Thursday, October 30, 2014


For those of you who had Mrs. Klebba (Sorry Bre and Sri), you may remember her lecture on Kierkegaard last year when we talked about the existentialists (I have no idea if Mr. Shipman or Ms. King did this...). You may remember him as the dude with the awesome first name with the cool "o" -  Søren. 

Anyway, as I was browsing the interwebs riding the hype train (hypetrain? hype-train?) for UChicago, one of their tumblr blogs linked me to this beautiful gem of nerddom: the twitter account of Kim Kierkegaardashian. Some genius of geekdom decided to combine the philosophy of Kierkegaard with the tweets of Kim Kardashian. I sincerely hope this made you laugh as hard as I did during this incredible period of stress. Please enjoy (because this is not an order but a request!)

Kimmy K v. Kierkegaard. Who won? You decide!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dante's Pokemon

Y'all. The three beasts in the Inferno are the three legendary beasts of the Johto region in the Pokemon series. Not only do the beasts visually line up to the beasts (Raikou = leopard, Suicune = she-wolf, Entei = lion), but the lore also matches.

The story goes that the three Pokemon were in a monument called the Brass Tower when it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. A mysterious god-like Pokemon, a fire bird called Ho-oh, resurrected the three Pokemon as the legendary beasts known to the franchise's protagonist. The "divine intervention" of Ho-oh vaguely recalls the appearance of Vergil in the Inferno. Before you call bull, I realize that it doesn't line up exactly. I jut found the similarities compelling.

Also, Suicune, the "she-wolf," is set apart from the other two beasts because it is much harder to catch. It runs away each time you meet it, an interesting inversion of Dante's representation.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cartoon Representations of Hell

In honor of Dante and the coming Halloween holiday, I thought I might post this sizzling treat. Happy Hell Day!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Giancotto Discovers Paolo and Francesca

So far, we've seen a lot of paintings of souls that have already been damned. After all, that part of the sinner's lives is a primary interest of Dante in the Inferno. In doing so, however, we're neglecting the earthly stories of the sinners. I found a painting from 1819 by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres of Francesca an Paolo being "caught in the act," so to speak. Here it is:

picture courtesy of Colombia University

Notice Giancotto in the background about to kill the two lovers. Also notice Giancotto's awesome hair. Gotta love the hair.


Some of you may remember the question I brought up in class the other day. That question was "why did God create the malebranche if their only purpose was to torment?" Well I was unable to find an answer to that question, BUT I did find a possible source for them from Dante's life - more specifically, his political enemies. There are twelve Malebranche named in the poem:

(1) Alichino (derived from Arlecchino, the harlequin)
(2)Barbariccia ("Curly Beard")
(3)Cagnazzo ("Nasty Dog")
(4)Calcabrina (possibly "Grace Stomper")
(5)Ciriatto ("Wild Hog"[2])
(6)Draghignazzo ("Big Nasty Dragon")
(7)Farfarello (possibly "Goblin")
(8)Graffiacane ("Dog Scratcher")
(9)Libicocco (possibly "Libyan Hothead")
(10)Malacoda, the leader ("Evil Tail")
(11)Rubicante (possibly "Red-faced Terror" and a reference to Cante de' Gabrielli, who as Podestà of Florence condemned Dante to exile)
(12)Scarmiglione (possibly "Trouble Maker")

 These names could be jumbled forms of politicians from Dante's time, who did little to actually help and protect the city-state of Florence. For example, Barbariccia could refer to the Ricca family of Florence, who had a history of influencing politics with their money.

