100 Days of Dante Done

This weekend I finished one book twice.

A few months ago I committed to reading Dante’s Divine Comedy along with others in a “program” sponsored by the Baylor Honors College.  Three cantos a week, so about 12 a month.  Good grief, that means I’ve been reading it since September!  Regardless, I finished the classic poem Saturday night.  Twice.

100 Days of DanteEach week I started with the Penguin Classics edition translated by Robin Kirkpatrick.  It’s a three-in-one edition, so it was nice and handy.  Then I’d watch the videos produced by Baylor and the many schools that they worked with.  Lots of different professors and religious leaders from a number of different perspectives.  Then I made my way to Anthony Esolen’s translations (which were not three-in-one).  Esolen’s translation was great, set in a modern language that was still elevated enough to set it apart.  The notes in both translations were good.  The introductions for Inferno and Purgatory by Esolen were pretty brilliant.

So one “book” twice simultaneously.  I’ve never done that before.

I likely can’t say much about things that hasn’t already been said dozens of times before.  The imagery was wonderfully drawn.  The inclusion of so much Italian history and context was daunting.  It was an interesting trip through church history, though.  And when things shined, things were brilliant.  I was most impressed with Dante’s ability to weave mythology in throughout the whole work.  I think I liked Purgatory the most, Inferno second, and Paradise last (alas).  But Paradise had some brilliant moments, too.  The theology, though often not my own, was intriguing and illuminating, too.

This is the second time that I’ve tried reading a dense classic with online assistance.  The first was for Augustine’s City of God, which I failed at quickly.  The videos helped a lot, even if I found myself disagreeing with the presenter.  I hope to revisit the story some day, when a few years have passed.  I’m more likely, I think, to revisit Esolen’s introductions.  Though tied to Dante, they had a lot to say that I could us for some of my classes, which is always a good thing.

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