP myself, so I can't comment on the comparison.

As to your other question, what is to be obtained from Dante's Commedia (I'm not sure I'd call it a novel; it's more kin to the Aeneid or The Odyssey of Homer (which helped inspire it's structure, at the very least.). That's a pretty big question, especially for folks who are here because we love Dante! ;)

So. What I can say is the the Divine Comedy is first perhaps the clearest expression of the mindset of Dante's time and the nature of medieval Christianity (admittedly a virtue perhaps only in the eyes of medievalists such as myself, but still, a window into a formative part of Western history). However, there is a deeply timeless quality to Dante's view of what it means to be human, what comprises right and wrong, what it means to live in society and what our obligations to each other and our society might be. One doesn't have to be Christian, or even religious, to appreciate Dante's understanding of the essential dignity of the human 'soul,' or the nature of virtue and selflessness. Yet the comedy is always immediately human - Dante meets the heroes of legend, but his in-laws and teachers appear as well. And (I don't know if you're familiar with the Comedy), Dante is far from the stuffy, exalted hero one might expect from such a work - he is himself endearingly, familiarly human; he faints, he weeps, he struggles with his fears. He is very much a 'real' person, faced with often nearly incomprehensible truths.

Literarily speaking, the Commedia stands alongside any epic work you care to name. T.S. Eliot is said to have remarked that "Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them. There is no third." It's also perhaps the most important piece of literature ever written in Italian; Dante championed the cause of the Italian language, and it is largely the Italian of the Commedia that survives today. If you take modern Italian, you can read the Comedy, 700 years notwithstanding. There are few pieces of literature of which one can say that, in any language.

The form of the poem, if you care about such things, is impressive by any poetic standards. Fourteen thousand, two-hundred thirty-three lines, each eleven syllables, arranged in tercets, with a complicated rhyme scheme. And yet the language flows like water; it's some of the most beautiful Italian ever penned. Despite the demands of structure, it's never awkward or forced. I am a firm believer that, even absent all other cultural and historical lessons to be taken from the Comedy, that the act of reading a masterpiece, beautifully written, is, in and of itself, elevating to both mind and spirit....

The question I posed is more a framework for looking at how and why Dante chose the personas he did, and what his choices say about him and his ideas. (It was also a writing prompt I gave in the course I"m currently teaching on Dante and social justice/ I though it might be a fun question to pose here, too.)

:::Edited for typos:::

6razzamajazz
Editado: Ene 20, 2014, 2:01am

Thanks for your take on The Divine Comedy .

Do you have any brief criticism on John Milton's Paradise Lost to share? Is this work comparable in quality to Dante's The Divine Comedy ?

Do you find any similarities to be discovered in these two masterpieces in their own right?

I have yet really to read these two books.I have the books on the library shelves collecting dust in my study. room.Must make attempts to read them. Too many books "sitting" on the shelves!!!

7Mithalogica
Editado: Ene 21, 2014, 11:40pm

>6 razzamajazz: I am far less familiar with Milton than with Dante, but as I recall, Paradise Lost deals with a more human-centered interpretation of sin and the fall, in part because of its time. While Dante is sometimes numbered with the early humanists along with figures like Petrarch, Boccaccio, Milton comes well after the height of Renaissance humanism.

Certainly both works address the concepts of sin, rebellion, and consequences in the afterlife, and (I suspect) both therefore have profound implications for such issues even in contemporary society, even independent of religion, though I can speak authoritatively only about Dante. To my far from expert perspective, Milton's humanism is evidenced both by his portrayal of Adam and Eve, and by his telling so much of the poem from Satan's perspective.

