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2 - “Bad Light”: Factionalism and the Facts in the Cemetery of the Heretics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2022

Alison Cornish
Affiliation:
New York University
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Summary

Among the heretics in the circle of violence, the revered Ghibelline hero Farinata degli Uberti explains that the damned see with bad light (mala luce). Farinata is interested only in keeping score between Guelphs and Ghibellines; his tomb-mate is interested to know only if his own son is dead or alive. A deferential Florentine ends up inadvertently inflicting untold pain on these sinners already burning in hell because of an inability for the lot of them to see the same present, to see the same facts. Dante’s treatment of heresy points at a fundamentally political rather than a religious problem. The reason why people inflict violence on one another in their parties, tribes, and faction, is not because the “sweet light” of day no longer strikes their eyes, as if the facts were evident to all, but because of a lack of shared belief. This is the light they lack, the one even blind fathers can pass onto their sons.

Type
Chapter
Information
Believing in Dante
Truth in Fiction
, pp. 62 - 92
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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