Liszt's Dante Symphony

   Dante's Divine Comedy, as we have seen, made a tremendous impact on Western literature and solidified its position in the Western canon. It comes as no surprise, then, that the literary work spawned creations in other media as well. We've already discussed the paintings and drawings of Doré, Dali, et al., but we have yet to discuss in detail the music that the poem inspired. Two notable programmatic musical pieces (works that relate the story of the Comedy through music) include Franz Liszt's Dante Symphony (S. 109) and Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini. Both can be argued to be fantasias (especially Francesca) because of their deviations from contemporary conventions (they were essentially symphonic hipsters), and the influence of Liszt's piece on Tchaikovsky's is evident in the similar portrayal of the Second Circle of Hell. Because Liszt's piece is more encompassing, I will discuss it:
   The Dante Symphony guides us through the Hell and Purgatory, but not Heaven. I think that this forces listeners to think about the idea of Heaven rather than have it be presented to them. Relating to Forms, Heaven is impossible for humans to accurately portray in any medium, be it speech, painting, music, etc. Liszt does, however, give the listener a taste of paradise at the end with the Magnificat. It is the only choral segment of the entire piece, and Liszt gave very specific instructions on hiding the choir from the audience's view to portray an angelic presence. Initially, Liszt had made the Magnificat even flashier than it already is to appease his mistress (she was a princess); however, his level-headed friend, Richard Wagner (should ring a bell or two... or three), talked some sense into him, telling him that the flashiness misrepresented Heaven. Now, on to the symphony itself:
   The symphony begins in lento with Liszt's portrayal of the Gates of Hell (0:00-0:35 in the video below). This introduction, along with much of the symphony, is written in D minor, which key Liszt, quite appropriately, associates with Death (please listen to Liszt's Totentanz, written also in D minor, it's a personal favorite of mine and is very suiting for Halloween. Further, the Dante Symphony includes a large amount of tonal ambiguity, unlike pieces such as Totentanz. This deviation seems to contribute to treachery of Hell.
   Soon--and indeed at varying times throughout the entirety of the Hell portion--the tempo accelerates, referencing the mounting terror and gravity of sin as Dante and Vergil descend. To demarcate the circles of Hell, Liszt uses a pronounced descent motif whenever Dante and Vergil are going deeper into Hell.
   When they reach the Second Circle (that of the lustful), Dante encounters Francesa da Rimini just a he does in the Inferno. To convey the image of the tempestuous winds that Dante describes, Liszt uses rapidly ascending and descending chromatic scales. Tchaikovsky mirrored this technique in his Francesca.
   Finally, the symphony is written in two movements (one of Hell, one of Purgatory) of ternary form. In ternary form, the composer introduces one segment, introduces a second one, and then returns to the (often augmented) first segment (called a recapitulation). This ABA structure mirrors the primary structure of the tercets in which Dante wrote his Comedy (aba bcb cdc ... rhyme scheme) and, by consequence, references the Trinity.
   Alright, no more rambling: here's Franz Liszt's Dante Symphony as performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the conducting of Daniel Barenboim. Enjoy!

Stars in Dante's Inferno

From the beginning of Dante's play, he uses stars as a symbol of hope and of the presence of God.  In Canto III, in the vestibule, Dante explains "Here sighs and cries and shrikes of lamentation echoed throughout the starless air of Hell[...]." The "starless air of Hell" of courses represents the absence of God's grace  in hell, and I love how Dante connects this imagery of the stars to the end of the Inferno when he says,"I saw the lovely things the heavens hold, and we came out to see once more the stars." Since stars are present at the end of Canto XXXIV, representing nearness to God, the symbolism of these stars reminds me a lot of the role that the Star of Bethlehem played. The Star of Bethlehem led the wise men, eager to meet Jesus, towards Him, and in a similar way, Dante is on a journey to be able to "get to know" God by experiencing the opposite of God, Hell. I think that the motif of sight also is related to the guidance of the stars, for Dante is able to visually see the stars at the end of the Inferno, symbolizing how God's presence is less remote.

What's up with Dante's laurel wreath?

When finishing the Inferno, I realized that I really hadn't known what Dante looked like and that I had only envisioned him in the Inferno through imagination. So, I decided to search up ole Dante Alighieri and see what Google gave me.

Wow, those are lots of laurel wreaths. 

I began to wonder the significance of the laurel wreath. Maybe some of y'all knew this, but I certainly had no clue; therefore, I decided to look it up. The laurel wreath, is a symbol of a masters degree. Laureato is a term in Italy used to describe and graduate student. Laureate, in poet laureate, basically means being signified by the laurel wreath. Basically, it just means that Dante is a scholar and a graduate student. We already knew that, especially since he predicts his own future and is semi self idolizing in the Inferno.  Just a little information about the garb that our pal Dante is often pictured wearing. He's quite the stoic guy isn't he?

I Am The Way


I find the anaphora of "I am the way" to be very interesting, as it reminds me of the Bible quote from John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." You can only enter Heaven through Jesus. You can only enter Hell through it's gates. I think it's cool that Dante uses "I Am The Way" to say basically the exact opposite of the Bible quote.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Florence Baptistry

Something that I think is really interesting is that this mosaic is from St. John's Baptistry in Florence. From what I gathered, the baptistry was finished in 1128. This means that if this mosaic was original, then it would have probably been seen by Dante, possibly giving him some inspiration for Satan in the Inferno. Another interesting thing that I'd like to note here is that this baptistry also houses the Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti. This is what Rodin based his Gates of Hell off of. This means that there is a possible two big notable works of art/literature based off of this one baptistry in Florence.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dante's Inferno: the game

So apparently, in 2010, there was a video game version of Dante's inferno that could be played on the Playstation 2. The writers of the video game had probably never even read Dante's inferno, or anything close to a biography of his life. Why am I sharing this, well to be frank, the plot is hilarious. According to the game, Dante fought in the third crusade against Saladin. Once Dante recovered the relic, he was assassinated and death appeared before him and took him down to Hell where he must fight through waves of demons and whatnot. This ever so slightly deviates from Dante's history. First, Dante lived about a century after the third crusade. Secondly He most certainly his journey was not propagated by an assassination where he fought his way through hell. They definitely took some liberties in this game.
Here's dante fighting some demons with the Holy Cross

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spongebob part 2

So, the Capaneus scenario with him getting struck by lightning brought back another fond memory of spongebob. Check out this youtube link: its a 16 second video.

