I’m clawing my eyes out

But it wasn’t the opera, it’s the dust.
Yesterday I spent much of the day hauling stuff out of my storage unit in the basement, sorting it, and pricing it – yard sale today!
Last night I went to Così fan tutte at the Smith Opera House — a manageable staging sung in English. One of my immediate colleagues was in the chorus; she said it was more fun than she should be allowed. But I was rubbing my eyes the whole time.
This morning — yard sale around Pulteney Park, and I didn’t even have to organize it! My goal — get rid of some of this dusty clutter for cash – and toss the rest!

Dante Blogging – Canto XXX

Canto XXX
The thirtieth canto begins with 20 lines of epic simile – Dante showing off his myth – wrapping up with:

But none so fury-ridden in Thebes or Troy
  had ever lunged with such ferocity
  to bite at beasts or even rip men’s limbs

As I saw two souls, naked, pale as death,
  tearing away and snapping as they ran,
  like the tusked swine who’s set loose from the sty.

You see, those classical examples of despair were at least still human – these souls are like swine – and one of them WAS at the Trojan War – Sinon, who lied to the Trojans about the Greeks having left.
I’m not sure why Esolen thinks Master Adam the counterfeiter was English (note, 480), but I’m going to have to check. My colleague is under the impression that the only English person in the Commedia is Bede, who shows up in Paradiso (of course!). I’ll have to check the commentary tradition, because the text gives no help.
This canto gives one of those regular hints that Dante sat at his desk with a diagram of cosmos pinned to the wall – one of the damned souls reports the dimensions of the 10th Malebolge: “…it’s eleven miles around the ditch / and not less than half a mile across” (30.86-87). The tradition of making plans of Hell goes back to the maker, in other words. One of the reasons I chose the Esolen translation is that he doesn’t include maps. The students will have to make their own!
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Dante Blogging – Canto XXIX

Canto XXIX
Before the Pilgrims move on to the Tenth Whatever of the Malebolge (Pocket? Pouch? Ditch? Translations differ.) there is a brief glimpse of Italian family life inside the city – Dante has spotted one of his relatives among the schismatics and feels a pang of regret. As Esolen puts it in his note: “The spirit here is Geri del Bello, Dante’s cousin, about whose discord-sowing and death we know little except that he provided occasion for decades of strife between the Alighieri family and the Sacchetti” (478). Dante is not immune to the code of violence.
We then pass to the Ditch of the Fraudulent – every kind of con man, including alchemists.
I spotted an oddity of the translation here – when Vergil addresses the souls looking for someone to talk to, he asks

dinne s’aclun Latine è tra costoro
   che son quinc’ entro…

And Esolen gives us

Tell us if an Italian in this ditch
  is to be found …
(29, 88-89)

I flipped back into Canto XXVIII and found the same thing at line 71. I hadn’t noticed that before. Hmm. Talk about making Italy into a locution rather than a location – even Dante uses something else.
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Talk about a year for former Democratic hopefuls….

Al Gore – buys a big house in California, splits up with Tipper, accused of seeking chakra relief.
John Edwards – crashes and burns when all is revealed. And one does wonder what Journolist had to do with keeping that news down.
John Kerry – parking his yacht out of state to avoid taxes (oh, and he had the $7 million boat built in New Zealand. That’s not just out of state – it’s another hemisphere.)
Schadenfreude. It’s not attractive, but it’s fun.

