Reading Room Archives

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita: Inferno, Canto III, Parte 2: La fallacia della neutralità

Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia Mentre Dante e Virgilio entrano nell'anticamera dell'Inferno, Virgilio dice a Dante che tutto il lamento agonizzante che sente sono le voci di coloro che <<visser sanza ‘nfamia e sanza lodo>>, coloro che non potevano impegnarsi né nel bene né nel male. In questa anticamera sono presenti anche angeli che non erano né fedeli a Dio né apertamente ribelli a Dio. 

Loki, Marvel, and Snorre Sturlason: The Weirdness of the World

With Marvel's Eternals out in the theaters, and Garth Bond's post this week on the Eternals and Euhemerism, I'm thinking a lot about Marvel's other recent releases, and getting ready to rewatch their Disney+ series Loki. When Loki revealed that a female version of Loki exists in an alternate timeline (as well as a child Loki and an alligator Loki, among others), and when viewers noticed that Loki’s personal information at the Time Variance Authority listed his gender as “fluid” the internet went wild.

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life: Inferno, Canto III, Part 2: The Fallacy of Neutrality e:

A Reading Room series on The Divine Comedy As Dante and Virgil enter the antechamber of Hell, Virgil tells Dante that all the agonized wailing he’s hearing are the voices of those who “lived without infamy or praise”—those who could not bring themselves to commit to either good or evil. Also present in this antechamber are angels who were neither faithful to God nor outright rebellious against God. 

Marvel's Eternals and Miltonic Euhemerism: Making Gods

The Eternals, the latest installment in the Marvel cinematic universe, premiered this weekend. While the Marvel universe has not been incorporated into the Online Library of Liberty—surely a temporary oversight—one of the film’s heroes is Gilgamesh, whose Sumerian epic is not only in the Library, but is the source of its “amagi” symbol (the earliest written reference to “liberty”).

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita : Inferno, Canto III: Dante Alighieri, Rapsodista della Libertà

Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia Dante è finalmente pronto per entrare all'Inferno, o almeno così crede. Giunto all'ingresso dell'Inferno, legge un'iscrizione sulle porte che, racconta a Virgilio, lo fa fermare:

Macbeth on Film

Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, scheduled for theatrical release on Christmas and streaming on Apple TV+ three weeks later, offers as good an excuse as any to reflect on earlier film productions of Shakespeare’s classic meditation on the psychology of a tyrant.

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life: Inferno, Canto III: Dante Alighieri, Rhapsodist of Liberty

A Reading Room series on The Divine Comedy Dante is at last ready to enter Hell—or so he thinks. As he reaches the entrance of Hell he reads an inscription on the gates which, he tells Virgil, makes him pause:

Acton on Doing History: To Judge or Understand

In July’s Liberty Matters Discussion of the Declaration of Independence, a main theme of our deliberations was on the role and purpose of history. A distinction was made between an older ethic of understanding the past in its own terms versus judging past actions for their moral or ethical content. The idea of understanding context is old only in relation to modern practices, however, which are increasingly seeing the reassertion of the view that the past can and should be judged.

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita: Inferno, Canto II: Il potere delle donne rette la vita

Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia Virgilio, sentendo per caso i dubbi di Dante che potrebbe essere indegno per questo viaggio, rimprovera Dante per la sua codardia e cerca di rassicurarlo sul fatto che varrà davvero la pena per Dante di viaggiare con lui attraverso l'inferno. Racconta Dante di come gli è apparso sulla terra in primo luogo. Rivela a Dante che mentre era sospeso nel Limbo (essendo un cristiano non battezzato vissuto prima dell'età di Cristo, Virgilio, secondo la teologia cristiana, non potrà mai ascendere al cielo), udì una <<bella, santa Signora>> che chiamava lui, e si sentì in dovere di ascoltarla. I suoi occhi brillavano più luminosi della Stella; con voce dolce, gentile e angelica, supplicò Virgilio di aiutare la sua amico. 

Female Friendship and Grady Hendrix's Horror

I’ve never really been a fan of horror fiction. With the exception of spooky Victorian gothic novels, a long-standing affection for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the occasional particularly creepy Neil Gaiman moment, I just don’t care to be scared. There’s enough scary stuff in the real world that I just, in general, can’t find the fun in being scared by fiction.

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life

A Reading Room series on The Divine Comedy Virgil, overhearing Dante’s doubts that he might be unworthy for this journey, chides Dante for his cowardice, and tries to reassure him that it will indeed be worthwhile for Dante to journey with him through hell. He tells Dante how he came to appear to him on earth in the first place. He discloses to Dante that while he had been suspended in Limbo (as an unbaptized Christian who lived before the age of Christ, Virgil, according to Christian theology, can never ascend to heaven), he heard a “fair, saintly Lady” calling to him, and he felt compelled to listen to her. 

Frankenstein and the Wonder of Horror

At Halloween, the monsters gather at our doors for tribute. We expect the caped figures with fangs askew, the werewolves growling for candy, the square-headed toddler with bolts glued to his neck. We are not afraid, because we are not surprised. 