I honestly think the spongebob writers just made a Capaneus reference even though the vast majority of their audience would not understand this at all other than the fact that "haha the yellow guy got hit by an ice cream truck". This is one of the reasons that I actually have a lot of respect for the spongebob writers, they'll often include hidden bits of fairly witty humor, but it'll be masked with enough little kid comedy so that they'll think it's funny as well.

Dante's Burn Book

It occurred to me earlier that Dante, while attempting to be an epic poet of regarded as badass by all, is very much a stereotypical teenage girl. Firstly, he majorly fangirls when he meets his idol, Vergil, and continues to waltz through Hell with hearts in his eyes for the rest of his journey. Secondly, he idolizes the object of his affection, pining away for something beyond his reach - Beatrice. Thirdly, he has a Burn Book

But, no. He doesn't just have a Burn Book in which he writes the names of his enemies to insult them. He literally burns them in Hell. If that doesn't spell "angst-ridden teenage girl," I don't know what does. Anyone who he was unhappy with in life he probably damned in death (I'm lookin' at you, Boniface). 

(Yes, I spent my time doing this and it makes me very happy)

What do y'all think? Is Dante's Inferno the realization of his secret fantasies against his enemies? Is Dante a Regina George or a Cady Herring?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Preferred medium? Rubik's cubes, please!

   As you all may know, I am quite obsessed with Rubik's cubes. They were created as a tool to help Ernő Rubik's architecture students visualize three-dimensional concepts, but modern artists have utilized his six-colored creation as a medium for mosaics. Because stone tesserae were, naturally, too boring. These guys orient the pieces of the cubes (Rubik's cubes have an amazing mathematical nature to the ways in which the pieces can be moved, which I could go on and on about. Look up some introductory Group Theory if you have an afternoon of leisure time). While the pieces range from the frivolous, like Spongebob and the internet "troll" face, to the beautifully intricate. My personal favorite is Josh Chalom's interpretation of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam. Here's the original fresco:

   And here's Chalom's "Cubist" (heh) rendition:

   Normal Cube-mosaics consist of about 800 Cubes; Chalom's used a record-setting 12,090.

   If you enjoyed these, check out many others at this link:

Best example of illumination ever!

Yeah. We were all thinking it. Thank you, Ross, for giving me an opportunity to bring Spongebob to the blog. Also, Spongebob mosaic?

Not very Byzantine but still interesting (Where do people get time to do this stuff?).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dante's Portrayal of the Different Sides of God

As we discussed in class, Dante depicts different sides of God in the Inferno. Beatrice resembles the merciless God, and the angel that comes to aid Virgil resembles the side of God that provokes fear in order to "wake" people up. The reason this divine messenger or angel reminds of of the side of God that causes fears is because of the righteous anger or wrath that this angel demonstrates. A week ago at my church, the priest's homily spoke about Matthew 22, the parable of the Wedding Banquet. In this parable, the king, representing God, invites all to a wedding, but most refuse to attend. One person did attend but was not dressed properly, so the king said "Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." This imagery of cruelness and of mercilessness reminded me of the the way in which the angel acts. I think that this part of the parable that I quoted represents the side of God that Dante is trying to show, a side where fear is provoked in order to get people's attention and to get them to obey.

Music. The Inferno. It's Intense.

I figured the music created based on Dante's Inferno would be pretty awesome, and I was so correct. This symphonic band, composed by Robert W. Smith, plays a roughly seven minute long piece that varies in intensity and features loads of awesome crescendos. The quick changing pace and loud instruments represents the Inferno and all it's fury. The music in the beginning is slow, which directly mirrors the less sinful sinners in the beginning of the Inferno. As the piece continues, the music intensifies and picks up pace, similar to the descent in Hell where the worse sinners are located. The music actually reminds me of music that might be seen in Harry Potter. Anyways, it's really awesome and I think you would all enjoy it!

Here's the link:

Here's Robert W. Smith. He has a soft smile and mustache I thought y'all would enjoy.

Who Prays for Satan?

