Purging through

Than I so stared and started and felt lost

When the dream fled and left the face of me

Pale, as of one whom fear congeals like frost.   Purgatory, Dante, Canto IX lines 40 – 42

A chance conversation has led me to Dante. Sharon had suggested that I find a critical contextual framework for the ‘place’ that is Purgatory and Dante’s second volume of his epic “Divine Comedy” may indeed be it, my copy is the translation by Dorothy L Sayers with a long introduction and excellent commentaries throughout. The text is littered with the language of landscape and I am hopeful that this layering of Dante’s verse with the underlying narrative that this work seeks to be about will bring.

It has been an interesting week. I had planned to submit my Literature Review for Contextual Studies last week, but the arrival of a bellyaching superfluous appendage had me admitted to hospital for its removal. I had felt under pressure to complete this review and its completion was a matter of personal priority, I sent it the day after I left hospital so I expect it will be a couple of weeks before I see the comments from my tutor. Dante’s verse is an allegorical text, there is no inverted mountain on an island in the Southern Hemisphere with corniche’s to traverse in order to purge one’s sins; nor is his metaphorical journey a mere psychogeographic peregrination from Inferno to Paradiso. The purpose of Dante’s Purgatory is to endure it, freely, willingly in the knowledge that the only outcome is the paradise of Heaven. The purpose of Purgatory the ‘space’ is one less lofty; perhaps more primeval.

But ’twas the marsh I made for; there, bogged round

With mire, and tangled in the reeds, I fell,

And saw my veins make pools upon the ground. Purgatory, Dante, Canto V lines 82 – 84

Endurance is a very personal aspect about the ‘space’ of Purgatory that I want to try and document/narrate – it has deep echoes. I am interested in the conscious decision to endure, to accept that pain is part of the process; not necessarily the Catholic concept of redemption through purgation, but perhaps the knowledge that strength can be claimed by challenging it.

These images were taken at a different time of day than all the other posts i.e. mid afternoon as opposed to morning. When I feel fitter I plan to be there late afternoon/early evening utilising the different perspective of a changing light. The images that work best for me are those that have muted contrast, as if they were unsure of themselves. Those with higher contrast stand firmer in the frame, and whilst their allegorical content could be equally strong, they tell different stories, or the same one in a different way. I am aware that this story is still in its early days and that, as Sharon has suggested, an episodic narrative might – just as Dante’s text does – enable a more nuanced story.


For better waters heading with the wind

My ship of genius now shakes out her sail

And leaves that ocean of despair behind. Purgatory, Dante, Canto I lines 1-3

I don’t plan for the words to illustrate the images, nor vice versa; but rather the ‘Open’ collation of the two to illustrate the underlying narrative. The one of my youth.


7 thoughts on “Purging through

  1. Hope you are recovering well John. Interesting idea using a linkage with Dante as a means of conveying your personal story. Agree with your thoughts on the lighting in the images. The brighter images convey a more joyful mood. Not sure that this is what you want.

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