Dante himself has multiple guides throughout his Comedy, and part of his point is that our souls need assistance on their journeys from perdition (the state of being lost) to salvation. We cannot save ourselves (perhaps an unpopular idea for all times and places).

Reading Dante, one often feels like one cannot interpret on one’s own. The medieval world is in many ways far from our own. But I don’t believe you have to be a scholar to enjoy Dante and get something out of him. My hope in these entries is to offer you a mix of scholarly and personal engagements with Dante to help expand your appreciation without taking away from your own reading. In fact, I’d love to hear from you about sections that struck you as significant or meaningful or about how you read the same section differently.

I’ll try to keep my reflections organized under the broad aegis of the Henry Center theme, The Sting of Death. This may seem easy when the whole Comedy takes place in the afterlife, but Dante journeys through the afterlife precisely in order to return to the rest of his physical, mortal life, so that the poem is really about how we live now in light of where we’re going. To this end it will sometimes contain personal responses that will reflect this series’ attempt to be more than an academic reading.

This page will serve as a kind of evolving table of contents for the series that should simplify navigation. For thoughts from Christian scholars on why a 21st century evangelical should bother reading a 14th century medieval Catholic poem, click here. For some tips on reading Dante, click here. If you’d like to contribute to the series, please contact me.


Canto I – Significant Beginnings
Canto II – Preparing to Enter Hell
Canto III – Hope, Heroism, and Narrative
Cantos IV-V – Grace, Metaphor, and Love in Hell
Cantos VI-X – The Wrathful, the Medusa, and the Politicians
Cantos XI-XIII – Love Makes Chaos, the Suicides, & a Personal Vision
Cantos XIV-XVI – Is Interpretation Hell?
Cantos XVII-XXI – Some Monsters You Might Meet in Hell
Cantos XXII-XXIV – Escaping Hell, & Fame for Christians
Cantos XXV-XXVI – Transformation and Transgression
Canto XXXI – Discovering Dante at Trinity (by Jonathan Castele)
Cantos XXXII-XXXIV – The Worst of Sinners


Canto I – Shut Up and Climb the Mountain
Canto II – Beauty Among the Desires
Cantos III-VI – Wise Haste and Shadow Obsession
Cantos VII-IX – No, Really, In What Do You Place Your Hope?
Cantos IX-XII
– How Your Pride Looks to God
Cantos XIII-XV
– Oh, But Don’t We All Envy?
Cantos XVI-XVIII – The Deep Heart of the Commedia
Cantos XIX-XXI – The Deceptive Male Gaze
Canto XXII – Who Loved Whom First?
Canto XXVII – Through the Fire, To True Freedom
Cantos XXVIII-end – Heavenly Hoops?