Banning Dante

One of the greatest works of literature ever written, Dante’s Divine Comedy, is attracting the attention of censors:

The classic work should be removed from school curricula, according to Gherush 92, a human rights organisation which acts as a consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination.

Dante’s epic is “offensive and discriminatory” and has no place in a modern classroom, said Valentina Sereni, the group’s president. . . .

It represents Islam as a heresy and Mohammed as a schismatic and refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders and traitors, Miss Sereni told the Adnkronos news agency.

“The Prophet Mohammed was subjected to a horrific punishment – his body was split from end to end so that his entrails dangled out, an image that offends Islamic culture,” she said.

Homosexuals are damned by the work as being “against nature” and condemned to an eternal rain of fire in Hell.

“We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above criticism,” Miss Sereni said.

Schoolchildren and university students who studied the work lacked “the filters” to appreciate its historical context and were being fed a poisonous diet of anti-Semitism and racism, the group said.

It called for the Divine Comedy to be removed from schools and universities or at least have its more offensive sections fully explained.

via Dante’s Divine Comedy ‘offensive and should be banned’ – Telegraph.

Dante has already disappeared from a number of college courses for these very reasons.  It’s odd that conservatives are often accused of censorship–for objecting to pornography and the like–but the ones who want to censor actual ideas and great works of literature are more often from the Left.  (See Gherush 92′s website.)  And, as Milton pointed out, the book that is most censored of them all–even today–is the Bible.

HT:  Shane Ayer

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    While I wouldn’t exactly call Dante a paragon of Christianity in his personal life, it’s a shame that this work (even though it’s not to be taken as exact theology) is snubbed by the UN. The read is very enjoyable, and shows a great deal of imagination for Dante’s day.

    Just for this, I’m going to go read the Inferno this weekend.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    While I wouldn’t exactly call Dante a paragon of Christianity in his personal life, it’s a shame that this work (even though it’s not to be taken as exact theology) is snubbed by the UN. The read is very enjoyable, and shows a great deal of imagination for Dante’s day.

    Just for this, I’m going to go read the Inferno this weekend.

  • SKPeterson

    I can’t really make heads or tails of Gherush92′s website. Here is one anti-Dante screed (read it – it’s a screed) http://www.gherush92.com/news.asp?id=2986&tipo=A, and the original here: http://www.gherush92.com/news.asp?id=2985&tipo=A. I’m pretty sure the incoherence is the result of Google’s translation as I know it does do funny things with Swedish.

    I also see that they’re not to keen on Hieronymous Bosch. They don’t really offer any information that would provide any clues as to who is behind the group – names, links to other groups, etc. The only thing I could find is that it is apparently affiliated or associated with some professors at the University of Rome. I’m not sure this is being followed up by censors or calls for it to be banned, and I’m also not sure what a “consultative body” to the UN actually entails beyond making an academic sound more important than they really are.

  • SKPeterson

    I can’t really make heads or tails of Gherush92′s website. Here is one anti-Dante screed (read it – it’s a screed) http://www.gherush92.com/news.asp?id=2986&tipo=A, and the original here: http://www.gherush92.com/news.asp?id=2985&tipo=A. I’m pretty sure the incoherence is the result of Google’s translation as I know it does do funny things with Swedish.

    I also see that they’re not to keen on Hieronymous Bosch. They don’t really offer any information that would provide any clues as to who is behind the group – names, links to other groups, etc. The only thing I could find is that it is apparently affiliated or associated with some professors at the University of Rome. I’m not sure this is being followed up by censors or calls for it to be banned, and I’m also not sure what a “consultative body” to the UN actually entails beyond making an academic sound more important than they really are.

  • Michael B.

