Season 3 Episode 24: Liz Humphreys on 14 Weeks with Dante Alighieri

Into the eternal darkness, into fire and into ice.”  Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, The Purgatorio and The Paradiso

Dante shown holding a copy of the Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above, in Domenico di Michelino’s 1465 fresco.

Welcome to Tea, Toast and Trivia.

Thank you for listening in.

I am your host, Rebecca Budd, and I am looking forward to sharing this moment with you.

My dear blogger friend, Liz, from her blog Leaping Life and I have once again bridged the 7,059 kilometers between Edinburgh and Vancouver to discuss her profound 14-week journey with Dante Alighieri.

I vividly recalled her January 10, 2021 blog post which started out, “It’s a funny old life.  Who would have imagined a connection between one of history’s most iconic and enduring works of literature and a modern novel about travelling the world in a converted bright pink ice cream van.” 

Doesn’t that sound like a great first line to a novel?

Liz has a way of igniting my curiosity. There is always an adventure happening on her blog, “Leaping Life.” I am thrilled that she has joined me to share her thoughts on her trek through Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso via Nick Senger’s Readalong. This promises to be an exciting conversation.

So, put the kettle on and add to this conversation on TeaToastTrivia.com.

Thank you for joining Liz and me on Tea Toast & Trivia. And a special thank Liz, for sharing your insights on The Divine Comedy.

Liz has embarked on another readalong voyage – Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero by Henryk Sienkiewicz.  I invite you to meet up with Liz on her blog “Leaping Life.”  You are only an internet click away from entering a world of books and brilliant conversations.

Until next time, keep safe and be well.

Dave Astor on Misty’s Adventures Tea. Toast. & Trivia.

39 Replies to “Season 3 Episode 24: Liz Humphreys on 14 Weeks with Dante Alighieri”

  1. That was a wonderful interview. Liz introduced a lot of interesting points about Dante that I was not really aware of. The “Divine Comedy” comes up in my studies of theology and the middle ages, but it is always about how hell and purgatory are so easy to describe and paradise, especially heaven so difficult to describe. Thank you Liz and Rebecca for a really fascinating discussion.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you Tim for listening in and for adding to the conversation. Your thought on how difficult it is to describe paradise was a great insights that has me thinking. Perhaps it is easier to define what we don’t like than what we like.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. This question of how to write about paradise (or just positive experiences) came up when I was studying the craft of fiction in college. Nowadays it seems to takes the form of a dictate to have conflict and obstacles to overcome. No conflict, no story. On the other hand, positive experiences are just as much a part of the human condition as negative ones. Why can’t they be the stuff of fiction? Oh, you have my wheels turning now . . .

