“The Divine Comedy is the pillar of Italian literature and a cornerstone of Italian literature and the educational formation of the country’s students,” Valentina Sereni, president of Gherush92, anti-racism group that consults for the United Nations, told Adnkronos in an interview. “Students are taught the work’s offensive and discriminatory language without any filter,” she said.
Dante wrote the Divine Comedy between 1308 and his death in 1321 while in exile from Florence. In the epic poem, Dante’s alter ego Pilgrim travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, even meeting God along the way. The work was written in the vernacular of Tuscan Italian, becoming the language template for the Italian peninsula and its disparate dialects that was united 540 years after Dante’s death.
During his adventure, Pilgrim encounters some of history’s most important protagonists, many described in unflattering circumstances Dante tells of the Prophet Muhammad with his guts pouring from his body. Judus Iscariot, a symbol of Jewish collective guilt for Jesus Christ’s death, is frozen in ice like all other traitors in the Ninth Circle of Hell.
Even the Sodomites are condemned for acts “against nature” and punished in Hell and Purgatory,” said Sereni, who insists she’s not advocating book burning or censorship.
“We want to expunge the Divine Comedy from the Ministry of Educations’ scholastic curriculum, or at least require the necessary commentary to shed light on the text,” she said.
Dante may be one of Italy’s entrenched symbols, bested perhaps only by pasta, and the Roman Colosseum, so Sereni has some arduous convincing to do.
“It’s the umpteenth delirium of the politically correct,” said Giulio Ferroni, literature professor at Rome’s La Sapienza University.
“The only thing I can say without breaking into laughter is to keep your hands off of the Divine Comedy,” commented Aurelio Mancuso, who heads civil rights group Equality Italia.