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Lecture 41 - used to mislead and conceal as well as inspire...

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Canto 26 Diomedes and Ulysses are paired by Dante. In Book 10 of the Iliad they go on a raid to find out the Trojan defenses and they pass Dolon. Although Dante doesn’t know Homer directly, he does know him through Virgil. There are two forks in a flame. It undercuts the idea of heroic individuality. Ulysses stands for one heroic historic individual representing a community. This is an impossible idea for Dante. The names of Elijah and Elisha are sent up to Heaven without death, they are translated. This is parallel to the Latini canto where he is a criticized guide. Dante is in a journey and Ulysses is a great journeyer. Ulysses is saying “Don’t follow Virgil and the Aeneid, follow me and the Odyssey.” The emphasis of 26 and 27 is on rhetoric. Rhetoric is a double-edged sword for both the classical and medieval world view. It’s necessary to persuade people to do the right thing but it’s also a force of deception. Language can be
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Unformatted text preview: used to mislead and conceal as well as inspire. Rhetoricians find it hard to speak. Ulysses betrays himself. He gives a different end version of the Homeric return to Ithaca or the medieval legend that he was killed by Telegonus, the son of Circe and Odysseus. The model is carried forward, a complete rewriting, a swerving away from the source. Ulysses is a journey without a guide, Dante is with a guide. Dante needs Virgil, as the beasts in Canto 1 stop him. Virgil addresses Ulysses because he knows Homer. Dante is conscious of style, the high epic. Virgil and Ulysses speak a language that Dante doesn’t. Dante speaks in demotic Italian. The great boast of Italy is still the same as Dante’s Italian. Ulysses is an antitype to Aeneas. Ulysses = cunning, skill, rhetoric. Aeneas rejects this. Aeneas surpasses Ulysses. The fall of Troy is the rise of Rome. Ulysses is against Virgil too. To convert means to turn around....
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