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Thread: Just some reflections

  1. #1
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    Just some reflections

    Man, I just finished reading The Divine Comedie for the first time. Although, truth be told I read the "Inferno" a long time ago, when I was really too young to get much of it.

    Anyway, I was really surprised with how much I enjoyed the Purgatorio. It was by far my favorite section of the three major divisions of the poem. Maybe it was because it used the seven deadly sins as divisions, maybe it was that it was the section where Dante, the narrator himself, was most noticablly altered by the events in the poem, maybe it was the assent to Eden, the conversations with the most worldly of sins, maybe it was the idea of redemption or purging of sin, . . . . but I was just enthralled with it.

    I enjoyed all of the sections really, though the Paradiso got a bit repetative for me after a while. I don't mean that in a highschooler way. I just mean that it seemed after each Canto in the Paradiso, he reached a point that was so amazing as to be beyond words. . . .and again, and again. . .. that by the time Dante came in view of the 9th ring of Heaven, I was "amazed out". I felt like I had been to the summit so often, that this true summit seemed more anticlimax than climax.

    But I should try to reread that section because I might be missing something. I enjoyed the philosophical elements in the Paradiso a lot, however; they were my favorite part of that section.
    “Oh crap”
    -- Hellboy

  2. #2
    I too have a special fondness for Purgatorio, I think because of the serenity that infuses it. It's a kind of point of equilibrium between the two extremes of suffering and ecstasy represented by Inferno and Paradiso.

    The intensity of Paradiso for me lies in Dante's insistent vocabulary of brilliance: radiant, spendid, resplendent, shining, gleaming, etc. It becomes literally dazzling at times, so the reader experiences something of the blinding effect that the Gatekeeper of Purgatory, the angel that guides them up the mountain and various figures in Paradise have on Dante. (On the other hand, I find the exposition of Catholic theology in the Paradiso a bit tedious, there's quite a lot of it. The beauty of the verse compensates somewhat of course. The section of Paradiso that I most enjoy is Cantos XV-XVII. Cacciaguida's idealistic vision of Florence in the past is not completely credible, but it's very beautiful - and the famous prophecy of Dante's exile...what can you say...astounding.)

    Turns out Dante belonged to a philosophical-religious school called Illuminism, which imagined God as a light at the center of the universe. This of course turns his Ptolemaic astronomy inside out, so how he reconciled the two visions I don't know. Also, the notion that material reality emanates unceasingly from this Light very much resembles both the Hindu concept of the Cosmic Egg and the theory of the Big Bang - which of course is metaphysically in another category. This Illuminist philosophy seems to have come from the Sufis, and was first disseminated, in Europe at least, by a Spanish Muslim from Murcia, Ibn 'Arabî, was passed to a Jewish Malagan named Abicebrón, and to various Christian thinkers, including Duns Scotus, St. Bonaventure, Roger Bacon and Raimon Llull. In fact, Dante was more sympathetic to Islamic thinkers than a superficial reading suggests. Of course he condemns Mohammed to a really vile punishment, because the view was widespread that the Prophet was a Christian who had caused a schism by establishing Islam. It's not true of course. (My theory is that many Arabs must have been alarmed by the presence in Arabia of so many Christian hermits and monks, which would have suggested the advance of a new, theological Roman Empire.) But look how Dante includes Saladdin and Averroës among the virtuous heathen. Also, he exalts the figure of Sigier, a heretic who taught philosophy in Paris, and who was a follower of Averroës. Add all that to his general anticlericalism and his harsh condemnation of many Popes, and we find a different Dante hidden below his orthodox exterior.

    In fact, Miguel Asín Palacios, a Spanish arabist, wrote a long book titled La escatología musulmana en la Divina Comedia in which he demonstrates, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Dante took the general plan of the Commedia and numerous figures in the poem, and most spectacularly, many punishments in Hell, from a Muslim poetic tradition which began in the 8th century and continued tro the 13th, which first told the journey of the Prophet Mohammed from Jerusalem (!) to the afterlife, and as the tradition developed, the journey of the poet.

    Anyway... Did you read the poem in Italian?

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