Nous vous proposons une lecture donnée le 27 février 2020 par Marianna Esposito Vinzi au cours Pre-Master de American Literature, Department of Languages and Cultures – ESSEC Business School, Paris.


Dante’s influence on the contemporary American and British writers : “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in T. S. Eliot’s poetry and The Divine Comedy.


Dante’s influence on contemporary American and British writing is alive and vital.

Eliot said, referring to Dante’s poems that “genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood” and the French writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline, in his “Journey to the end of the night” wrote about Dante’s Hell that: “Before you know it, you are in the noisome regions of the night”.

The poet Craig Raine’s 2012 novel The Divine Comedy, set in post-communist Poland, looks at the mortifications and functions of the human body in a voyeuristic meditation on sex and insecurity, on death and God and the myriad ways in which the human body plays dirty tricks on us.

The American Poet Catholic convert Robert Lowell wrote to the poet Ezra Pound in 1954 about how Dante understood the cost of sin in the human heart, how sins can affect the human heart.

A more recent sinner, the British author Jeffrey Archer (born in London in 1940) chose to subtitle the three volumes of his jail memoir Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

James Joyce, for his part, proclaimed a strong admiration for Dante’s Divine Comedy. “I love my Dante as much as the Bible” he said, adding: “He is my spiritual food, the rest is ballast.” Also Tennyson was an admirer of Dante.

But not only were the American and British writers influenced by Dante’s Divine Comedy: the French writer Honoré de Balzac in his Comédie humaine (1842-1853) consciously sought to emulate the great human variety of Dante’s poem and also the French poet Baudelaire (1821-1867) in his most famous work, the poetry titled “The Flowers of Evil”, expressed the ephemeral experience of life in the modern society, related to the themes of decadence and moral sins. He said about his poems, referring to Dante’s poem: “My Flowers of Evil come directly from the Inferno”.

T.S. Eliot who much admired Baudelaire’s poetry said about the French poet: “He has been able to operate a fusion between realism and imaginative fervor over reason, which drove to a dramatic, despairing desire to escape from reality, in a world of imagination and freedom of expression”. For Eliot, Baudelaire “gave new possibilities to poetry in a new stock of visions coming from contemporary life”.

Another dantista, the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, never left his Moscow flat during the Stalin oppressions without a paperback Dante in the event of his arrest. The darker woes to be found in Dante, the long nights of darkness and dismay, were familiar to Mandelstam as they were to Oscar Wilde and other writers unjustly persecuted and imprisoned, also Primo Levi, the famous Italian Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor.


Dante and his time

Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265 (for those who have been in Florence, in the San Pier Maggiore district situated between the Duomo and Piazza della Signoria).

The Florence in which Dante lived was one of the richest and most populous cities in Europe, larger than London  at a time of intense political unrest due to rival factions and rival families who manipulated politics and alliances to extend their power.

Florence in Dante’s day was an independent republic ruled by the church on one side, and by trade guilts (corporazioni) on the other (lawyers, merchants, doctors, bankers from the Italian word banco, counter). It was one of the most populous cities on the peninsula. The power-struggle between the Church (Boniface VIII) and the Empire was at its height with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and his son Manfred, a Ghibelline supporter, who was defeated in southern Italy in the battle of Benevento by Charles of Anjou. The political situation was extremely complex at that time, due to the factional conflicts between Guelfs, supporters of the Papacy, and Ghibellines supporters of the Empire, and the Guelf party split into White and Black factions erupted into violence.

Dante joined the Guild of Physicians and Apothecaries in 1295 – to be a member of a trade association was a necessary prerequisite for political activity at the time – and he made his political debut in the same year. He participated actively in the discussions of the councils which ran the city and his active involvement in Florentine politics was at its height in 1300, when he was elected to serve as prior, the highest office open to a Florentine within the city’s government.

