Dante the Man, Part I: Christianity and Classical Culture, Episode 25

Another season of Christianity and Classical Culture on the Fleming Foundation. In this first episode of what will be an ongoing exploration of Dante and the Commedia, Dr. Fleming and host Stephen Heiner first discuss some good English translations to use, then go on to first discuss Dante’s family background, then the political and religious world in which he lived. Dr. Fleming discusses Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Siena, and other Italian city-states: their relationships with each other, the Church, and foreign invaders. Dr. Fleming concludes the episode by parsing the Guelph/Ghibelline feud.


Original Air Date: March 20, 2019
Show Run Time: 29 minutes
Show Guest(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming
Show Host(s): Stephen Heiner

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Christianity and Classical Culture℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2019. All rights are reserved and any duplication without explicit written permission is forbidden.

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar Harry Colin says:

    I am curious if Dr. Fleming has an opinion on either the Dorothy Sayers or Anthony Esolen translations. I know Sayers wrote some poetry and Esolen has written a good bit about poetry.

  2. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Sayers was a good Medieval scholar of the old school, a decent writer, and her translation of Inferno–don’t now if she did more–was quite readable. I’ve only looked at Esolen’s version. It seemed better than most though not the most musical one could hope for, considering Dante’s pride in his own “sweet style.” I’ll look more into A.E.’s work.

  3. Avatar Ken Rosenberger says:

    Sayers translated the entire Comedy, and stayed true to the Terza Rima structure throughout. Not the easiest thing to pull off in English, I gather. Plus, she is clearly sympathetic to Dante. The notes she provides take up about as many pages as the poem itself, and are often of value.

    I have very much enjoyed a number of Anthony Esolen’s essays, although I have not read his translation of the Comedy. He seems deserving of our support, as someone earnestly trying to do good work in academia, in spite of the general decay and corruption of the culture. His good works, from what I understand, have not gone unpunished. He seems like someone who would be at home at a Fleming Summer Symposium.

  4. Avatar Dot says:

    I got the opinion that things don’t ever change – that political and social sentiments existed between cities in the 15 and 16 centuries as they do today in this country. I thought that capitalism was alive and well. The have-nots were angry about it. I recall vaguely reading Dante’s Commedia and am thinking of rereading it. Looking forward to your next installment.

  5. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Ken, thanks for all. Decades ago, I scanned Sayers’ translation. Since I am a lukewarm fan of her fiction–one or two I like very much but detest the character of Harriet Vane–I never followed up. Esolen seems a sensible man, though apart from bits here and there I only see him on FaceBook. I don’t think it would be in his interest to attend one of our events. Academics even at Catholic colleges have to be careful. Verb sap.

  6. Avatar Ken Rosenberger says:

    I finally listened to this podcast. Gentlemen, as far as I’m concerned, please talk on this subject as much as you you like. This reminds me of the Summer lectures on Dante that Dr Fleming delivered five years ago. I can think of no one else who has commented at such length on the aspect of Dante’s being tied to a particular place, at a particular time, and the influence of all that on the Comedy. As fascinating as the allegorical and anagogical interpretations of the poem are, most commentators could stand to come back down to earth and talk about the grassroots Dante a little more. I especially liked the discussion on Dante the good hater. I can’t wait for the next episode.

  7. Avatar Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Esolen writes for Touchstone.

    Volume I of the 50 greatest masterpieces you must read before you die leads off with Longfellow’s translation of the Comedy. Available on Amazon for 99 cents.

  8. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Don’t read Dante in an ebook. I used to see Touchstone once or twice a year. I ran into one of the editors last year–nice man, but I don’t get the point.

  9. Avatar Allen Wilson says:

    I have an older version of the Wordsworth Classics edition of the Comedy, translated by H.F. Cary. Will this do or should I just go ahead and buy the Binyon translation?

  10. Avatar Allen Wilson says:

    Well, I just discovered that Cary’s translation is blank verse. Perhaps Binyon would be better.

  11. Avatar Allen Wilson says:

    On second thought, after looking into it, this Cary fellow was of a far higher calibre than I thought.

  12. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Cary’s was the most common translation for a long time. It is available online in many different forms. It’s a bit “litsy” in diction, but readable once you get used to it. Some of the passages I quoted in Podcast 1 were from Cary.