Classics and the Western Canon discussion

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Divine Comedy, Dante > Purgatorio: schedule, background, and resources

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message 1: by Laurel (last edited Dec 27, 2012 11:33AM) (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Beginning January 1, we shall be reading the second part of Dante's Commedia, Purgatorio, discussing one canto per day, with the two extra cantos tucked in somewhere. I'll try to keep up the pace, but some of you might have to pitch in once in a while. I know the final destiny of my mother, but when she takes the last flight is an unknown.

Use this thread for any general questions, and materials that will be helpful to yourself and others.


message 2: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5030 comments Pax vobiscum.


message 3: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Thank you, Lily.


message 4: by Everyman (last edited Dec 26, 2012 08:03PM) (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments The Purgatorio is less frequently read, I think, than the Inferno, but having started the first few cantos I think it will be just as interesting to discuss, if not more, because I think there may well be more variety than just figuring out which torture this group of people is suffering. But that's just a guess since I'm only on Canto three!


message 5: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments I hope all of our readers of Inferno will go on to read Purgatorio and Paradiso. The rest of the book is needed to show what Dante means.


message 6: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Didn't someone here read a Dorothy Sayers translation of Inferno? And if so, what did you think of it?


message 7: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments I very much like Dorothy Sayers's translations of the three books. I think she succeeds quite well with the terza rima, and her notes are brief but exceedingly helpful.


message 8: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Thanks Laurele. (It's the translation my library has on-shelf.)


message 9: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments The book that I think will aid more than just about any other in an understanding of Dante's Commedia is The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis. It takes only about three hours to read, but oh, the impact!


message 10: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Now would be a good time to read or reread Dorothy Sayers's "Introductory Papers on Dante" as given here:

http://payingattentiontothesky.com/20...


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Adelle, I read (most of) the Sayres' Inferno and liked its poetic approach. I especially liked the "Main Images" aspects of the notes.


message 12: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Thanks, Zeke. I DID get the Sayers translation at my library. It was there. Laurele said she liked it. I read the first Canto and liked it too.


message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Laurele wrote: "Now would be a good time to read or reread Dorothy Sayers's "Introductory Papers on Dante" as given here:"

What an amazing resource. Right there at the beginning, talking of those in Limbo, she says "Here are the people who never come to any decision. Do we despise them? Or do we admire their wide-minded tolerance and their freedom from bigotry and dogmatism? They discuss everything and come to no conclusion. They will commit themselves to no opinion, since there is so much to be said on the other side."

Isn't open-mindedness a value which many of us give at least lip service to? Don't we, looking at, let's say, the current Congress, despise those who have come to a decision on some point of social or economic policy and hold firmly to it, rejecting compromise or the possibility that their opponents may have a valid point? How can we be with Dante that these are the people who deserve to go either up or down, but can at least be admired because they have made a decision and stick with it?

I had not viewed Limbo this way. I should have.


message 14: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments One of the greatest of today's sins, at least in the eyes of American media, is to stand firm on a position they don't care for.


message 15: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4430 comments The genius of America is for compromise, as the civil war historian Shelby Foote put it, and I think he's right. A refusal to compromise leads to deadlock or war. Sometimes that war is necessary, or unavoidable, but usually it isn't. This stuff going on in Congress right now most certainly isn't.

But it's a good point to bring up because there is a political edge to Dante's Hell that is worth keeping in mind. I don't find his moral hierarchy all that persuasive from a theological point of view. It makes more sense to me from a political point of view. Loyalty is a key political virtue; without it a state cannot hold together. Consequently, betrayal is the greatest of sins, much greater than violence against individuals, or sexual incontinence, or the rest.


message 16: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4430 comments Patrice wrote: "Yes, it can help political stability. Lincoln was not a great compromiser, right? How does Shelby Foote feel about that?"

But he was. He was even willing to compromise on slavery, for which many have criticised him, then and now.


message 17: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4430 comments Lincoln. What a flip-flopper! He famously wrote, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save the Union by freeing all the slaves I would do it. And if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”

But I'm off course here, so it's back to Dante. (But do read Foote's mammoth history if you're interested. The Civil War: A Narrative) It looks daunting, but it's an incredibly gripping read.


message 18: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments Patrice wrote: "I know you're kidding but he's only a filp flopper if you think his goal was freeing the slaves. Apparently his goal was saving the union and he did that.

I need to read something more upbeat ri..."


Purgatorio. As hard as the road is, it leads to salvation.


message 19: by Roger (last edited Dec 31, 2012 07:11AM) (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments Thomas wrote: "Lincoln. What a flip-flopper! He famously wrote, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save the Union by freeing all the slaves I would do it. And if I..."

I second the recommendation for Shelby Foote's The Civil War. Three long volumes, but very easy and rewarding to read. It really conveys what the war was like and what it was about.


message 20: by Lily (last edited Dec 31, 2012 08:37AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5030 comments Roger wrote: "I second the recommendation for Shelby Foote's The Civil War. Three long volumes, but very easy and rewarding to read. It really conveys what the war was like and what it was about."

I have slowly come to realize how disconnected some of us are from our own U.S. history. Perhaps when we are descended from immigrants who came to this country after the Civil War ended, so there are no family stories linking us back, as there are for WWII? Certainly the understanding of war on one's own ground must be different in Europe?


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