Friday, November 19, 2010

Reading

I find myself reading Dante's The Divine Comedy, and the questions that I can't seem to get out of my head are:

"Why was Virgil in hell?"

"Why was it so easy to travel from one realm to another as Beatrice did?"

5 comments:

Patricia Tryon said...

Which translation (assuming you read a translation)?

Blair said...

Good question!
I am reading three different versions by: Rev. H. F. Cary, M.A.; James Finn Cotter; and the version on the Georgetown Dante Project website (https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/mydante/).

Patricia Tryon said...

I wonder which you like best?

I've read Mandelbaum and am now reading John Ciardi, whose lyricism I love. Also, I think the notes are absolutely killer.

My friend the classics PhD candidate gives Ciardi highest marks all around, but I fight with him about Lattimore all the time, so who knows? ;)

I really do recommend Ciardi, though. I think DC has a copy on his Nook that he's reading, too.

Blair said...

You know, they each bring a different element. I like each of them for different reasons but could not get through this with out the three of them and some other sources when I have questions about something.

I started out reading the Cary version through dailylit.com when I realized I had not yet read TDC. After the second Canto I was so lost and had so many questions I started looking around on what could guide me through them, I was never disdainful of cliff notes and looked for something like that. But In that search I found the other two, so I set them to my calendar to send me an email about the time the dailylit one comes in to my inbox. I love the one out of Georgetown, as it is nice to see the Italian side by side so I can see if the references ring true to my romance language sensibilities.

What I find fascinating is how the different things I have read really show the religious background of the writer... and that it called up my catechism classes from childhood. I had forgotten about the vastness of limbo, but I suppose I could blame that also on my thinking too much about comparative religion.

These things make me miss the ladies who never fully gave up on some Vatican 1 rituals and ideas.

I am such an old school (non-)Catholic. ;-)

Patricia Tryon said...

Ha! Old school, indeed, to like reading the original (to the extent that it is, I guess; I don't know whether Italian has morphed in a fashion comparable to English). I seem to remember, though, that Mandelbaum -- welp, I was about to say "threw up" but that just sounds WRONG! -- placed Italian side by side his translation.

What you say about translation showing so much about the translator is one of the reasons I think classics matter so much. My guess is that, except for the classics such as the high school frolic through The Odyssey, few English speakers read anything that has been translated. This might be even more true with the ascendancy of English on the Web.

Not reading outside one's native language has all kinds of implications, I think: none of them good. Not reading more than a single translation is only a little less of a problem.

But I have a feeling high school teachers find it hard enough to get students even to read a single (brief!) chapter of The Odyssey. It's hard for me to keep in mind that there was a comparatively brief period when American school children were equally well "catechized" in the classroom.

And that ship has sailed.