Lewis' theology and novels are all well and good, but if you want his best work you need to go to his "day job" - literary criticism. The Discard ImagLewis' theology and novels are all well and good, but if you want his best work you need to go to his "day job" - literary criticism. The Discard Image, his final book before his death, is a prime example of his literary genius. For anyone even remotely interested in medieval thought and/or literature, this is an indispensable resource.
In some ways, the book reminded me of John Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One. In Walton's book, the creation narrative in Genesis is placed within the context of the ancient Near East's model of the universe. By looking at the text through that lens, Walton is able to transform the way the Genesis narrative is viewed and help modern readers step inside the mind of the original author(s) of the Genesis account.
Lewis' book does the same thing for medieval literature. Granted, the medieval writers are far more recent and closer to our modern day, yet their own model of the universe is nearly as foreign as that of the ancient Near East. By showing us how they conceived the cosmos, Lewis opens up whole new dimensions of the work to us. We're able to see significance in where they hold to the model and where they subvert it. We're able to step into their worldview in a way that a modern reader is incapable of doing without such a reference. It's an extraordinary work worth the time of anyone interested in medieval literature or merely in understanding how our forebears understood the world...more
As an adaptation of Dante this one falls somewhere in between Birk and Sanders excellent work on Inferno and their more problematic take on PurgatorioAs an adaptation of Dante this one falls somewhere in between Birk and Sanders excellent work on Inferno and their more problematic take on Purgatorio. As with Purgatorio some of the artwork choices really don't fit, though here that issue is less problematic.
As with the previous two entries in this series, it's a fun take on Dante but should by no means be your first or only introduction to the Commedia...more
Note: This is not a review of Dante's Purgatorio, which would easily get 5 stars, but of the Marcus Sanders/Sandow Birk paraphrase of Dante.
As with tNote: This is not a review of Dante's Purgatorio, which would easily get 5 stars, but of the Marcus Sanders/Sandow Birk paraphrase of Dante.
As with the Birk/Sanders adaptation of Inferno, their take on Purgatorio is interesting but problematic in places. Most of the same praises and criticisms I had for their version of Inferno apply here: placing the Divine Comedy in a modern Los Angeles is amusing, yet there are times where their understanding of Dante is woefully inadequate.
The biggest offender in Purgatorio comes from the artwork in Cantos 27-29. In this part of the narrative Dante reaches the summit of Mount Purgatory where he at last meets Beatrice in Eden. I found myself perplexed in Canto 27 when Eden was depicted as a strip club in the artwork. Perplexity turned to horror in the next two cantos when Matelda is portrayed as a stripper and the three Theological Virtues as hookers.
My objection isn't to the imagery itself - such lurid portraits were entirely appropriate in Inferno - but in this context they clash violently with Dante's text. Was no thought given to what Dante was actually trying to say in this section? These adaptive choices are in incredibly poor taste and mar an otherwise enjoyable adaptation of the text. Here's hoping their understanding and respect of Dante improves with Paradiso ...more
This is a solid, if somewhat basic, overview of the Divine Comedy. A lot of it was familiar to me, but Leithart's discussion of the different structurThis is a solid, if somewhat basic, overview of the Divine Comedy. A lot of it was familiar to me, but Leithart's discussion of the different structural elements in Dante were eye opening and excellent.
I'd definitely recommend this - along with Dante Worlds - to a new Dante reader or someone looking to reread with some guidance. ...more
This is a paraphrase/loose translation of the Inferno. While I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a replacement for reading an actual translation, asThis is a paraphrase/loose translation of the Inferno. While I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a replacement for reading an actual translation, as a supplement its quite enjoyable. The biggest draw though is not the text but the extremely unique artwork, which places scenes from the Inferno in a modern LA. It's every bit as bizarre and fascinating as it sounds.
My four star rating is due to two main deficiencies in the translation. The first is that, at times, the language is too casual or updated. Mostly this updating works, but at times its jarring and feels anachronistic in a bad way.
The more grievous offense, however, is their inexplicable choice to include the names Jesus, God, and Mary in the text. Anytime Dante refers to those three in the Inferno he does so euphemistically. It's a subtle, but important, part of his art and theology. It may seem a minor point, but if you're going to translate Dante this is the sort of thing you need to be aware of. For many readers it will likely go unnoticed. For me it was unbearably obvious...more
Even by Shakespearean standards this play is violent. Murder, rape, dismemberment, self-mutilation, and cannibalism are just a few of the fun surpriseEven by Shakespearean standards this play is violent. Murder, rape, dismemberment, self-mutilation, and cannibalism are just a few of the fun surprises the Bard decided to throw into this one. It's as brilliant as anything he wrote, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart ...more
For this year's Dante reading, I read the John Ciardi, Henry Longfellow, and Anthony Esolen translations in parallel. These are a couple thoughts on eFor this year's Dante reading, I read the John Ciardi, Henry Longfellow, and Anthony Esolen translations in parallel. These are a couple thoughts on each of those translations
Ciardi: I really enjoy the translation, though the rhyme scheme is forced at times (Ciardi himself admits this in some of his notes). When considering not only the text but the accompanying notes and Canto summaries, Ciardi's edition is, in my opinion, the best all around option out there.
Longfellow: This is the translation famous for reviving an American interest in Dante. It's good, though a bit unapproachable for modern audiences. He also has a tendency to scale back some of Dante's more graphic moments. That won't be an issue as I move onto Purgatorio and especially Paradiso, but in Inferno it's distracting. If Dante talks about shit and asses, let him talk about shit and asses.
Esolen: As far as pure translation goes, this is my favorite of the three. It's readable but doesn't lose the poetry. My understanding (as someone who doesn't speak medieval Italian) it's also quite accurate. When considering not only the text but also the features, Esolen's edition has great notes that mix scholarship and faith (he's a devout Catholic and it comes through in his introduction and notes). He also has some supplementary texts in his appendixes that are of interest to the dedicated reader. The one knock I give his edition, and the reason that as a stand alone edition I put Ciardi's ahead of his, is that the canto summaries are too sparse. However, if you're willing to supplement the canto summaries with something like Danteworlds or Sparknotes, Esolen pulls well ahead of Ciardi
I finished Mary Jo Bang's translation. Actually, it's a translation/paraphrase though probably a bit closer to the translation end of the spectrum than the Sandow Birk edition. It's paraphrasing/updating is where it tends to stand out, as Bang includes numerous pop culture and post-Dantean literary references (including the amusing choice to replace Ciacco the Hog with South Park's Cartman in Circle 3). While I wouldn't say this was my favorite translation - and I'd probably put Birk's edition ahead of Bang's for those looking for an updated Inferno - I'm glad I read it and am disappointed that she didn't also translate Purgatorio and Paradiso ...more
Shakespeare stands head and shoulders above most other literature. Hamlet stands head and shoulders above most other Shakespeare. It is quite possiblyShakespeare stands head and shoulders above most other literature. Hamlet stands head and shoulders above most other Shakespeare. It is quite possibly the greatest thing ever written in the English language ...more