part one: Saturday May 5th 3-5 pm
part two: Saturday May 12th 3-5 pm
Dante's Inferno is best known for its dramatic scenes of apocalyptic destruction and catastrophe, and the poet himself had become famous outside of Italy—whether or not you think of him through a vaporous tableaux by Gustave Doré—as a painter of thunderous, moral pantomimes. And yet, even though the poem contains, of course, a blockbuster imagery of damnation that is both fiery and lurid, as it scrolls downward through kaleidoscopic fireballs, ghastly demons, and furnaces, Dante tries to convey the ruinous impact of sin upon mankind by marshalling the elemental forces that swirled around him into a livid, unwashed mezzotint. No matter how the details are swept up in rich and rugged pigment, Dante's figures are less sensational than disorienting; his ultimate desire, perhaps, is to create a vortex of words. These readings will try to show how even in atrocity, while medieval taste would have required from the IMAX of the day, the cosmic poem, a Promethean canvas of dizzying depth, the Inferno requires acoustic rather visual special effects. Accomplished as he is as a portraitist, Dante is better served by a reader who knows how to decipher a story that is told, like the bones of a fossilized dinosaur, through landscape and weather.
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