Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Language in Dante’s Inferno Essay -- Divine Comedy Inferno Essays

Language in Dante’s Inferno What happens to language in hell? In Dante’s Inferno, the journeying pilgrim explores language’s variations and nuances as he attempts to communicate with hell’s pitiable and sordid inhabitants, despite multiple language barriers and relentless cacophonies. Dante thematically unifies language’s inconsistencies in hell; that is, he associates the pilgrim’s abortive attempts to communicate with particular shades, and the incomprehensible languages and sounds that beleaguer him, with a symbol from Christian mythology: the Tower of Babel. Dante juxtaposes this Christian myth with Virgil’s symbolic association with elevated speech in the Inferno. Virgil functions as the pilgrim’s guide and poetic inspiration, and despite his position in hell as a pagan, Virgil still transmits divinely-inspired language to his pupil. Thus, notwithstanding his amorphous physicality as a shade in hell, Virgil represents lucidity and focused thought, which comf orts the pilgrim and provides a reprieve from hell’s dissonant sounds. Ultimately, the pilgrim’s relationship to language is multifarious: it enables the pilgrim to connect with Virgil and discover his place in the tradition of famous poets through divinely-inspired and intimate speech; yet, it isolates and horrifies him when it is incomprehensible, amplifying his individual suffering; thus, ultimately drawing him closer to his understanding of the shades’ own torture. Virgil’s enlightened language spawns partially from Beatrice, a divine inhabitant of heaven, who worries about the well-being of the pilgrim, and partially from his status in a long tradition of famous poets, beginning with Homer. Yet, despite Virgil’s association with enlightened and elevated ... ... His relationship to Virgil is enriched by their similar relationship to language as poets, and by the challenge of creating a poetic legacy on earth that counters the legacy of the tower of Babel in hell. Ultimately, the pilgrim’s desire reflects the reality of Dante’s own legacy, one that is immeasurably influential. Works Cited Alighieri, Dante. The Inferno. Vol 1. Trans. Robert M. Durling. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Barolini, Teodolinda. Dante’s Poets: Textuality and Truth in the Comedy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1984. Dronke, Peter. Dante and Medieval Latin Traditions. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986. Durling, Robert M., Ronald L. Martinez. Notes. The Inferno. Vol 1. By Dante Alighieri. Trans. Robert M. Durling. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Eco, Umberto. Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages. Trans. Hugh Bredin. New Haven, CT.: Yale UP, 1986.

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