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HUMANITIES 143 moral sense for all the places in Dante's universe. For Hell, this has the astonishing result that 'People mischoose out of ignorance' (pp 27- 8, 114-15), a thesis that undermines everything Dante ever said about liberum arbitrium, free choice. Farnell has made the infernal consequence of sin (loss of the good of the intellect) over into its cause; this is not even good Virgil (Aristotle) on consilium, let alone Beatrice (theology). Not enough notice is taken of the fact that the Garden of Eden, though pretty, is empty (pp 70-2, 112-13). No one dwells there even for a time, save Dante as spectator of a pageant personal to him. Souls can hardly be said to enjoy it (p 38), since they arrive there only to go on. Heaven and Hell clearly have an anagogical meaning, and Eden an allegorical one, but none of them a moral. The ambiguity about Eden connects, however, with anotherambiguity. Farnell never answers the 'vexed question' whether the Comedy overcomes the dualism of human ends set forth in the Monarchy (p 17 n 1). Or rather, he answers affimatively in an early paragraph (pp 97-8), as befits a scheme in which the Eden of man's natural perfection can only be reached by supernatural means (p 53); but then he gradually restores the dualism as one or another text suggests it, and finishes with a harmonizing interpretation of the two works that overrides the Comedy's geography (pp 113-14). An excuse, of course, is that perhaps Dante himself was not too clear. In all respects, then, 'Introduction' really belongs in the title of this book, and 'Political Ideas' as an emphasis or perspective should have been put in the subtitle instead. On p vii, the work is called a guide for newcomers to the Divine Comedy, who read the poem in English translation. Even in those limits, the book will fail to do its job; the list of English translations (Primary Sources, p 133) does not include those of John Ciardi or Allan Mandelbaum, which many such readers now have. Farnell seems generally to prefer older authors. The extensive bibliography seems to have closed about a decade ago. There are only three . books from the last ten years, and nothing by Freccero, Mazzotta, Hollander, or Iannucci. Only one piece is listed from the run of DS after 1974 (though several before). In that respect, readers of an Englished Comedy will have to go elsewhere. (ALBERT WINGELL) Norman N. Shneidman. Dostoevsky and Suicide Mosaic Press 1984. 124. $19ยท95, $9.95 paper Norman Shneidman gives us a detailed discussion of the suicide motif in Dostoevsky's works that takes the reader through his pre- and postSiberian periods, his major works and his Diary ofa Writer. Shneidman is especially interested in singling out two functions of suicide in Dostoev- sky's writings: suicide as a structural determinant influencing plot development; and suicide as a symptom ofmoral bankruptcyand isolation ofcharacter arising outof the loss offaith - in God, immortality of the soul, the Russian soil- and from the vain attempts to fill the resulting spiritual vacuum with obsessive ideological substitutes. These are familiar thoughts in the Dostoevsky who returned from his Siberian exile anxious to put his life together again. But it is to Shneidman's credit that he is well aware of the disparity between Dostoevsky's theoretical notions and his artistic vision, which is always more psychological and intuitive, more complex and more ambiguous than mere intellectual formulation would allow. The result is a lucid, matter-of-fact analysis of character providing a deeper sense of what is involved in the process of suicide. For my part, the study raises a question which may indeed fuel, rather than detract from, usefui potential discussion: Shneidman's belief that 'the weak "faint hearted" dreamer depicted in the pages of Dostoevsky's early prose, is replaced by a strong (if negative) and determined character' (p 32) in Dostoevsky's later and more mature work. This statement is qualified on a number of occasions - thus Shneidman sees Raskolnikov and Svidrigaylov as both strong and weak characters (pp 38, 44) - but it is difficult to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 143-144
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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