About fifty days ago, I started a journey that I had thought about for some time but ever gotten around to: I started reading Dante’s Divine Comedy. I did it because one of my favorite newsletter-writers, Matthew Lee Anderson, promoted it as 100 Days of Dante. Anderson is part of the honors program at Baylor University. He also writes a lot about politics, ethics, and the Christian faith.
So we read three cantos a week and then get to watch one video per canto where someone, usually from an honors program, talks about key insights into that particular canto. Yesterday, we hit the halfway mark. 34 cantos of Inferno and now 17 cantos of Purgatory. Here’s the video for yesterday’s canto. It’s by Dr. Brian Williams of the Templeton Honors College. This is his second video. Both of them have been amazing.
One of the things I like the most about the canto is that it says a lot about “the ordering of loves,” something that I was first introduced to because of Jamie Smith and Augustine. If Williams is right, it is no coincidence that this topic finds its way into the very middle, the very heart, of Dante’s journey from hell to heaven.
As has been so often the case for me these last few months, I can’t help but think of C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce when reading and reflecting on The Divine Comedy. Dante packs so much into his tale. Lewis does the same in The Great Divorce, just with a much smaller page count. After an initial reading of a canto from Robin Kirkpatrick’s edition, I watch the video and then reread the canto, this time from Anthony Esolen’s translation, which is one that I highly recommend. His introductions and footnotes are quite good.
So halfway through, halfway there. It’s been an interesting journey for me, if only to dispel some of my preconceptions about Dante’s greatest work. I’m looking forward and looking ahead, which is exciting.