Palinodes or the courage to say ‘I was wrong’

Intellectual honesty is a virtue universally accepted, and any perceived departures from it are usually condemned. The ability to act on the available evidence and to speak one’s mind – truth and freedom –, are features of a healthy intellectual environment and the characteristics of an honest thinker. But often the evidence changes, the viewsContinue reading “Palinodes or the courage to say ‘I was wrong’”

Language acquisition

It has often been said that the childhood is a creation of the modern period. Indeed, ancient and medieval sources occlude discussions of the first age of the human individual, the baby and toddler years. Premodern representations of children emphasise size, rather than any other features, to designate youngsters. From the baby in the cradleContinue reading “Language acquisition”

The bored ones get the best of Hell

Dante’s Hell is a place of extreme pain and suffering. This is partly the reason why generations of modern readers have found Inferno so much more exciting than Paradiso or even Purgatorio. The farther one moves away from excruciating pain, the boring the story gets, right? This is not how I feel, but I recognise,Continue reading “The bored ones get the best of Hell”

When in exile, do as the exiled do

The public ban now in place in many parts of the world hides a more awful reality: we are not just banned from our streets, our squares, our schools and our offices, we are in exile. We are wandering away from home, sometimes nervously, sometimes resignedly, while staying home and staying still. There’s no shortageContinue reading “When in exile, do as the exiled do”

In defence of ignorance

We’re not going anywhere these days. So let’s glance back in time. Our stop: the Middle Ages, Homer and creativity. The medieval period has been called many things: the age of faith, the Dark Ages, lowercase/uppercase, the age of chivalry, of castles, the age of the Gothic, the post-classical period, pre-Renaissance, pre-modern, epithets galore, foreverContinue reading “In defence of ignorance”

Dante or the man who became Easter

  You will agree that there are better ways to spend Easter than undertaking journeys to the Underworld. That even if the lockdown were to be lifted today on Good Friday, you’d think twice before signing up to a guided tour of Hell. If you’re given the choice between the bowels of the Earth orContinue reading “Dante or the man who became Easter”

Imag(in)ing Dante: an illustrated manuscript of the Divine Comedy (with complete set of drawings)

Of the several hundreds of manuscripts of Dante’s Divine Comedy, about a hundred have some illumination or decoration, drawn or painted. Of these, London British Library Harley MS 3460 is a remarkable specimen. The manuscript contains illustrations of the scenes covering cantos 1-20 of Inferno, drawn in plummet in the lower part of the page.Continue reading “Imag(in)ing Dante: an illustrated manuscript of the Divine Comedy (with complete set of drawings)”

A vertical reading of Dante’s Purgatorio 4

One way of reading Dante’s Divine Comedy is ‘vertically’, which means analyzing same-numbered cantos from two or three parts of the poem (canticles), Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso, for symmetrical meanings which become enriched by this clever juxtaposition. This is based on the presupposition that Dante built this symmetry into the poem as a whole, and expectedContinue reading “A vertical reading of Dante’s Purgatorio 4”

A petition for a public reading of Dante

When’s the last time a group of local residents petitioned the government to arrange for a public reading of Dante’s Commedia? The answer to that question is: the summer of 1373. In the summer of that year, a petition was presented to the Signoria of Florence, on behalf of a number of Florentine citizens, askingContinue reading “A petition for a public reading of Dante”

Dante on the beach (and the migrants)

One of the most beautiful expressions of mankind’s common condition and destiny is in the second canto of Dante’s Purgatorio. It also represents Dante’s criticism of xenophobia and nativism, themes which resonate, most loudly, with us today. Canto 2 of Purgatorio is set on the beach between the funneled Hell and the conical Purgatory. ItContinue reading “Dante on the beach (and the migrants)”