    Interesting aside, there was a book that didn’t make it into the Bible called the Revelation of Peter ( “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypse_of_Peter). In the end, only the Revelation of John made it into the Bible. It was somewhat similar to Dante’s inferno, with a somewhat guided tour of heaven and hell, only it was written many centuries before. In describes the punishments of the damned. A few of the interesting punishments, from Wikipedia:

    *Men who take on the role of women in a sexual way, and lesbians, are “driven” up a great cliff by punishing angels, and are “cast off” to the bottom. Then they are forced up it, over and over again, ceaselessly, to their doom.

    *Women who have abortions are set in a lake formed from the blood and gore from all the other punishments, up to their necks. They are also tormented by the spirits of their unborn children, who shoot a “flash of fire” into their eyes.

  • Michael B.

    Interesting aside, there was a book that didn’t make it into the Bible called the Revelation of Peter ( “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypse_of_Peter). In the end, only the Revelation of John made it into the Bible. It was somewhat similar to Dante’s inferno, with a somewhat guided tour of heaven and hell, only it was written many centuries before. In describes the punishments of the damned. A few of the interesting punishments, from Wikipedia:

    *Men who take on the role of women in a sexual way, and lesbians, are “driven” up a great cliff by punishing angels, and are “cast off” to the bottom. Then they are forced up it, over and over again, ceaselessly, to their doom.

    *Women who have abortions are set in a lake formed from the blood and gore from all the other punishments, up to their necks. They are also tormented by the spirits of their unborn children, who shoot a “flash of fire” into their eyes.

  • Steve Billingsley

    The Left often projects onto conservatives things that they themselves do. In 2008, the only time race really came into the Presidential race wasn’t during the general election – it was in the primary in South Carolina (remember how ballistic Bill Clinton went when he felt he was being accused of racism?). The Left went crazy about civil liberties abuses during the Bush administration – but maintained all the protocols themselves (renewing the Patriot Act, keeping Gitmo open, etc.). The list could go on and on.

  • Steve Billingsley

    The Left often projects onto conservatives things that they themselves do. In 2008, the only time race really came into the Presidential race wasn’t during the general election – it was in the primary in South Carolina (remember how ballistic Bill Clinton went when he felt he was being accused of racism?). The Left went crazy about civil liberties abuses during the Bush administration – but maintained all the protocols themselves (renewing the Patriot Act, keeping Gitmo open, etc.). The list could go on and on.

  • Cincinnatus

    “We do not advocate censorship.”

    Except when we do. But really this sort of Philistinism was only a matter of time.

  • Cincinnatus

    “We do not advocate censorship.”

    Except when we do. But really this sort of Philistinism was only a matter of time.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    How can you understand the past if you censor it?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    How can you understand the past if you censor it?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Now, I know how I am going to celebrate banned book week. I am going to read the Divine Comedy and the Bible. Get me some good indoctrination. :p

    I can understand statements urging caution with younger children. Some kids may not be ready for the imagery in Dante’s work. But, I really don’t get the university level ban, or are they finally admitting they don’t believe in intellectual exploration.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Now, I know how I am going to celebrate banned book week. I am going to read the Divine Comedy and the Bible. Get me some good indoctrination. :p

    I can understand statements urging caution with younger children. Some kids may not be ready for the imagery in Dante’s work. But, I really don’t get the university level ban, or are they finally admitting they don’t believe in intellectual exploration.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    #6 The past is what they tell us it is. You see, “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    #6 The past is what they tell us it is. You see, “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”

  • formerly just steve

    The Blue Laws of secular Western culture. If we protect the right to express the frivolous, salacious, and politically expedient then nobody will mind if we turn a blind eye to censoring some 700 year old dead guy with unenlightened ideas.

  • formerly just steve

    The Blue Laws of secular Western culture. If we protect the right to express the frivolous, salacious, and politically expedient then nobody will mind if we turn a blind eye to censoring some 700 year old dead guy with unenlightened ideas.

  • Jonathan

    It’s hard to understand how this obscure organization speaks for the “the Left,” whatever that is. In Britian, the conserveratives support gay marriage and national health care. A British conservative is a liberal in the US, where conservatives worship at the Wall Street temple and what to deprive women (but not men) of birth control medication.

