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Suffering in Hell: The Psychology of Emotions in Dante's Inferno
Abstract

Abstract:

This article applies several concepts from psychology to the interpretation of Dante Alighieri's literary masterpiece Inferno and describes elements of pedagogy for this kind of interdisciplinary approach. A premise is that sinners in Hell experience emotional suffering. Core psychological concepts are outlined. A methodological distinction is drawn between "what is said" and "what is shown" in Dante's text. Aspects of the psychologies of the glutton Ciacco, the blasphemer Capaneus, and the sinful lover Francesca are analyzed. Three broad patterns of emotional experience are identified. (1) Each class of sinners suffers its own peculiar complex of negative emotions. The article provides close analysis of one such local complex, the emotions that the pusillanimous suffer at the edge of Hell. (2) Sinners do not suffer remorse. The article discusses a paradoxical implication of remorselessness. (3) Damned souls engage in resistance against an imperative to despair. The article also identifies a tension between infernal justice and human psychology. It concludes with brief discussion of how literature, history, and psychology are complementary resources.



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