Not only is Milton one of the first to give Adam and Eve genuine personalities, he offers a far more sympathetic reading of the fall than any I am aware of previously. The idea, for example, of Adam knowingly following Eve into sin out of his love for her and determination to share her fate, however bleak, is somewhat revolutionary, and completely inverts Dante's idea of woman as inspiration for salvation, albeit ironically. Still, for all of Dante's love of Beatrice and his exaltation of the pure beauty of woman, Eve remained the temptress and first author of human sin. Milton not only seems to give Eve agency, but legitimacy in her actions, and ennobles both of them through making Adam's choice a conscious and selfless one, rather than the rather vapid submission of the medieval Adam to the wiles of wicked Eve.

And then there is the sheer amount of the work that is told from the infernal view. The notion that Satan had a reason (if not a good one, at least a rational one) for his opposition to God, would, I think, have been utterly foreign to Dante. I suspect we can see a bit of the Reformation's influence here as well. Remember that when Dante wrote, the Church, for all its flaws, was singular, monolithic. For Milton, on the other hand, the nature of faith, Christianity, and the church had already been challenged, redefined, argued, and diversified. The notion then of a rational opposition to God would seem to me to be made possible, at least in part, by the experience of a rational opposition to Rome.

Again, however, that is more or less armchair analysis, based on what I know of Dante, humanism, and post-reformation theology.

8razzamajazz
Ene 21, 2014, 2:58am


Thank you, Professor for your brief lecture in comparing these two books, Paradise Lost and The Divine Comedy

It is indeed wonderful to have such a knowledgeable member among us.

9Mithalogica
Ene 21, 2014, 11:35pm

>8 razzamajazz: Pish, tosh! :) As I said, a great deal of the above is likely just armchair analysis - I wouldn't put too much store by it. But thanks; I do love to natter on.... :)

10anthonywillard
Abr 10, 2014, 7:52pm

>9 Mithalogica: Don't underestimate yourself. I found a number of insights to ponder in your comments on both authors.

11anthonywillard
Editado: Abr 10, 2014, 8:28pm

As to the original question, some figures I would include in one or another of Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory are: Adlai Stevenson, Henry Kissinger, Margaret Thatcher, Chou En-Lai, Indira Ghandi. Also Georgia O'Keeffe, Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon (the painter), Frank Lloyd Wright. Tom Wolfe, Hart Crane, Margaret Mitchell, Franz Kafka, Simone de Beauvoir. And how about Theolonious Monk, Dmitri Shostakovitch, Bessie Smith, Glenn Gould, Woody Guthrie?

There's 20 for a start. From various fields of endeavor. As you can see, I am quite a bit older than your students.

The interesting thing about this exercise is, I find, that once one gets started it is hard to stop. The lists in my mind go on and on, especially authors. I can see how Dante must have had no trouble populating his realms with so many and varied characters. The problem would have been which ones to omit.

ETA: I see, looking back over, that the characters in my list are mostly interesting because of intellectual or aesthetic ambiguities. Dante was looking more for people with significant moral aspects to their personalities. So I add the following: Johnny Cash, Tammy Faye Bakker, Boris Yeltsin, Pope Pius XII, Jim Morrison, Frank Sinatra.

12Mithalogica
Abr 11, 2014, 9:46am

>10 anthonywillard: - Thank you, and I am so glad! :)

>11 anthonywillard: - This is a fascinating list (by which I mean both parts thereof) (Though, yes, I suspect a bit different from what my student might devise!)

But here you have given us this tantalizing list, and yet you've left us hanging! You left out the best part: who goes where? ;)

I'll have to step up to my own challenge and put together a list myself, without, of course, being too provocative; a limitation with which Dante certainly didn't trouble himself!

13anthonywillard
Abr 11, 2014, 12:02pm

>12 Mithalogica: I would make a boring Dante. I would put the whole lot of them in Purgatory. Right at the bottom so they could work their way up through all the levels. If I were to make an exception and let one or two of them go straight to Heaven it would be Johnny Cash and Bessie Smith, because I think they maybe had enough Purgatory here.

14Mithalogica
Abr 11, 2014, 4:09pm

>13 anthonywillard: Fair enough - I can't see any instances where I would disagree, even the last two. *doffs hat* Well said!