Political corruption, hypocrisy and lies

Thursday 5 May 2011

Politicians might think twice about accepting cash for questions if they were familiar with a text written 700 years ago by Italian scholar Dante.

At a special event held at the University of St Andrews tomorrow (Friday 6 May 2011), academics will examine the terrible punishments meted out to corrupt politicians in Dante’s writings.

Experts from all over the world will read excerpts from Dante’s Inferno that describe what happened to those guilty of hypocrisy, deceit and corruption.

Those being punished included false prophets, corrupt politicians, and hypocrites.

In the text, corrupt politicians – the old term ‘barrators’ is used for those who take money for political favours – are forced to stay submerged in a pool of burning tar.  If any emerge, they are hooked out and tortured by devils.

Hypocrites meanwhile are forced to walk in a circle wearing unbearably heavy cloaks, representing the appearances they kept up in life, and the burden of that is increased for eternity in hell.

The special event is the sixth meeting of a unique series of public readings of Dante’s Inferno to the public.

Now into its third year, the Lectura Dantis Andreapolitana is at the second half of the Inferno as Dante and Virgil make their way through the subdivisions of the 8th circle of Hell.

The theme of punishment will be taken from cantos 20-23 of the Inferno.

The St Andrews series is organised by Italian lecturers Dr Robert Wilson and Dr Claudia Rossignoli.

“People often wonder why Dante called his poem a comedy, especially when they read some of the terrible scenes in the Inferno, or the theologically complex discussions in the Paradiso,”  Dr Wilson explained.

“In these cantos Dante and Virgil encounter a troop of ridiculously named devils, and the slapstick scenes that follow are a mixture of toilet humour, farce, and terrifying brutality.

“The link with the sin and punishment is the idea that political corruption takes place hidden and in the dark – so the souls are forced to stay in the darkness of the tar and tortured if they are caught outside it.”

The Lectura brings the latest ideas about Dante’s poem directly to the public who have the unique opportunity to listen to some of the most interesting and innovative Dante scholars in the world.

Friday’s readings will be delivered by Professor Piero Boitani (Università di Roma, “La Sapienza” / USI Lugano), Professor John Barnes (University College Dublin), Dr Anne Leone (University of Cambridge) and Professor Ronald Martinez (Brown University), with an introduction by Dr Robert Wilson (St Andrews). The event takes place at the historic Parliament Hall, from 9.30-6pm and is open to the public.  For further information and the full programme visit http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/lectura


Note to Editors

Dr Wilson is available for interview on 01334 463645.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Senior Communications Manager on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email [email protected]

Ref:  Dante 050511

View the latest University press releases at www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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