  • Jonathan

    It’s hard to understand how this obscure organization speaks for the “the Left,” whatever that is. In Britian, the conserveratives support gay marriage and national health care. A British conservative is a liberal in the US, where conservatives worship at the Wall Street temple and what to deprive women (but not men) of birth control medication.

  • formerly just steve

    Jonathan, though your lack of understanding of what constitutes a US “conservative” seems to be in line with your lack of understanding of what “the Left” is, one wonders why you don’t have the same ambivalence with trying to define “the Right”.

  • formerly just steve

    Jonathan, though your lack of understanding of what constitutes a US “conservative” seems to be in line with your lack of understanding of what “the Left” is, one wonders why you don’t have the same ambivalence with trying to define “the Right”.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @10 Ok, that is officially the dumbest thing, I have read today.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @10 Ok, that is officially the dumbest thing, I have read today.

  • Jonathan

    I see; so American conservatives support gay marriage, national health care, birth control, and want to regulate Wall Street excesses. Next you’ll be saying they support reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

  • Jonathan

    I see; so American conservatives support gay marriage, national health care, birth control, and want to regulate Wall Street excesses. Next you’ll be saying they support reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 10 Gratuitous display of ignorance and arrogance.

    Jonathan cracks me up. He is a self parody. If we were to write an absurd comment in the style of Jonathan, it probably wouldn’t even be as bad.

    Anyway, you gotta love these hilarious gems, ” in the US, where conservatives worship at the Wall Street temple.”

    Uh, conservatives? The one that Wall Street most abhors is Ron Paul. President Obama is the darling of Wall Street. They are his biggest donors.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 10 Gratuitous display of ignorance and arrogance.

    Jonathan cracks me up. He is a self parody. If we were to write an absurd comment in the style of Jonathan, it probably wouldn’t even be as bad.

    Anyway, you gotta love these hilarious gems, ” in the US, where conservatives worship at the Wall Street temple.”

    Uh, conservatives? The one that Wall Street most abhors is Ron Paul. President Obama is the darling of Wall Street. They are his biggest donors.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    There is no such thing as gay marriage. Marriage literally means union. The only union between a man and a woman is the child they join to produce. There is no union between two of the same sex. The most they can be is friends.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    There is no such thing as gay marriage. Marriage literally means union. The only union between a man and a woman is the child they join to produce. There is no union between two of the same sex. The most they can be is friends.

  • formerly just steve

    sg #14, let’s not forget how Conservatives are clamoring for free condoms while wanting to rip the birth control pills right out of the hands of all women.

  • formerly just steve

    sg #14, let’s not forget how Conservatives are clamoring for free condoms while wanting to rip the birth control pills right out of the hands of all women.

  • Stephanie

    School children and *university* students lack filters to understand the historical context? How old, pray tell, must one be to understand historical context?!?!? I mean, if third graders were reading it, then I might buy that explanation. Maybe. If you have high school students who are incapable of appreciating the historical context in which a book was written? You have bigger problems than one book.

  • Stephanie

    School children and *university* students lack filters to understand the historical context? How old, pray tell, must one be to understand historical context?!?!? I mean, if third graders were reading it, then I might buy that explanation. Maybe. If you have high school students who are incapable of appreciating the historical context in which a book was written? You have bigger problems than one book.

  • Jonathan

    The conservatives’ social-sexual obsession is destroying America and the Republican party, in particular. How do they defend marriage? by focusing on gay men. How do they reduce the number of abortions? By mandating (medically unnecessary) transvaginal ultrasounds.