Dante Blogging – Canto XXVIII

Dante has a broad vision of schism – the schismatics have divided religion, cities, and families – but all are punished by being divided, split into parts. As they pass around their track they heal, only to be split again.
The pilgrims’ first interlocutor is Muhammad. Some medieval versions of the history of Islam counted Muhammad as a disappointed bishop or cardinal who went off and started his own religion – and, in fact, historians of early Islam still argue to what extent Muhammad did know Christians and Jews first hand in Mecca. It’s clear he had some contact, but accounts differ. Dante has him split almost in half, gruesomely.
There was a long tradition of depicting Muhammad in Hell – there is a particularly fine version in San Petronio in Bolgna which was threatened by al-Qaida in 2002. Here’s a link to an archive of images of Muhammad – you have to scroll a long way down to find it, but it’s worthwhile.
Some scholars like to see the Night Journey of Muhammad, in which he saw the torments of the damned and the pleasures of heaven, as a source for Dante’s journey. That’s possible, but unnecessary – there is a tradition that goes back to patristic times of narratives of just such journeys, including Purgatory. I’ll have to figure this out though before Fall, because the colleague with whom I will be team-teaching loves any sort of Islamic source. That comes from having lived in Spain too long, I think. I wonder if the Miraj, the legend of the Night Journey, had been translated, and if not how Dante is supposed to have known about it.
There’s a connection in this Canto to The Name of the Rose – Muhammad sends a message to Fra Dolcino that he should get in supplies. The fallout from the Dolcinists, a radical poverty movement that turned into a civil war at the turn of the 14th century in Italy, is a motivating factor behind a lot of the plot and a number of the characters in Eco’s novel.
Then after a number of relatively obscure civil-dividers the last interlocutor is the man who provided Doré with the subject for the illustration here – Bertran de Born, Provencal poet and encourager to civil war.

Clearly I saw, and the sight still comes back,
  a trunk without a head come walking on
  just like the others of that sullen pack,

That held the chopped-off head by the long hanks,
  hanging like a lantern from his hand,
  and the head gaped at us and said, Ah, me!”

He made himself a lamp unto himself
  and they were two in one and one in two.
  How that can be, He nows Who steers the helm.

Dante, who has mentioned lots of poets’ work, never mentions that Bertran de Born is a poet – even though Dante was very interested in the methods of the Provencal poets. Odd, that.
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Dante Blogging – Canto XXVII

Yes, it’s been awhile. But I”m back to it!
The last canto began with an apostrophe to Florence – XXVII lists the cities of the Romagna, which “is not and has never been / free of war within her tyrants’ hearts…” (37-38). True to his naming the Romagna a region of tyrants, Dante gives a long list of heraldic symbols.
The sinner Dante talks with in this canto is Guido da Montefeltro, a famous leader of the Ghibbelines who, in his old age, became a Franciscan and an occasional advisor to Pope Boniface VIII. Dante sees the last as a sign of a false renunciation of the world – anyone who was a friend of Caetani could not have been a true friar.
Boniface would reign as pope until 1303, so in the cosmos of the Commedia he is still alive. Dante can damn him only through the words of others, like Guido – who wishes him in Hell. Guido says that Boniface asked him for advice on how to destroy the Colonna family – and that when he hesitated offered him absolution in advance for the sin.
When Guido came to die – and he managed to do that in Assisi itself – St Francis came for him, but was beaten out by a logic-chopping devil. The devil says:

One who does not repent can’t be absolved,
  nor can a man repent and will at once
  the law of contradiction rules it out.’

Ah sorrow! when I woke to my position
  and heard him say as he grabbed hold, “Perhaps
  you hadn’t thought that I was a logician.’

Of course Hell observes the Law of Noncontradiction.
This death-bed scene is a great medieval topos – I’ve written about it before here, and provided a link to Bosch’s Death and the Miser.
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More verbal violence from the Journolisters

Really – these immature idiots should all be fired. The Journolisters rejoice in the aftermath of the last election:

LAURA ROZEN, MOTHER JONES (now POLITICO): People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.
. . .
SPENCER ACKERMAN: Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the fuck up, as with most bullies.
[He’s a bully? And you’re the one wanting to throw him through a plate glass window?]
JOE KLEIN, TIME: Pete Wehner…these sort of things always end badly.

Not that I like car racing enough to stand up and walk to the window to watch a car go by, but referring to those who do like the sport as “retards” makes me wonder what NASCAR enthusiasts might make of Mr. Alterman’s preferences. What a tool. I wonder if he thinks of himself as serving the people. Because you know, a lot of (the) people like NASCAR.