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Archetypal images, Carl Jung believed, when elaborated in tales and ceremonies, shape culture’s imagination and behavior. Unfortunately, such cultural images can become stale and lose their power over the mind. But an artist or mystic can refresh and revive a culture’s imagination by exploring his personal dream-images and connecting them to the past. Dante Alighieri presents his Divine Comedy as a dream-vision, carefully establishing the date at which it came to him (Good Friday, 1300), and maintaining the perspective of that time and place, throughout the work, upon unfolding history. Modern readers will therefore welcome a Jungian psychoanalytical approach, which can trace both instinctual and spiritual impulses in the human psyche. Some of Dante’s innovations (admission of virtuous pagans to Limbo) and individualized scenes (meeting personal friends in the afterlife) more likely spring from unconscious inspiration than conscious didactic intent. For modern readers, a focus on Dante’s personal dream-journey may offer the best way into his poem.
Gwenyth E. Hood, Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia, USA.
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