Dante sided with the Whites, whose primary aim was to safeguard Florentine independence against the Blacks, who aimed at bringing the city under the control of Pope Boniface VIII. In January 1302 Dante – who was at the time in Rome as an ambassador of the Florentine commune – was found guilty of barratry and in March of the same year he was condemned to death should he ever return to the city.

In central Italy the political struggle between Guelph and Ghibellines was very strong around 1300: Florence was split into two political factions, the White Guelph and the Black Guelph. Dante was part of the Guelph, who favored the Papacy over the Holy Roman Emperor and he was among the White Guelph who were exiled in 1302 by the French king Charles of Valois who entered the city, at the request of Pope Boniface VIII, who supported the Black Guelph. This exile, which lasted the rest of Dante’s life, shows its influence in many parts of the Comedy, from prophecies of Dante’s exile to Dante’s views of politics, to the eternal damnation of some of his opponents.

Dante spent the last twenty or so years of his life wandering from city to city, primarily in northern Italy, and he was also in Paris at the Sorbonne from 1309 to 1310 and also in Oxford. He never went back to Florence. Exiled from home, he began to wonder from patron to patron, from place to place up and down the northern part of Italy in search of employment as a diplomat. What hurt Dante most was not the poverty, the fact of being homeless or loss of social status but the sense of his own faults. In the poem he speaks about Florence as a pitiless city ‘devoid of love’. He died in Ravenna in 1321, aged 56 years old.


Let’s have a brief look at the structure of the poem and at the messages and emotions it communicates to the readers.

“The Divine Comedy is a catalogue of the sins of Italy” wrote the poet William Butler Yeats. The poet Ezra Pound, in his 1930s ‘Hell Cantos’ reimagined Dante’s Inferno as a corrupted London bank, where usurers drink “blood sweetened with shit” (for Pound, as for Dante, usury was a sin against human ‘arte’ which is a daughter of Nature, nature made by God).

It is a long narrative poem, begun in 1308 and completed in 1320, a year before his death in 1321. It is widely considered to be the preeminent work in Italian Medieval literature and one of the greatest works of world literature.

Dante’s Hell is the most widely translated book after the Bible, with at least 50 English-language versions in the 20th century alone.

The poem is classified as World Cultural Heritage of Humanity, together with the Bible and the Quran, the central religious text of Islam.

The poem’s imaginative vision of the afterlife is representative of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church by the 14th century. It helped establish the Tuscan language, in which it is written, as the standardized Italian language. It is divided into three parts: Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

The narrative describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise or Heaven, while allegorically the poem represents the soul’s journey towards God. The poem offers an apology for a work of literature as a vast network that links all things; it is a work about the universe that contains the multiplicity of all books, with a concentration of poetry, thoughts, cosmologies, epics.

Dante draws on medieval Christian theology and philosophy, especially on St Augustine’s Christian concept of the Freedom of the Will (God has come to man in the person of his son Jesus for the redemption of the whole humanity and for giving to the whole humanity freedom from bondage to sin because God makes man truly free in a conversion of purified emotions, according to the Biblical doctrines).

And, like all the medieval poets and writers, Dante thinks and feels through symbols, the world of natural things offered him a wide display of symbolic truths. In Dante’s work, Virgil is presented as human reason and Beatrice is presented as divine knowledge led by the Holy Scriptures.

Dante thought with the Platonist idea that nature is only the copy of a supra-sensorial world and the natural phenomena – the lights of the stars, the warmth of the sun, the dark – were expressions of the divine will. Therefore each man who receives these sensations from nature, which is good and nearer to the divine by definition, is bound to think in a more elevated and moral way.

The Divine Comedy is composed of 14.233 lines that are divided into 3 cantos, Hell, Purgatory and Heaven – each consisting of 33 cantos plus an initial canto, serving as an introduction to the poem and generally considered to be part of the first canto, brings the total number of cantos to 100. The last word in each of the three cantos is stars: “In the Hell we hoped to perceive the stars (which is the light of God”, “In the Purgatory purified from our sins we were made apt for mounting to the stars”, “In the Heaven by the Love impelled (supreme love of God), that moves the sun and all the stars”.

