Dante's Inferno: The Indiana Critical Edition

Dante's Inferno: The Indiana Critical Edition

Dante's Inferno: The Indiana Critical Edition

Dante's Inferno: The Indiana Critical Edition

Synopsis

This new critical edition, including Mark Musa's classic translation, provides students with a clear, readable verse translation accompanied by ten innovative interpretations of Dante's masterpiece.

Excerpt

Accompanying my verse translation of Dante’s Inferno are ten essays which offer diverse approaches to a number of different aspects of the first canticle of the Divine Comedy.

In the opening essay Lawrence Baldassaro regards the “starting point that necessitates the pilgrim’s difficult journey through Hell” to be the allegorical landscape of Canto I of Inferno, “a physical manifestation of the pilgrim’s contaminated soul.” Because of his fallen condition, the way up and out of the “selva oscura” is closed. Climbing the hill is impossible because of the pilgrim’s pride, which will be erased in Purgatory in a similarly allegorical setting. Baldassaro asks, if Inferno is a representation of universal sinfulness and Purgatory a point-by-point erasure of sin, how does Inferno exhibit these sins? The allegory of Canto I gives way to dramatic manifestations, he says, in which the pilgrim interacts and gradually arrives at a “subjective awareness of his own capacity for wrongdoing,” recognizing step by step the degree of his own contamination. Dante uses himself as an example; he depicts his sinners “not as awkward allegorical representations of specific sins, but as compelling human beings.” The pilgrim’s “mimetic response to the sinners he encounters” brings him and them to life dramatically, not didactically.

The allegorical first scene is “negative potentiality” and the rounds of Hell fulfillment of it. This is not a fact-finding journey the pilgrim is taking. His behavior that “calls attention to itself” reflects the “ironic stance that distinguishes the voice of the poet from that of the pilgrim.” Each of the sinners the pilgrim meets is a “potential other self.” The pilgrim is a “reader” who tests “‘texts’” in the Inferno, one who cannot see the whole and whose limitations are indicated by his imitative responses. In turn, the reader is a pilgrim to whom Dante speaks directly in his addresses to the reader. But Baldassaro disagrees with Auerbach that Dante misleads us by misleading his protagonist; rather he gives us credit for being able to sort out the “ironic duality of the distinct voices of the poet . . .

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