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita: Inferno, Canto II: Surmonter le syndrome de l'imposteura vita :

Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia Prima che Dante intraprenda il suo viaggio attraverso l'inferno con Virgilio, invoca le muse (gli spiriti classici delle arti, nell'antica Grecia e a Roma) per aiutarlo a ricordare - e poi scrivere - ciò che vedrà nell regni di inferno. Dante ci rammenta che non sarà il primo a scendere all'inferno mentre è ancora in vita: lo aveva fatto il grande eroe troiano Enea durante il suo viaggio da Troia a Roma. L'idolo letterario di Dante, Virgilio, ha immortalato il viaggio di Enea nel suo poema epico L'Eneide. 

Considering The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

“It was a beautiful place – wild, untouched, above all untouched, with an alien disturbing, secret loveliness.  And it kept its secret. I’d find myself thinking, ‘What I see is nothing – I want what it hides – that is not nothing.”  Edward Fairfax Rochester, The Wide Sargasso Sea

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life: Inferno, Canto II: Overcoming the Impostor Syndrome:

A Reading Room Seriesby Daniel Ross GoodmanBefore Dante embarks upon his journey through hell with Virgil, he invokes the muses (the classical spirits of the arts in ancient Greece and Rome) to assist him in being able to remember—and then later write about—what he will see in the infernal realms. Dante reminds us that he will not be the first to descend to hell while still living: the great Trojan hero Aeneas had done so during his journey from Troy to Rome. Dante’s literary idol Virgil immortalized Aeneas’s journey in his epic poem The Aeneid. 

Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty and the Question of Historical Fiction

Francis Spufford’s Light Perpetual was released last May to considerable praise, unsurprising given the multiple awards received by its predecessor, Golden Hill. This new book is regularly referred to—by the author himself, as well as by reviewers—as the follow-up to his debut fiction novel, though usually with a nod to the nearly two decades of award-winning non-fiction that preceded the 2016 publication of Golden Hill.] Without wishing to undermine or invalidate Spufford’s own truth, this account makes something of an awkward step-child of his actual fiction debut, 2010’s Red Plenty

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita: Inferno, Canto I: il viaggio della nostra vita e l'importanza dei classici

Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina Commedia La scorsa settimana abbiamo iniziato il nostro epico viaggio con Dante accompagnando Dante mentre si perde nei boschi, prima di incontrare il suo idolo letterario Virgilio e accettare di prendere con Virgilio un altro sentiero che lo porterà fuori dalle selve oscure ma che lo condurrà attraverso un rehmp pieno di suoni e visioni più terribili di quanto la maggior parte degli esseri mortali possa persino immaginare. Questa settimana esploreremo alcuni dei significati più profondi di questo canto introduttivo...

The Semantic Revolution

Pedaling my exercise bicycle is made tolerable by watching history lectures from The Teaching Company’s Great Courses. Today I watched part of a course on the French Revolution and Napoleon

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life: Canto One

A Reading Room series on The Divine Comedy Last week we began our epic journey with Dante by accompanying him as he is lost in the woods, before meeting his literary idol Virgil and agreeing to set forth with Virgil upon another path that will take him out of the dark woods and lead him through a domain filled with more terrible sounds and sights than most mortal beings can bear to even imagine. This week we shall explore some of the deeper meanings of this introductory canto… 

OLL's October Birthday: Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque (October 25, 1767)

This month’s featured birthday anniversary is the Swiss-born French political philosopher, activist and statesman, Benjamin Constant. Along with his long-time friend and lover Germaine de Stael, and Democracy in America author Alexis de Tocqueville he is probably the most famous and influential of the French liberals of the early nineteenth century.

Viva Dante 700: Che può insegnarci il Sommo Poeta sul lavoro, l'amore, l'arte e la vita: Inferno, Canto 1

Una serie di Reading Room su La Divina CommediaLa settimana scorsa abbiamo visto come Dante scrivesse del suo viaggio attraverso l'inferno, il limbo e il paradiso come se si trattasse di un viaggio vero, realmente intrapreso (a cominciare, nel suo racconto, dal Venerdì Santo - 25 marzo 1300) e abbiamo visto come proprio tale comprensione del suo viaggio come reale ci aiuta a capire l'importanza - e la realtà - della nostra immaginazione. Questa settimana guarderemo al Canto I e inizieremo il nostro viaggio con Dante attraverso l'inferno e oltre...

Discussing Milton

I recently had a chance to host a book discussion with Reading Room blogger, Garth Bond, and our friend Steve Pincus about Nicholas McDowell's new book Poet of Revolution: The Making of John Milton, which considers the question of how Milton's early life could have produced the great radical revolutionary.  Have a listen!

Dante at 700: What the Supreme Poet can teach us about work, love, art, and life, Inferno: Canto I

A Reading Room series on The Divine ComedyLast week we saw how Dante wrote about his journey through hell, limbo, and paradise as if it were a real journey that he really undertook (beginning, in his recounting of it, on Good Friday—March 25, 1300), and saw how his understanding of his journey as a real one helps us grasp the importance—and the reality—of our own imaginations. This week we will delve directly into Canto I, and begin our own journey with Dante through hell, and beyond…

Why Marvel's Black Widow Would Love Mary Wollstonecraft

In Marvel's film Black Widow (2021), the Red Guardian (Alexei) praises the achievements of the two women he had pretended to father as part of a Russian sleeper cell: "Yelena, you went on to become the greatest child assassin the world has ever known." And Natasha Romanoff, the famous Black Widow and Avenger, excelled even more: "You've killed so many people; I could not be more proud of you."