"But who prays for Satan? Who in eighteen centuries has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most, or one fellow and brother who most needed a friend yet had not a single one, the one sinner among all of us who had the highest and clearest right to every Christian's daily and nightly prayers, for the plain and unassailable reason that his was the first and greatest need, he being among sinners the supremest?" - Mark Twain 

When I read this quote, I immediately reflected upon my nightly prayers before I go to sleep. I always pray for my family, friends, and for those who are in a time of need. I realized that usually I spend more time on the latter because those are the ones who need it the most. Generally when you think of those who need it most, Satan doesn't come first to your mind. He chose to rebel against God and create an army to fight against him. This was his choice, so why should we pray for someone who chose to stray from God? When you think about it, wouldn't that make him the one who needs prayer the most? We all know friends who have sinned and strayed from God's word. Does that make them any less worthy of prayer? No, and in fact in makes them need prayer and blessings MORE than others. Now, our friends and family certainly haven't caused a war in Heaven, but that certainly doesn't make their prayer any less needed. The reason this quote stood out to me was because Satan really IS the one who needs prayer the most. Our friends and family can recover from their sins, but Satan certainly can't. We all pray for those who need it, but never the "supremest sinner". I personally had never thought about it this way, which is why I wanted to bring it to y'alls attention. Now, I certainly won't be adding Satan to my prayer roster, but Mark Twain does spark and interesting conversation with his deep quote. What do y'all think? 

Geryon - Enough Said

Alright, so I know we weren't supposed to read Canto XVII (17) but I felt that a certain figure needs to be mentioned. Its/His name is Geryon and he is the embodiment of Fraud in Dante's Inferno. In order to represent Fraud, Dante mixed three natures -human, reptilian, and bestial (like a lion or a cow)- into one being...well he sorta did. Geryon actually has three bodies and three heads, one for each nature. Once again we see Dante's use of the number three to represent a sinful being, so Geryon's three natures may be another parody on the Trinity. You might assume that a creature like this would be wild and aggressive to Dante on his journey, but it is actually the opposite. Geryon carries them on (heh - Geryon carry on) its/his back to get to the eighth circle of Hell.

The Devil Is A...Child!!

I think that it is interesting how culture has changed the viewing of the devil. The devil is someone to be feared. When we did our art projects the devil was a creature with multiple faces, horns and large wings. Yet people dress their young children up in costumes to represent the devil. Have we become desensitized to the idea of the devil? Does this teach youth that he is less evil than we originally thought?


The song "Homless" by Paul Simon came to my mind when we were listening to music yesterday. If you listen you can hear the harmonies. When the song progresses it has Paul Simon saying a verse while Lady Black Smith Mambazo responds.

MORE RENT YAY! (Also chance and fate)

Please forgive my second Rent-based post of the day. I'm having withdrawals from the show and feel a need to talk about it constantly. I've also been waiting to post this post until after the show was over because I didn't want to spoil the show for the class.

Please watch from 0:35-1:48:

The above video is Mark singing while he's at Angel's funeral on Halloween. He's contemplating how he even got to the place he's at in his life. Then he remembers - it was Christmas Eve the previous year. That Christmas Eve was the night that their group - Mark, Rodger, Mimi, Angel, Collins, Maureen, and Joanne - came together. It was the night that all of the events took place that brought them together. Mark sings, "Why did Mimi knock on Rodger's door and Collins choose that phone booth back where Angel set up his drums? Why did Maureen's equipment break down?" Was this series of events, and the others that lead to their group coming together, chance or fate?

This reminds me of the part in The Unbearable Lightness of Being where it talks about all of the "happenings" that lead to Tomas and Tereza meeting. Throughout the novel, Tomas and Tereza question whether they have to be together of if they could exist separately. Did they meet by chance or did they meet by fate?

Puccini - La Boheme and Rent

One thing that Dr. Labruyere emphasized to the cast of Rent when we were learning about the show and our characters was that Rent was based off of one of Puccini's most famous operas, La Boheme. Dr. Labruyere gave the cast a detailed history of how the two related, and it was so interesting to see how closely Rent follows the original show.

The first similarity between the two shows is that both Rent and La Boheme are operas. When we think of operas and opera singers we usually imagine something like this:

The above link and picture are both from the opera La Boheme, which is what we would consider a "normal opera".  I'm pretty sure I remember everyone in our class, teachers included, seeing Rent. (THANK YOU! You guys are the best!) I'm pretty sure you weren't sitting there during the show thinking "wow, what a great opera." However, it is important to remember the basic definition of an opera - an opera is a show in which everything is sung. If you remember from Rent, there were very few spoken words. The way that information was given to the audience and the way the characters conversed was through song. Rent is therefore considered a rock opera.

