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A Modern Reader's Guide to Dante's «Inferno»

Second Printing


Rodney J. Payton

This book is a thorough introduction to the Inferno for today's reader. It is based on Professor Payton's many years of reading Dante's masterpiece with university undergraduates and upon the work of the very best modern critics. The Guide can be used alone as a critical aid or as a reference work for further research.


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Chapter 23: Cantos XXXI-XXXII. The Giants 227


CHAPTER 23 Cantos XXXI-XXXII The Giants Dante will now end Inferno, but he will not bring the momentum of the Comedy to a halt. There surely is a feeling of conclusion at the end of the first canticle, but the many unresolved issues which the poem has raised tell us that we are only at a station along the way. Indeed, one of the poem's great morals, Dante's optimistic (or comic) view of the universe, is contained in the fact that only one-third of the work is concerned with the world's human failures and the rest with great successes who will achieve or have achieved salvation. Some of this sense of finality within process is the result of the fact that the Pilgrim's journey through the nether world has all along imitated the final events in the earthly life of Christ (Cassell 1979, Cook and Hertzman 1979, Freccero, 1965 a,b): the crucifixion, the harrowing of Hell, and the resurrection. These events, as everyone educated in a Christian context understands, imply both an ending, that of the old dispensation and of the hopeless era of mankind, and the beginning of the new time of hope. Our discussion of the last four cantos will be sometimes concerned with the Christological images to be found in them. There are important formal issues to be mentioned first. Canto XXXI is structurally related to Canto IX, the transition from incontinence to violence, and to Canto XVII with its description of Geryon and the transition...

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