        Liked by 3 people

  2. HI Rebecca, what a completely marvelous post. I will be following all the links now so I can see what other read-along books are in the lineup. I am keen to read The Pilgrims Progress by Paul Bunyan as a buddy read with someone. You will remember my mentioning The Enchanted Forest trilogy by Enid Blyton, Rebecca. I think you looked up this amazing books. Anyhow, Enid Blyton wrote a book called The Land of Far Beyond for children that was based on The Pilgrims Progress. This is my favourite children’s book ever [I have a copy I paid GBP 90 for but do not tell Terence – smile!] You might be interested in this book, The Land of Far Beyond, Rebecca. Back to Dante, though, I have read the Divine Comedy, but a long time ago. I wrote a post about it here: https://robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/interestinghistory-dantes-inferno/ and I made references to it in my YA novel which changed names to Through the Nethergate. Margaret recalls descriptions of Hell on her journey to hell in the ghost carriage. I even included a quote. I am very inspired to read Dante again now and I love the idea of the tweets too. I must do that with my classic reads. It’s a fabulous idea.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I just found Pilgrims Progress on Gutenberg press. It has been ages since I read it. I have the Book “The Land of Far Beyond” in my reader – how is that for serendipity. I am now going on a treasure hunt for The Enchanted Forest Trilogy. Thank you for your great suggestion, Robbie – very much appreciated.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you for this episode! It was wonderful to hear Liz talk so eloquently about her read-along experience with Dante and to hear both of you encourage people to be lifelong learners. This is one of the main reasons for the chapter-a-day read-alongs, and I am so happy Liz joined this year. On June 24 we start our next book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, and everyone is welcome to participate!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am delighted that you listened in, Marina. Thank you for your lovely comments. Liz continues to inspire me with her reading adventures which she shares on her blog, Leaping Life. I learned so much about the Divine Comedy in this conversation. Sending hugs!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Contrary to Dante’s introductory phrase, I feel hopeful when people dive into art/poetry/writing/music and ultimately into their own being, so thank you again for these journeys.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. I agree wholeheartedly , Marina. I especially appreciated when Liz explained how she felt at the end of the reading. With much hope and joy.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Very illuminating chat.
    I particularly liked the idea that humans experience the same things even if we live in different centuries and cultures. And you are right there is a mid life re-evaluation, occuring, as Liz said, about the same time as dante wrote The Divine Comedy.
    I love the opening lines quote from you Rebecca- Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost. I feel there is a kinship to Frost’s, Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. Not so much saying the same thing but looking at the same think from two different angles. A different attitude perhaps reflecting the times and cultures in which they were writing.
    The beginnings of the Renaissance was a time of rediscovery of ancient scientific knowledge that by its very nature undermined, if not the existence of God, then the Church’s authority to exercise His will. (Umberto Ecco’s The Name of the Rose deals with that theme. While Frost in the 30’s was writing at the apogee of the age of Science. An age where according to Nietzsche God was dead. Without God the world had already fought one war to end all wars, and now was preparing to fight another even more souless, quite possibly using weapons from a new Renaissance, the Atomic Age… an age where, within a decade, Robert Oppenheimer would declare – I have become death, destroyer of worlds.
    Don’t know if either of you are interested but there was a film made of Inferno in 1911 and it’s well worth watching especially as an historical document in it’s own right https://youtu.be/BRUkyHvsvfg

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Just watched the 1911 Inferno film, which was an amazing feat, considering the rudimentary technology for motion pictures. I agree, Paul, there are marvelous connections between Dante and Frost. There is a choice, a journey, a destination – all universal themes that we recognize 700 years after Dante passing. I have yet to discover the depths of The Divine Comedy and am grateful to Liz for beginning the exploration. Thank you for add more questions to my list. “O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?” Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

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      1. Glad you enjoyed the movie. What hit me most was how it was constructed as a succession of Ttableaux vivants- Where Dante and Virgil pass through what are basically living paintings – or rather etchings as it is influenced by the superb Victorian illustrator Guvtav Dore. Imagine living in 1911 and this being the first thing you ever saw on a movie screen. If nothing else it would scare you into being virtuous!

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      2. I was amazed by the special effect – and this in 1911. I can imagine only imagine the response to the video. YIKES!!! A few sleepless nights – and as you say, looking at leading a virtuous life.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. This was a very interesting conversation. I read the “Divine Comedy” a long time ago, but I don’t think I paid enough attention to it. Maybe it’s time for to revisit. I found the tie between the book and the Italian language amazing. That one man could have such influence.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I have yet to read the Divine Comedy although I love to quote from this book. It would seem that I need to visit it in the first place. My hairdresser for several years before he passed was from Calabria, Italy. He would quote from the Divine Comedy often and would always end with the phrase, “Dante went to the Arno river to dip the Divine Comedy with the Italian language.” He would say to me: “Perché studiare la lingua italiana? Perché è la lingua di Dante Alighieri.” Thank you for listening in, Dan. I am delighted that we have connected.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I was also struck by the connection between The Inferno and the development of the Italian language. I have the same feeling as Liz about wondering what the reading experience would be like if I could read a translated work in its original language. In literature, there is meaning conveyed by the sound of individual words and the cadence of sentences that goes beyond the words’ denotation.