As with Homer’s Odyssey, the poem derives from an ancient tradition of poetry as song. ‘I sing of arms and the man’ the Aeneid begins. Dante makes this clear through numerous addresses in the singular to his readers, ‘I swear, Reader, as you well know’, and occasionally by using voi, you, indicating a plural audience or readership.

Written in the first person, homodiegetic narrator (he tells and at the same time is the main character of the story he tells), the poem tells of Dante’s journey, who is at one and the same time both Dante’s himself and Everyman journey, through the three realm of the dead, lasting from the night before Good Friday to the Sunday of Easter in the spring of 1300. The Roman poet Virgil guides him through Hell and Purgatory, Beatrice, Dante’s ideal woman, guides him through Heaven. Beatrice was a Florentine woman whom he had met in childhood and admired in the mode of the courtly love tradition of the Middle Ages literature, which is highlighted in Dante’s earlier work La Vita Nuova.

The structure of the three kingdoms is: the circles of the Inferno with Lucifer at its bottom, the rings of Mount Purgatory, followed by the Garden of Eden on its summit and the celestial bodies of Paradiso, followed by the Empyrean containing the very essence of God.

The Inferno opens on the night before Good Friday in the year 1300, with Dante the pilgrim lost in the Gothic darkness of a wood and as Dante goes deeper into the Hell, the more vivid and disgusting the punishments become according to the contrapasso law (Latin contra and patior, suffer the opposite): every sin will find its equal and fitting punishment (for examples, in Canto 20 lines 11-16, astrologers and false prophets walk backwards with their heads twisted because of their failed attempts to see into the future (“the future belongs to God”, said Dante). So the sin itself become the punishment. Dante’s backwards-walking sinners fascinated Samuel Beckett in his 1956 radio play All that Fall where Mr Rooney announced: “Let us go on backwards now a little, like Dante’s damned”.

There is a big difference between Dante’s Hell and Eliot’s Hell: Hell for Dante is a well-structured place organized according to the Christian vision of the afterlife, a place where everything has its meaning, a meaning explained by Christin faith, according to the Bible.

In Eliot’s Hell there is no contrapasso law: suffering, fear, death and emptiness conditions are put together in confusion and lack of sense and this is the message that Eliot’s poems communicate to the readers, mostly for The Waste Land.

The incipit of the Divine Comedy:

In the midway of this our mortal life,

I found me in a gloomy wood, astray

Gone from the path direct…”


Dante is 35 years old, half of the biblical lifespan of 70, lost in a dark wood (understood as lost in sin), assailed by beasts, he cannot evade and unable to find the “straight way”, the “path direct” to salvation, symbolized by the sun behind the mountain. (Isaiah, 38 Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery from his sickness. In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death and said: “In the middle of my days I must depart, I shall not see the Lord, the Lord in the land of living…I walk slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul…but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, the Lord will save me all the days of our lives, at the house of the Lord).

Dante begins his journey to the underworld with Virgil (the epic poem Aeneid). Each sin’s punishment in Hell is a symbolic instance of poetic justice. Allegorically, the Inferno represents the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is, with the presence of Satan-Lucifer defined by Dante as “the worm that gnaws the world”. The journey to the underworld is one of the most obsessively recurring stories in the Western imagination. In Book XI of Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses descends into the kingdom of the dead. There he conjures a swarm of ghosts, among them an unburied friend, his aged mother end the blind clairvoyant Tiresias (the ‘old man with wrinkled female breasts’ of Eliot’s The Waste Land).

