Dante's Purgatorio: A Community of Love
Conley, Erin L.
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Though most people are familiar with Dante?s Inferno, relatively little scholarly work has been done on the second canticle of the Divine Comedy, the Purgatorio. Of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, only Purgatory is a temporal realm in which the occupants progress toward another realm, Heaven. Dante organizes the Purgatorio around the principle of love, describing each sin atoned for in Purgatory as a perversion of love. In purging imperfect love, the penitents participate in caritas, a selfless love for others driven by love of the divine. With caritas, people participate in the love God has for humanity by loving others as manifestations of God?s goodness. This love, this caritas, occurs in community with others and facilitates Dante?s progress on his journey through Purgatory. Contemporary philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy provides a useful understanding of community that can be applied to Dante?s Purgatorio, suggesting that people are defined by their own finitude in relation to others and that as such, being can only occur in community. The souls in Purgatory are part of a community of longing for the divine, that which exposes their finitude. Dante becomes acutely aware of human finitude in Eden, the place of both the destruction and creation of community. In Dante?s time in Eden, he exists in the liminal space between Purgatory and Heaven, and only by the grace of God may he cross the border dividing humanity from divinity and enter the presence of the divine.