The Speed of Fright: Temporal Dramas in Dante's Inferno

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Abstract

This article is in two parts. It opens with a synoptic view of how Dante-poet connects the particular purview of his fictive character (whom critics typically name 'Dante-pilgrim') with a worldview - a philosophical theology, a cosmology and an ethics - shared fairly commonly among Christian intellectuals in the late Middle Ages. This worldview includes certain general assumptions about the nature of time and some detailed ideas about how a human person, an individual psyche, is contextualized by time. Included are some reflections on the medieval figure of the cosmos as God's "book" and of divine creativity and providence as a 'narrative' art. Dante, particularly in the Paradiso, is perhaps the greatest elaborator of that figure. The article's second part is a detailed textual analysis of the episode of the barrators (those who illicitly offer or receive political favors) in Inferno XXII-XXIII. A psychology of uncertainty and terror is dramatized poetically in these cantos in terms of the differences (and some likenesses) between one trapped sinner's experience of time and the pilgrim's participation in it. Virgil's guidance, fidelity and extraordinary discernment are also figured by Dante in temporal terms.

The Speed of Fright: Temporal Dramas in Dante's Inferno

in KronoScope

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