Much of the music from Rent is based off of La Boheme's music. There are a few themes, such as Musetta's Waltz, that are repeated throughout Rent's music. Below is a link to Musetta's Waltz:

And here is a link to Musetta's Waltz being played in the song La Vie Boheme from Rent (go to the time 6:45):

The characters in Rent are also directly based off of the characters in Puccini's La Boheme. Below are the character's names and hobbies in La Boheme next to their counterpart in Rent (La Boheme on the left, Rent on the right):

Marcello, a painter = Mark, a videographer (Videos "paint a picture" through image)
Rodolfo, a poet = Rodger, a songwriter (poetry = lyrics of song)
Mimí, a seamstress = Mimi, a dancer
Musetta, a singer = Maureen, a singer/performer
Schaunard, a musician = Angel Dumott Schaunard, a street performer/drummer
Colline, a philosopher = Collins, a computer aged philospher
Benoît, the landlord = Benny, the landlord

Finally, the plot in La Boheme and Rent are crazily similar. La Boheme is about a group of struggling artists living in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1830s, during the Tuberculosis crisis. Rent is about a group of struggling artists living in New York in the late 1900s, during the height of the AIDS crisis. In both of these shows, the artists are called "bohemians", which according to, is a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices." In the interest of time, I'm not going to go through the whole plot of La Boheme versus Rent, but they are shockingly similar. Many of the same events occur in both shows. They are, of course, somewhat different, but Rent is very closely based off of La Boheme.

Throwback Saturday: Unbearable Lightness and Anna K

I was just starting Chapter 1 of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina earlier this week and I noticed something. A bit of context: the book opens with the Oblonsky family in disarray. The husband Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky (or “Stiva” for short - gotta love those Russian names) has cheated on his wife Darya Alexandrovna (“Dolly") and all is going downhill (the famous opening line “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”) Tolstoy comments: “Every person in the house felt that there was no sense in their living together, and that the stray people brought together by chance in any inn had more in common with one another than they, the members of the family and household of the Oblonskys.” That remark reminded me how Tomas and Tereza meet in Unbearable Lightness. They are, in a sense, strangers at an inn who have very little in common but are inexplicably drawn by fate together in a sort of family (albeit, an unhealthy and dysfunctional one). It made me think a lot about what makes a family and the ties that bind one together. Can a family cease to exist just because a few members want out, or does blood continue to tie them together? Thoughts?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Phlegyas, Phlegethon, and Phlogiston

Immediately before Dante and Vergil reach the City of Dis, they ride on the boat of the sinner Phlegyas. He's in Hell for setting aflame a temple of Apollo (Phlegyas's wife was a lover of Apollo, she cheated on Apollo, and Apollo killed her). Later, we see those sinners who are violent toward other people burning in the river Phlegethon. Dante describes the river as flowing with boiling blood (quite fitting for the contrapasso of these sinners). Plato described it as a river of fire, and the name translates to "flaming."

What Phlegyas and Phlegethon have in common is their common prefix, the Greek root relating to fire. Phlegyas's fire was his internal rage, while Phlegethon's fire stems from the hate of the sinners it houses.

Later, Johann Joachim Becher postulated that fire burns because of the presence of a molecule called phlogiston. Without this new molecule, a fire wouldn't burn. Turns out, this molecule was oxygen, and Becher's theory, while a decent hypothesis and important scientific step-stool, was proved obsolete. Phlogiston also shares the same prefix for fire.

Here's a funny picture of Becher for your amusement:

Reinterpretation of musical scores throughout history

In class, we talked about how composers reinterpret music to make a piece their own. Specifically, we referenced Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. Me also briefly discussed the plainchant of Dies Irae ("Day of Wrath"). I especially enjoy Verdi's spin on it. Have a listen, it's absolutely spectacular:

Angels on a pin

So, how many angels fit on the head of a pin? Well, according to Dorothy Sayers it's infinite since angels are like thoughts. However Anders Sandberg argues a different number. He says the amount of angels that can dance on the head of a pin has an upward bound of 8.6766 x 10^49 angels based on information physics and quantum gravity. According to the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, it would be between 1 and 30 vingtillion angels, since the smallest possible area is the Planck Area (2.6x10^-70 square meters) and the area of a pin is about 7.6 x 10^-6 so he figured that's the amount of angels. What's the correct amount? Well, the world may never know

Angels are scary

In the scene where the angel gets sent down to tell the demons to let Dante and Virgil on through hell, he reminds me of a terrifying high level corporate figure being sent down to take inventory in a warehouse. This scary angel wasn't too surprising to me especially when you think of Old Testament God and angels. For example, when God went to chit-chat with Moses, Moses was freaking terrified. Like first things first (I'm da realest) a spontaneously burning bush starts talking to you, then if you look at it, the sight would blind you. Even that is terrifying. Angels aren't always sitting on clouds whilst playing the lyre, they sometimes suit up and go fight dragons and other battles (see milton).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Beatrice and Transcendental Love

