04 April 2011

Versions of Things Beloved, Part 2


Midway in the course of our life. I found myself within a dark wood . . . "

Thus opens one of the most profound, evocative, enriching, and complex poems in human history: Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia).  The poem Dante writes in the first person describes his journey through three realms of the dead: Hell (Inferno),  Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Heaven (Paradiso), a journey taken over a six day period in the year 1300 from from the night before Good Friday to the Wednesday after Easter.

I've managed to get through it only once, and that was only because I was reading it for an undergraduate course and the professor -- not unlike Dante's guide Beatrice -- got us through the thing.  Since then, I've tried to read it on my own; I've never gotten much further past the midway point of Purgatory.  It just becomes a light show after that!

But that hasn't stopped me from collecting multiple editions of the poem.  Each translation varies, reflecting the respective translator's times, training,  intentions, and poetic insight.

The Commedia has also keenly inspired artists over the centuries. the most noted being Gustav Dore (see the first two images of this post). As much as Dante's epic journey of the soul, these images have found a place deep in my imagination and psyche.

Barry Moser

Salvador Dali

William Blake

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Wayne Douglas Barlowe

Sandro Botticelli  

Rudi Keimel


The Dartmouth Dante Project - a searchable, full-text database of Dante commentaries.

The University of Texas at Austin's DanteWorlds. [from the site] "an integrated multimedia journey--combining artistic images, textual commentary, and audio recordings--through the three realms of the afterlife (Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise) presented in Dante's Divine Comedy. The site is structured around a visual representation of Dante's worlds: it shows who and what appear where."

Digital Dante Project from Columbia University's Institute for Learning Technologies. [from the site's about page] "In essence, the Digital Dante Project is (or will be) a multimedia translation of The Divine Comedy. It is admittedly not a translation like the Mandelbaum, Sinclair, Singleton, or other, more traditional, text translations. Indeed, the Danteum, in this incarnation, is not even an "original" translation in that it relies entirely on the Longfellow translation for its English text of the Commedia.

In our view, however, the Digital Dante Project does constitute a translation because it integrates (or will integrate) multimedia, as well as hyperlinked text commentary and other materials, into the reading of the Commedia in an innovative way -- a way not previously possible in non-digital media. The Digital Dante Project is essentially a twenty-first-century illumination -- one that intends to take advantage of the existing technical possibilities of our contemporary culture to create a viewpoint -- a twenty-first-century dantisti viewpoint -- of contemporary and historical culture, much like Dante's original work was (in addition to allegory) a thirteenth-century viewpoint of then contemporary and historical culture."

ORB ONLINE REFERENCE BOOK FOR MEDIEVAL STUDIES DANTE ALIGHIERI: A Guide to Online Resources. An extensive collection of links to e-texts, of Dante's works, bibliographies, illustrations, music, societies, conferences, etc.

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