But Dante never read Homer because the first printed edition of the Odyssey did not appear in Florence until 1488. Instead he took the story of Ulysses from Latin sources (Cicero, Seneca, Ovid’s Methamorphoses, counting the creation of the world until the death of Julius Caesar, 1st Century BC). So Virgil’s accounts and visions of Hell became the model for the Western geographies of the Hell, Dante’s among them. Dante saw something of himself in Ulysses: like him Dante stands in wandering and solitude before reaching metaphorical dry land. Ulysses’s ship never reaches dry land, the sea sucks Ulysses and his crew and Dante condemns him to Hell for his god-defiant arrogance in wishing to explore unknown lands and venture into the unknown, the same God-defiant arrogance of Lucifer for his desire to be like God, the fallen angel, expelled by God from the Heaven and placed into the Hell “in a place of grief, sorrow and pain”, Gospel of St Matthew, 14.

All life is contained in The Divine Comedy: from classical literature, to the Catholic Medieval doctrine which placed more emphasis on Christianity and on punishment in Purgatory, which was the process of purification of the souls made ready for Heaven according to the Medieval Christian and Roman Church (from latin purgatorium, from the Italian purgare, to purge).

Allegorically, the Inferno represents the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is, with the presence of Satan, Lucifer, which has come to refer as well to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation (let’s think about “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798) by the Romantic poet Samuel T. Coleridge where the Mariner is condemned to a never ending nightmare journey in order to expiate his fault and be redeemed, the same Coleridge who received with great enthusiasm the first and beautiful translation of the Divine Comedy, in 1817, made by Henry Cary, an Anglican clergyman).



T.S Eliot “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, 1915


S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse

A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,

Questa fiamma staria senza più scosse.

Ma penciocche giammai di questo fondo

Non torno viva alcun, s’io odo il vero,

Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo”.


This excerpt is from Dante’s Hell canto 27, lines 61-66.

Translated from Italian it means: “If I thought that my reply were given to anyone who might return to the world, this flame would stand forever still; but since never from this deep place (the Hell) has anyone returned alive, if what I hear is true, without fear of infamy I answer thee”.

These words are spoken by count Guido da Montefeltro. Dante brings us in the 8th chasm (girone) of the Hell where he meets Guido, punished here because he has been a false counselor, he has betrayed Florentine people according to Pope Boniface VIII, his strong power everywhere, the same Pope who wrongly condemned Dante to the exile. Guido believes that Dante is dead like himself and he is sure he will never return to earth to report what he says. For Dante treason was the worst of the sins and the wost treacherous of all was Judas who sold Jesus for 30 coins, Judas eaten alive by Lucifer in the darkness of the abyss, Lucifer represented by Dante with three heads, sinister reversal of the Holy Trinity, the mystery of three persons in one God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In this passage Dante is sure that nobody never came back from the Kingdom of Death (we have to highlight that here we are in the Hell so at the beginning of the long interior journey, the turning of his soul, of the Dante’s conversion, who will led him to his conversion to the Christian faith) from the “Abyss of the Hell, that furnace of fire who gathers all the evil of the universe” and he is not afraid to tell this to a man designated to the death-in-life, which is to someone destined to purge his sin, or like for Prufrock, destined to live a non-life in a lack of action.

So relating these lines of Dante’s Hell to Eliot’s Prufrock, Prufrock is fraudulent (like Guido da Montefeltro) and deceitful to himself, guilty and being punished by himself by his continual paralysis, living an existence like a shadow, like a ‘shade’ in Dante’s underworld, a sort of ghost, according to the original Greek mythological idea of afterlife that at the moment of death the soul is separated from the body and transported to the entrance of the underworld. Not for Dante and the Catholic Church who believe in the resurrection of body and soul together at the end of time.

Prufrock only wants to share his unfortunate nature with himself. Eliot invites the reader to join this hidden world, this world of subconscious thinking, just as Dante invites the reader to the shaded world of the dead who speaks without being heard and here we have a link to the Holy Bible: “They have mouths but they speak not, eyes but cannot see”, Psalm 115-5, referring to the false idols.


The new poetry of 1910-1940 looked to the city for its images rather than the countryside. It nevertheless rejected the values of the commercial middle class. In Eliot’s poem “The Journey of the Magi” one of the Magi is recalling in old age, like Prufrock, the meaning of the experience (also the difficulties of the journey, the images of birth and renewal) also marked by the sadness of the passing of time – Prufrock words “I grow old…I grow old”.