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      1. An excellent thought on experiencing a work into its original language. I am certain that if we read a book in the original language, we would have a better understanding of the author, the events, characters, and the people for which it was written. Think of the song “Con te partirò” which is translated as “With you, I will go” is quite different than what is sung in English “It’s time to say goodbye.”

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Yes, a colleague from Portugal shared a traditional song with us about saudade, for which there is no English equivalent. (And of course I can’t remember the name of it now!)

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      3. That’s a very good point. When we write, we often struggle to pick the right synonym. I wonder what translators do in those cases.

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      4. I once read an article about different approaches to translating poetry, using multiple translations of a Japanese poem about a frog. The two ends of the spectrum were accuracy of translation, with the emphasis on the denotative meaning of the words and interpretive translation, with the emphasis on creating an equivalent experience of the poem for the reader.

        Liked by 3 people

    3. Thanks for listening Dan, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the podcast. I agree with you that it is incredible for a single individual to have made such an impact.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Your podcasts never disappoint, Rebecca! Fascinating conversation about Dante Alighieri and “The Divine Comedy” by Liz and you. Among the many highlights: hearing Liz discuss how Dante was a pioneer in the use of the vernacular in literature (the Mark Twain of his time? 🙂 ) and hearing you both discuss the importance of life-long learning — which the great classics of literature can certainly help provide.

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    1. Thank you, Dave, for listening in and for your comments. It goes back to the idea of themes and the discussion you and Elisabeth Van Der Meer had on why certain ones endure. I marvel at how Dante was able to articulate the voice of a critical time in history, allowing pagan and Christian thought to reside together as a way to unite with the past and prepare to move forward with fresh eyes open to new though. To understand the angst as well as the anticipation that accompanies us as we set forth into the unknown. I get goosebumps when I read this sentence.
      “In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.”

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  7. Amazing conversation! ! ! I think it is time that I read The Divine Comedy. Whenever I encountered DANTE or THE DIVINE COMEDY or heard it mentioned my brain said “Too difficult for you” I am wondering just what the reading would do for me, thank the both of you for your valuable encouragement. When I read “Pilgrims Progress” years ago I had the same kind of reservations, but several readings proved that it was so very well worth the read. Perhaps, the reading of this would bring the same feelings! Both of you believe in life reading and life learning, so thank you for your encouragement. I am hopeful! !

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Do you remember reading The Holy War by John Bunyan to us as children. If I recall it was about saving “Mansoul.” I found a copy of Pilgrims Progress on the Gutenberg website. Robbie reminded me that there were connections to the theme of The Divine Comedy. I continue to learn. Like you, I am hopeful!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. One of my favorite things about listening to your podcasts, Rebecca, is your friendships with those you interview. Listening to a conversation between friends about whatever excites them is energizing. Like Frances too, I’ve yet to tackle The Divine Comedy, unforgivable for someone who claims to be a poet, right? Well you and Liz have inspired me to begin the project soon, maybe for those long winter nights. Your conversation reminded me of an Ezra Pound book sitting on my shelf, The Spirit of Romance (1968). I just now opened it to find how he contrasted the use of lingua materna between those who composed poetry-song for the troubadours and Dante who elevated it to the high, classical language it certainly became then and now. Liz describes the work as rich with allusion and how that presents difficulties. The fun part of these challenges is how they provide life-long learning experiences, as you two discussed. A work of this magnitude requires almost a separate education in many disciplines. This was an enjoyable 20 minute lesson! 🙂

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    1. I am so very pleased that you enjoyed this podcast, Mary Jo. I agree wholeheartedly with your thought that The Divine Comedy requires almost a separate education in many disciplines – language, poetry, literature, but also social, economics, philosophy and psychology. Liz has amazing ideas of how to build community through reading books. I have yet to tackle The Divine Comedy. Those long winter nights would be the perfect time for heading into the Inferno. Isn’t this a great line: “Remember tonight… for it is the beginning of always.” Dante Alighieri

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