In class, we discussed how Dante and Beatrice's love was transcendental, or essentially supernatural. If Dante hadn't described it this way, would Beatrice have been placed in Circle Two with the Lustful? Her love for Dante was very passionate and strong, so much so that Dante called it transcendental. One could argue that Francesca and Paolo had a strong, passionate love as well. I think that because Dante didn't want to have Beatrice in Hell, he proclaimed their love transcendental so that she could reside in Paradise. Without this specification, Minos could have potentially placed her with the Lustful. It's important that Beatrice be in Heaven, so that she may lead Dante through it when Virgil cannot continue. Perhaps this is why he described their love this way. Or, perhaps their love really was transcendental. Either way, I think it speaks to the point that, potentially, had Dante not classified the love as divine, Beatrice may have not been sent to Paradise.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Plato and The Divine Comedy

The "intellectual vision" that is is a concept in the Divine Comedy, "the direct knowledge of God and other realities, such as love, that have neither corporeal shape nor corporeal substance," reminds of Plato's theory of knowledge in some ways. Plato thought that all objects were mere representations of a true or perfect form and that the reality as we know it can be deceiving to what is actually the truth. In a similar way, one of the three ways of knowing, intellectual vision has some similarity to Plato's theory, for intellectual vision requires one to reject corporeal aspects in order to see beyond what we perceive as reality and to know God. I think that it is interesting that the idea of corporeality is often viewed as something inferior and that to attain knowledge, one must search beyond the physical and the body in order to gain true knowledge. I think that this concept can definitely been seen in The Divine Comedy as well as in Plato's theory. This is a concept that seems to come up a lot in literature like in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and I find it fascinating how this idea originates from even the time of Plato.

Different Levels of Sight

Something that I find very interesting and that I've made two (now three) posts about on this blog already is the different types of sight. We discovered two types of sight - physical and intellectual - while reading Greek literature. I also pointed out in a previous blog post (the one with the two pictures I found on social media sights) that the different kinds of sight are still a prevalent theme today.

Now that we are reading Dante's Inferno, sight is split into three categories. The lowest is corporeal vision, or literal physical sight. In the middle is spiritual or imaginative vision, which is knowledge through images that have corporeal shape without corporeal subject (ex: dreams). The highest level of sight is intellectual vision, which is defined as the direct knowledge of God and other realities, like love, that have neither corporeal shape or subject.

I find it interesting that the motif of different types of sight has been prevalent in many different cultures across a huge time period. My hypothesis on this is that sight is a very important sense and something that we rely a lot on, so it's something that people in every time period can relate to.

Evolution of Literature: the Hero/Warrior/Protagonist

About 1000BC: Achilles - Achilles was the son of a nymph and a king. He is considered one of the greatest warriors of ancient history, probably has muscles where muscles don't exist, and was (according to Mr. Tritico) 15 years old at the time of the Trojan War. He's masculine, but also has emotions, but he can become consumed by furor as a result of these emotions: the death of his dear Patroclus enrages him such that he kills Hector and drags him around Troy's walls.

About 30 BC - Aeneas: son of Venus, very emotional (as we saw in the Aeneid), had a great sense of duty/pietas. Great warrior, but nothing extremely abnormal about his physique. Aeneas must constantly struggle with a source of evil, the furor of Juno.

1200 AD - Sir Lancelot: Archetypical knight. Mighty in war and nice to the lady folk. The theme of chivalry rises up in this period. The way Aeneas handled his situation with Dido would not have been okay with the knights. Thus, the notion of responsibility is further developed to include a attention to the feelings of others.

1938 AD - Superman: born on a foreign planet, Krypton, he's an alien that has emotional cares for the people of earth as a whole. He's freaking invincible, save for his Achilles heel (reference intended), Kryptonite. The notion of responsibility has been extended to people whom the hero does not know, and the concept of good vs. evil is most prevalent, as in the Aeneid.

1976 AD - He-Man: a paragon of modern masculinity. This guy has about eight bicep muscles for every real human bicep muscle. He wields a sword about as big as he is tall, and he defeats evil with swift and exacting justice.
With the emphasis literature has placed on strong male figures, men  have an unrealistic social standard to live up to. I don't think this problem is addressed enough in modern times, so here's a summary:

Possible Meanings Behind the 3 Animals: Leopard, Lion, and Wolf

So I was doing a little research on the leopard, lion, and she-wolf in the first part of Dante's Inferno and I found some possible reasons for them. The first and most obvious source can be found in the Bible, specifically in the book of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah it says, "Wherefore a lion out of the wood hath slain them, a wolf in the evening hath spoiled them, a leopard watcheth for their cities: every one that shall go out thence shall be taken, because their transgressions are multiplied, their rebellions strengthened." This passage predicts the destruction of those who refuse to repent for their sins. For this reason, the three animals are seen as the three types of sin: concupiscence (immoderate desires), violence, and fraud. Another, perhaps lesser known, reason for these animals is strictly political. The political faction that Dante was apart of had three main enemies: the Blacks in Florence, the Royal House of France, and, of course, the Papacy. I'm not sure which animal would correspond to each of these groups but the similarity in the number of each should be noted. Whether Dante meant for the three animals to represent a religious idea, a political one, or a hybrid of the two might only be known to the author himself, but one thing is certain: they definitely lingered, as if looming, in Dante's thoughts for a while.

