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Last Things: Essays on Ends and Endings


Gavin Hopps, Stella Neumann, Sven Strasen and Peter Wenzel

This multidisciplinary collection brings together scholars from the fields of literature, theology and linguistics who question and extend our taken-for-granted conceptions of The End. It focuses on the ways in which endings are formally signaled in literature, and sets these alongside parallel studies in journalism and film. However, it is also concerned with larger philosophical and historical notions of closure, impermanence, rupture and apocalypse as well as the possibilities of «posthumous» being. It gives examples from fairytales, Byron, Longfellow, Dillard, Barnes and South African writers.
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Ending in Peace: The Quest for Final Consolation in Longfellow’s Dante Sonnets: Timothy E. Bartel (St Andrews)


Timothy E. Bartel (St Andrews)


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who translated Dante’s Divine Comedy in the 1860s, also composed nine sonnets about Dante’s life and work over the span of four decades. In the sestet of each sonnet, we find that Longfellow repeatedly sought to bring about a state of peace by the final lines of the poem. In the following chapter, I argue that this quest for and attainment of peace in the Dante sonnets has biographical, epistemological, ethical and liturgical significance for Longfellow.

Just as Virgil was Dante’s guide in both poetic endeavour and spiritual maturation, so Dante himself acted as a guide and mentor to the nineteenth-century American poet Henry Longfellow. This can be seen most clearly in Longfellow’s sonnets, eight of which take Dante and his Commedia as their subjects. The concept of peace is one of Longfellow’s major concerns in his Dante sonnets, in which we see an ongoing attempt on the part of the former to create, at the end of the sonnet, a state of peace—pastorally, emotionally, epistemologically and spiritually. There are a number of elements one might pinpoint as the end of a sonnet—the final word, the final foot, the final line or—especially in regards to the Italian sonnet style in which Longfellow wrote—the sestet. In this chapter I will focus primarily on both the sestet and the final word, for these in particular reveal Longfellow’s ongoing quest for consolation.

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