Ethical Criticism in Hell: The Sympathetic Fallacy of Inferno 32-33.

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Abstract

The central conflict of the Inferno is between us, readers, and God. When fictional characters captivate us, we are normally free to enjoy their charms. Not so Dante’s sinners. If we feel bad for these characters, it cannot be because they are sympathetic—after all, God put them in Hell—but because we are naive. But is sympathy naive when a poem seems to be asking for it? This article reconsiders the Ugolino episode as a paradigm for the Inferno’s ethical contradictions. In a work of art which reminds us that a person’s crimes often create the circumstances of their victimization, perhaps sympathizing for the damned is the most ethical reading of all.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophy and Literature
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

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