A synthesis of other Hells

Dante's Hell incorporates an amalgam of characters from other belief systems in his Hell: Cerberus, Minos (both from Greek mythology), Horace, Ovid (both very real people from Rome). This synthesis of Greek and Roman, mythological and real, is more evidence that Dante wanted to assert his version of Hell as all-encompassing. The mythological characters especially interested me. Sure, Dante had to account for real people, but he definitely had the choice to integrate aspects of an especially non-Christian religion with his Christian Hell. My conjecture is that he had one of two thought processes: 1.) "these creatures are scary, people like scary things, I'm going to let the Greeks do the leg work on this one;" or 2.) each of these creatures is a paragon of a different form of depravity to which humans can succumb. Either way, Dante did mooch a good bit of his creatures from past generations. This, however, does not make Dante a plagiarist; nay, it merely puts him in league with the other greats of world literature. Vergil copied Homer, Milton copied the Bible, etc. Perhaps this is why Dante put himself in the crowd of the great intellectuals in the beginning of the Inferno.

Dante Comic

When researching, I came upon a funny set of comics done by Hunt Emerson. This particular image shows Dante and Virgil overlooking the wrathful in the River Styx. They're stuck under the surface, filled with rage and trying to breach the surface. The Wrathful were plagued with anger their whole life, and now they're stuck in mud biting and lunging after each other. I think the comic helps explain the scene better and adds a comical side of Dante's inferno. Also, again we see Dante in the cloak and laurel wreath... and Virgil does kinda look like the ghost of Christmas past.

Corporeal Form

While thinking about the various punishments found in Dante's Hell, I realized the importance of the corporeal being of the damned. By remaining similar to their bodily forms, these sinners stay far from the perfect form; their bodies trap their spirits in a particular place, unable to escape and return to Paradise and God. Furthermore, these punishments are all forms of torture, and the first word that comes to mind when I hear the word "torture" is pain, specifically physical pain. This point is emphasized right before Dante sees punishment for the first time in Canto V, when Minos says, "O you who come to the place where pain is host[.]" Pain is not just an element of Hell, it is the benefactor, the one true master over all who reside in each and every level. For pain to be properly felt, however, those experiencing it must live a corporeal existence; it is necessary to have a physical form to suffer from physical pain. Thus those who are punished in Hell must be trapped in their bodies so that they can truly understand and feel their punishments.

Minos Picture

I wanted to talk about this picture of Minos, adjudicator of the damned, in class but I was worried about time constraints. I found this piece interesting because Doré portrays Minos as mostly human. In Dante's Inferno, Minos is both grotesque an beastly. The one characteristic of Minos that Doré decides to keep is the coiling tail, which wraps around Minos a certain number of times to symbolize the level of Hell in which they belong. Doré also shows some kind of light to be illuminating the figure of Minos. I think Doré depicted the image of Minos under this light to emphasize his importance in Hell, as the judge of each sinner in the line, which extends into the darkness in the background.

Friday, October 10, 2014

7 Deadly Sins

Like I said in class and over and over again in various social situations, I love Supernatural. I mentioned that there is an episode where Sam and Dean fight the 7 Deadly Sins. Even though each of the sins make the people do different deadly sins they all end with...well death. Some examples of the people who die are envy where the woman bashes a lady's head in over a pair of shoes, the family who is sitting dead on their couch because they experienced sloth, and the man forced to drink drain-o for gluttony.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lover vs. Warrior

On page 1077 of Norton, the question "Can one be a full hearted lover and a loyal warrior?" is posed when talking about literature of the Middle Ages; however, I think the question is established earlier on into the works of Virgil and Sophocles. Aeneas, a noble warrior, must abandon Dido soon after their "official" nuptials. He knew his duty, and he to fulfill it to the best of his ability. He had to chose between being a warrior and being a full lover, even though the choice he chose perhaps wasn't his ideal choice. In addition, Oedipus must battle the difficulties of loving his mom and being loyal to his city. Though he loved his wife, unfortunately his mom, he cannot handle the guilt he feels for sleeping with her. He also promised Thebes that the murder would be exiled. In order to stay loyal to his city, he had to fulfill his own prophecy.  