But what is the nature of this person, Prufrock?

In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Prufrock’s constant state of self-doubt and anti-heroic figure, like Hamlet, and over analyzation constitutes a form of hell for himself. He can never truly escape his mind: he spends so much time participating in reality, he metaphorically dies at the end of the poem, corresponding to the idea of not returning alive from the Inferno.


Let’s have a look at the dedication. Jean Verdenal was an important friend from Eliot’s time spent in Paris for studying. Verdenal died in the Dardanelles in 1917, acting as a soldier.

The quote is from Dante’s Purgatory, XXI Canto, lines 133-136: “Now you can understand the force of love that warms me toward you, so that I forget our vanity and treat the shadows like the solid substance”, which means that Eliot ensures Verdenal will be remembered with love. Here Dante refers to Statius, the Roman poet who lived in the 1st Century. Statius is Dante’s guide in Purgatory because Statius, like Dante, is repenting from his past sins and like Dante he is involved in a process of religious conversion.

Prufrock’s elaborate day-dreamed world dies when someone interrupts him at the end of the poem and metaphorically he drowns. The literary theme of a day-dreamed world is not new: let’s think about Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Romantic poem “Kubla Khan, or a Vision in a dream” (1772-1834). Coleridge says that the poem came to him in a dream. He fell asleep while reading about the palace of Kubla Khan, the Mongol Emperor who ruled China during the 13th Century. As soon as he awoke, he started to write the poem but someone arrived to see him on business and he was interrupted. When he went back to finish the poem, he was unable to remember the rest of the dream.

In the landscapes and urban interiors of The Love Song Eliot goes in a direction which is opposite to a subjective reality, focusing his attention on the states of mind.

T.S. Eliot has produced his great effect upon his generation because he has described men and women who get out of bed or into it from mere habit. Eliot operates, according to the others modernist poets, a sort of reverse of the myth, a lowering and mortifying interpretation of the myth (also see the Waste Land quote from Petronius): like James Joyce’s Ulysses in his single day journey, with his private thoughts, the external events, the conversations, the physical surroundings of Dublin and its relations to its epic precursor, Homer’s Odyssey. “Modernism” or “Modernist writing” were terms used to distinguish early experimental 20th century writing in opposition to the Romantics: free verse is a way of writing poetry with broken-up lines of variable length, without use of rhyme. Eliot has been able to amplify the classical tradition going into the past, Dante, Virgil, Baudelaire. Modernist poetry is complicated because it requires cross cultural learning and good erudition.

In The Love Song Prufrock, like Dante, is in search of himself after a psychological and cultural crisis that came with the loss of moral identity and The Waste Land (1922), Eliot’s masterpiece, strongly related to The Love Song, is a sort of “polyphonic epic poetry of conscience” as defined by Ezra Pound.

The Waste Land is the most important poem of the 20th Century. Baudelaire’s influence in particular can be seen in this poem: rather than writing about the rural world, Baudelaire had often written about the modern city, the urban world of the metropolis.

Baudelaire is quoted by Eliot in French words in the closing line of The Burial of the Dead, the first part of The Waste Land:

You! Hypocrite lecteur! Mon semblable, mon frère”, “You, hypocrite reader, my double, my brother”, which is Baudelaire’s preface to The Flowers of Evil: hypocrite reader as guilty of lies and sins as I am, says Eliot. Baudelaire and Eliot communicates the same ideas: people are corrupted, the world is corrupted and it is getting worse, not better, and everyone is just as guilty as everyone else.

In the city Eliot, like Baudelaire, finds new imagery, a completely new language for poetry, to find poetry in the every-day world, in depicting cityscapes and urban scenes, in the modern world: civilization has been reduced to a waste land and the land has lost its fertility and ability to give life. Men must regain spiritual and psychological wellbeing and make peace with his demons. Poetry for Eliot must be impersonal, without feelings and experiences, in a very anti-romantic position, going against Wordsworth and Coleridge who used to put the self, I, at the center of the poetry.

