From Dante to Dogma

The TOR website has posted an article by Brian Staveley, “Depicting the Divine in Epic Fantasy.” It explores the subject, focusing particular attention early on on Dante and on the movie Dogma.

Dante is quoted in the article as saying, “The passing beyond humanity may not be set forth in words.” Yet, as Staveley notes, even poets who stretch words still use words, creating quite the conundrum:

This is a problem. He is a poet, after all, and poetry tends to rely pretty heavily on words.

So does epic fantasy. Gods are a staple of the genre—old gods, dead gods, newly ascended gods, gods of animals and elves, gods masquerading as goldfish and pollywogs—and with all these gods comes an old, old problem: it is very difficult to describe that which is, by its very nature, beyond description.

The article then goes on to list the options. They apply to theologians and philosophers and not just to fantasy writers. And so it is worth a read if you are interested in either, but all the more so if you are interested in both, or are curious as to how exploration of the composition of epic fantasy might be related to theology.

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  • David Evans

    That’s a fine article. I enjoyed reading it, and it reminded me to return to Lois McMaster Bujold’s excellent Chalion books

  • Andrew Dowling

    Funnily enough I finally saw Dogma this past week. Some parts were laugh out loud funny, although towards the ending it got a little too ridiculous (even for a comedy)