Dante's Internet

Read. Enjoy.

Was Dante OCD?

Seriously, though. How many freakin’ subdivisions of Hell does he have? Just look at Circle 8. TEN. FREAKIN’. SUBCIRCLES. It reminds me of how I organize my desktop. I have folders for personal things and school things. School breaks up into class. Classes are colour-coded. Class breaks up into quarters. Quarters break up into type of document. This type of overly-organized and meticulously micromanaged way of living may seem like hell to some people, but this is literally how Dante organized his Hell. There are layers on layers on layers of types of sin, to the point where some sinners are almost in a category by themselves. Like “those who betray their friends on the 3rd Friday of October in odd number years.” Good job, Dante. You’re almost as OCD as I am. 

P.S. Can we please colour-code Hell?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

War, what is it good for?

I wanted to discuss the war Milton describes in his Paradise Lost in connection with the war in Vergil’s Aeneid and their significance to the main storylines. In Paradise Lost there was a war between Lucifer, called Satan after his betrayal, and God. According to Milton, God was omniscient and so would have known that the war would happen, but did nothing to stop it. God instead let the war start, knowing that He would banish Lucifer and his followers and cause them to fall through chaos to Hell. If God had tried to stop the war in Heaven, that he knew was going to happen, then the events that unfolded in Paradise Lost would never have occurred. So the war brought the creation of a group of fallen angels that desired the corruption of whatever God created. The Aeneid uses the Trojan War in a similar way, to instigate the creation of a new group as well as a cause for the events in the book. If not for the Trojan War, then Aeneas would have never have traveled to Italy and his descendants would have never founded the Roman race. And, like in Paradise Lost, a divine being was involved in the main action. Considering that these two works are both epic poems, I am sure that other similarities can be found.

Love - the Good and the Bad

In the reading we had over the weekend, it says that the natural inclination of human beings is love but sin is the product of an immoderately directed love. This concept is strange to someone like me, who has grown up with the idea that love is pure and innocent and, thus, can do no wrong. But in Dante’s masterpiece, he describes the love in Hell and Purgatory as perverse or tainted. In Hell, the three types of love are incontinence, which is an inability to control one’s sexual desires, violence, and fraudulence. Strangely, the seven sins are found in Purgatory not Hell as one of three types of love: misdirected (pride, envy, and wrath), defective (sloth), or excessive (gluttony, avarice, and lust). Once again, I have never thought of the sins or Hell in terms of love, but it does make sense. The sin wrath holds a particularly unique position in the perversion of love, mostly because of how the Bible describes certain actions by God. God’s wrath is considered an act of love for humans; He punishes us to push us in the right direction, to help us stay on the correct path. But that brings up a question: Why does Dante feel that those with the misdirected love wrath should be punished, while God, who shows His wrath and love in the Bible, is considered to be completely Holy? Why is God considered to be perfection if, according to Dante, his type of love for us is wrong? Perhaps love is not what it appears to be; perhaps it is actually more of a hindrance than a benefit. Is this the reason why Dante distinguishes love and vision, which is similar to love? In Paradise, people are classified by the extent of their vision of God. Basically this means that those with a love of God are found in Paradise. Its funny how the one of the only times love is good is when its directed at God. I am interested to find out how everyone feels about this.

Numbers 3, 9, and 7

The number three has always been a religious symbol for Christians, and represents many important aspects of the religion, such as the Holy Trinity. Dante Alighieri takes this number and uses it to categorize love in three different locations: Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Furthermore, Dante made nine, a multiple of three, circles of Hell, as if to emphasize the importance of the number and his twisting of it in his Divine Comedy. The number nine itself is also important because it relates to the number of mystery of angels, since there are nine choirs of angels. Considering that Lucifer/Satan/King of Hell/Bad Mama Jama was once an angel himself, and may have been a member of one of those choirs, his domain in the ninth level of Hell and Dante’s use of the number gains significance. At this point in time I would like to point out that the nine levels of Hell are not present in the Bible, they were created by Dante. Dante’s use of the number seven, however, serves the same purpose as in the Bible; it counts the number of sins. I wanted to bring up this number because it is considered the number of perfection yet it is also the number of imperfections in human beings. Interestingly enough, the Book of Revelation mentions the number seven as the number of seals that need to be broken to release Satan, further pointing out the strange line this number walks between the sides of good and evil connotations. Number play a large role in the Bible and Dante’s work so if there are any more that you feel need to be discussed then please post a comment.

P.S. I found a LEGO® representation of the 9 levels of Hell, enjoy. Just a disclaimer: some of these are a little graphic, even though they are LEGOs.