Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities
2003—2004 Forum on Belief
Reception of Epic Poetry in Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost
The position of the artist with respect to tradition, whether literary or sacred, is one of simultaneous veneration and rebellion. How can artists borrow from and even imitate tradition while carving out a distinct and important place of their own? Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost are texts that straddle two important traditions: the pagan epic of antiquity, most immediately embodied in Virgil's Aeneid, and the Christianity of their times. Shu will look closely at the ways in which Dante and Milton strategically place the classical epic tradition and Christianity in conversation with each other, and how such a way of "talking back" to both antiquity and Church may have allowed both authors to establish for themselves a unique place within those traditions.