History Podcasts

#105: Anthony Esolen on Translating Dante's Divine Comedy and Dan Brown's Supercilious Stupidity

#105: Anthony Esolen on Translating Dante's Divine Comedy and Dan Brown's Supercilious Stupidity

'Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them: there is no third' -T.S Elliot

The most towering epic poem in Western literature, save perhaps the works of Homer, is Dante's Divine Comedy. In this episode we are going to talk about the history of the poem, how it was understood across the centuries, and what it has to say to 21st man today. And our guest is perhaps the most qualified person on the planet to do so.

Anthony Esolen is a literature professor and Dante scholar who released an acclaimed translation of Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. He has been praised for marrying sense with sound, poetry with meaning, capturing both the poem's line-by-line vigor and its allegorically and philosophically exacting structure.

In our interview we discuss Esolen's translation decision to ditch systematic line-by-line rhyming in favor of blank verse to retain the poem's original “meaning and music,” why Dan Brown's Inferno is so transcendentally terrible a book, and what Dante has to say to a modern world that has exchanged an authentic culture for mindless mass entertainment.


Anthony Esolen is a professor of English Renaissance and classical literature, a writer, social commentator, and translator of classical poetry. He has taught at the university level for decades and joined Thomas More College of Liberal Arts this fall. Besides Dante, he has translated Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, and Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered. Along with his academic work he has written more than 500 articles forThe Claremont Review of Books, First Things, and Touchstone magazine.


Anthony Esolen's translation of Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise

“Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture”

“Dan Brown's Infernal Fiction”


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