Prufrock’s metaphorically death in The Love Song and his hesitating attitude, like Hamlet’s lack of action, his lack of ability to take action towards the murder of his father: “Do I dare?” and  “Do I dare?”, his “turning back and descending the stairs” like for Dante is a descending into the Hell, into a place where, like the Florentine poet wrote, “was a descending into the Hell which collects all man’s evil of the universe”, a descending into the darkness ”In order to explore the world and search the ways of life and man’s virtue”. “Do I dare Disturb the universe?” Prufrock questions the Universe, the same Universe that for Dante was both physical and spiritual, in an allegorically vision of Christian afterlife.

No, I am not Prince Hamlet”: here we have a clear link with Dante’s Hell Canto 2, line 33, “I am not Aeneas, I am not Paul”, because St Paul’s conversion on the Damascus way, his hesitating conversion and his search of  identity was Dante’s model for his own personal research of conversion to the Christian faith.

The passage also shows the influence of the French poet Jules Laforgue (the French symbolist poet obsessed by death, his loneliness, his boredom with daily routine).


The hesitating attitude, the lack of action is also present in Dante, Hell 3rd Canto line 60.

In The Divine Comedy the poet accuses Pope Celestine V of cowardice, because he reined in 1294 for only five months, he abandoned his function (“a wretched, who never lived”), he resigned leaving Florence and all Italy to his successor Pope Boniface VIII, corrupted and megalomaniac, a real over-ambitious man, who extended his authority, his strong power everywhere, the same Pope who condemned Dante to the exile.

Pope Boniface VIII organized the first Catholic Jubilee year which took place in Rome and he declared that both spiritual and temporal power were under the pope’s jurisdiction, and that kings were subordinate to the power of the Roman pontiff. Dante placed the Pope in the 8th Circle of Hell in his Divine Comedy, among the simoniacs, those who used to sell the church’s offices and roles. It is named after Simon Magus, who is described in the Acts of the Apostles (8,9) as having tried to pay two disciples of Jesus in exchange for their empowering him to impart the Holy Spirit to anyone with his hands. Since then, the term extends to other forms of trafficking for money in spiritual things.

And those who never acted, “the wretched, the coward men who never lived”, those, like Prufrock that in life never acted for fear, living or rather passing their time (for living it could not be called) in a state of apathy and indifference both to good and evil, in the Hell are condemned by Dante to “go on in nakedness, and sorely stung, by wasps and hornets, which bedewed their cheeks with blood, that mixed with tears dropped to their feet, and by disgustful worms were gathered there”, Hell, 3rd Canto lines 60-64, also tormented by Charon, the Greek mythological underworld daemon, whose duty was to ferry over the river Acheron (the river of the eternal sleep) the damned souls: “Comes on an old man, hoary white with eld, crying, ‘Woe to you, wicked spirit! Hope not ever to see the sky again. I come to take you to the other shore across, into eternal darkness, in fierce, heat, ice and eternal torment”.

And the entrance of Dante to the gate of Hell, Canto 3rd, lines 1-11, the gate speaks for prosopopeia, which is a rhetorical device in which a speaker communicates to the audience by speaking as an object.

And at the end Prufrock drowns, a metaphorical death, the death of the daydream that is the poem, like in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. In Dante’s Hell Canto 20 lines 4-6 the damned drown into the sea, into the sea made by tears: “I looked into the depth, moistened with tears of anguish”.

“Though I have seen my head (slightly bald, here Eliot is operating a lowering of the myth to a ridiculous image), brought in upon a platter”, is St John the Baptist, in Dante’s Heaven Canto 18 lines 95-98 the incident is alluded to, coming from St Marc and St Matthew Gospels.

