Now widely regarded as one of world literature’s greatest poems, Dante’s Divine Comedy has traveled a rough road through literary history. Though popular among Dante’s contemporaries, the work fell out of favor during the Renaissance, and Enlightenment critics found the poem so grotesque and horrifying that Voltaire suggested Dante’s reputation was safe—nobody would bother reading him. However, the Romantics enthusiastically embraced the Divine Comedy, and Victor Hugo went so far as to write that Dante “has constructed within his own mind the bottomless pit. He has made the epic of the spectres. He rends the earth; in the terrible hole he has made, he puts Satan. Then he pushes the world through Purgatory up to Heaven. Where all else ends, Dante begins. Dante is beyond man.” Well, then. Unsurprisingly, the Divine Comedy captured the imaginations of modernists like Pound and Eliot, and even provided material for John F. Kennedy’s favorite quote: “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.” We will read the first two books of the Comedy, Inferno and Purgatorio, seeing what this controversial masterpiece can tell us, about ourselves and about the cosmos, some seven hundred years after it was written. As with Virgil and Dante, your guide for this Delve will then leave you in the Earthly Paradise at the summit of Mount Purgatory. We will be reading from the Mandelbaum translation for both books (Bantam Classics Edition).
Guide: Lucas Bernhardt holds MAs in English and in Writing from Portland State University, as well as an MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He manages the Portland State University Writing Center and is managing editor of Propeller Quarterly, a literature and art magazine.
Wednesdays, October 14 – November 18, 2015 6:30 – 8:30 pm (6 Meetings)