  • Jonathan

    The conservatives’ social-sexual obsession is destroying America and the Republican party, in particular. How do they defend marriage? by focusing on gay men. How do they reduce the number of abortions? By mandating (medically unnecessary) transvaginal ultrasounds.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jonathan (@18), I picked up a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy and I couldn’t find mention of “transvaginal ultrasounds” or “birth control” anywhere. What translation are you using?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jonathan (@18), I picked up a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy and I couldn’t find mention of “transvaginal ultrasounds” or “birth control” anywhere. What translation are you using?

  • formerly just steve

    I think that was the New World translation.

  • formerly just steve

    I think that was the New World translation.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#18 Oh wow you just totally pwned that strawman. You just set it up and knocked right down.

    @#20 Isn’t that the one done by MSNBC?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#18 Oh wow you just totally pwned that strawman. You just set it up and knocked right down.

    @#20 Isn’t that the one done by MSNBC?

  • formerly just steve

    #21, No that’s the one by JWNBC.

  • formerly just steve

    #21, No that’s the one by JWNBC.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Maybe Jonathan’s found something like a translation of the Divine Comedy à la The Message?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Maybe Jonathan’s found something like a translation of the Divine Comedy à la The Message?

  • Caminski

    Let’s censor Shakespear too, bann the bible, say goodbye to Nietzsche as well, not to forget C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, Jules Verne and Dickens and a dozen other great authors… In fact, let’s ban and censor anyone who ever said anything that could be misunderstood or taken offensive by anyone. No more books, articles…oh and for god’s sake, let’s shut down the internet!
    Oh wait… I can’t say “for god’s sake”…people who don’t believe in god could be offended or feel discriminated..for Pete’s sake then? No…Pete could take it personally and feel like I had some personal grudge against him….

    Point is, nomatter what you say your attitude, opinions or values will always offend someone. Or have the potential to do so. Even being overly considerate can be offensive and discriminating. So I suggest that we all start having a little faith in humans. Let’s just pretend to believe that people can think for themselves. Stop protecting those who don’t want to be protected. After all….there are great things to learn from the past and a lot of things that should never be forgotten about by banning books or films. There are many mistakes we really don’t wanna make all over again. Like burning books and executing people for having a mind of their own. Dark ages are over. Don’t bring them back, please!

  • Caminski

    Let’s censor Shakespear too, bann the bible, say goodbye to Nietzsche as well, not to forget C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, Jules Verne and Dickens and a dozen other great authors… In fact, let’s ban and censor anyone who ever said anything that could be misunderstood or taken offensive by anyone. No more books, articles…oh and for god’s sake, let’s shut down the internet!
    Oh wait… I can’t say “for god’s sake”…people who don’t believe in god could be offended or feel discriminated..for Pete’s sake then? No…Pete could take it personally and feel like I had some personal grudge against him….

    Point is, nomatter what you say your attitude, opinions or values will always offend someone. Or have the potential to do so. Even being overly considerate can be offensive and discriminating. So I suggest that we all start having a little faith in humans. Let’s just pretend to believe that people can think for themselves. Stop protecting those who don’t want to be protected. After all….there are great things to learn from the past and a lot of things that should never be forgotten about by banning books or films. There are many mistakes we really don’t wanna make all over again. Like burning books and executing people for having a mind of their own. Dark ages are over. Don’t bring them back, please!

  • Marco Andreacchio

    The worst part of the story is not the formal offense, but the formal
    defense, which reads: “Works of literature need to be placed in the
    historical context”.

    Denigrators and apologists alike have failed to recognize that Dante is critiquing his historical context (nay, all historical contexts!)–not
    condoning its bigotry. To show this to be the case, one would have to study the Comedy with serious care, not kidnap its verses out of their original *poetic* context.

  • Marco Andreacchio

    The worst part of the story is not the formal offense, but the formal
    defense, which reads: “Works of literature need to be placed in the
    historical context”.

    Denigrators and apologists alike have failed to recognize that Dante is critiquing his historical context (nay, all historical contexts!)–not
    condoning its bigotry. To show this to be the case, one would have to study the Comedy with serious care, not kidnap its verses out of their original *poetic* context.

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