Because for Dante even the Hell, and not only the Heaven, is the great expression of the Divine love for human beings, the same Hell that for Eliot is the absence of God: “The Hell from which we issued again beheld the stars” (Inferno, canto 34, line 133), the same Hell from which Lazarus come from the dead: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead, come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”, in Eliot’s The Love Song, in a sort of coming back to life in a non-life state recalling “Jesus who has power over death and those who believe in him receive resurrection”, Dante’s Heaven, Canto 1st, lines 1-3, 37-38 “the world’s bright lamp rises to mortal”, Lazarus who had been “sunk deeper in the dark abyss”, Hell Canto 6th line 88, from St Luke Gospel.

Lazarus, the Biblical character who Jesus brought back to life after he had been laid to rest in a tomb.

Prufrock compares himself to Lazarus in line 90 as part of an imaginary conversation with a woman to whom he cannot adequately communicate his thoughts. So the same stanza contains juxtapositions between biblical images like Lazarus and trivial, common daily matters like cakes and tea. Comparing himself to Lazarus, Prufrock is once again engaged in a life-death narrative, like Coleridge Ancient Mariner’s life-in-death consequently to his fault, condemned to a non-life, which is immobility, fear, inaction.

In his imaginary conversation Prufrock imagines himself saying “I am Lazarus, come from the dead”, where Lazarus lying dead in the tomb is like Prufrock engaged in his self-made world. Lazarus, like Dante and like the Ancient Mariner, returns from death to tell his experience, just like Prufrock comes out of his far away thoughts with nothing to tell, nothing to relate.

That is not what I meant at all, That is not it, at all”: unlike Lazarus and Dante Prufrock doesn’t return to life with stories to tell – “Return home and tell how much God has done for you”, Luke 8, also in Dante’s Heaven “That in my thoughts I of that sacred realm could store, shall now be matter of my song and tongue”, because Dante will tell his experience to the whole humanity”: Hell 1st Canto lines 9-10 “I will relate what I discovered here” because Dante said “It is not for nothing that we go into the Hell” which means that there is a good reason for descending into the abyss of our soul and the reason for Dante was to tell, to relate to others, to the whole humanity.

And, if the descending into the Hell of ourselves can be related, the reality of Heaven, ultimately, cannot be described said Dante, but only experienced directly, by faith in the resurrection.




Dante, The Divine Comedy, translated by H.F. Cary, Wordsworth Classics, 2009

Dante’s Divine Comedy, A Journey without end, by Ian Thomson, The Landmark Library, 2018

Dante Alighieri, Commedia, Giorgio Inglese, Carocci Editore, 2016

The Poems of T.S Eliot, Edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue, New York Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015


Marianna Esposito Vinzi est diplômée en Langues et Littératures Étrangers Modernes – Littérature Anglo-Americaine auprès de l’Universite de Naples “Federico II”, Italie, (2001). Elle est titulaire des diplômes DELF (Diplôme d’étude de la langue française), du DALF (Diplôme Approfondi de la langue française) et du Diplôme en Traduction et Interprétariat Français-Italien (2001-2004) auprès de l’Institut Culturel Français de Naples “Le Grenoble” et du Certificat d’Etude en Français Langue Étrangère auprès de l’ICP, l’Institut Catholique de Paris (2014).

Elle habite à Paris depuis 2006 avec son mari et ses enfants. En 2011 elle a obtenu la Spécialisation dans l’Enseignement de la Langue et Culture Italienne aux Adultes Étrangers auprès de l’Université “Ca’ Foscari” de Venise et depuis 2012 elle travaille come traductrice free-lance de l’Anglais et du Français vers l’Italien et donne des cours de langue et culture italienne aux adultes dans le cadre de la promotion de la langue et culture italienne à l’étranger auprès de différentes associations culturelles francophones et anglophones.

Marianna Esposito Vinzi a à son actif de nombreuses conférences dont certaines concernent la littérature anglaise et américaine et d’autres concernent la littérature française.

Dante e T.S. Eliot, une réflexion de Marianna Esposito Vinzi

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