Publication details [#7915]

Milbank, Alison. 2009. Divine beauty and the grotesque in Dante's Paradiso. 14 pp. URL
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Article in journal
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This is a piece of theological aesthetics that seeks to argue for a grotesque element in our understanding of the beautiful. It uses examples of monstrous transformations of Ovid's Metamorphoses in Dante's Paradiso to demonstrate that the grotesque is not just confined to the contorted bodies of the damned in Inferno but is part of Dante's apprehension of God himself, whom he sees as Trinitarian rings smiling at each other. Following Pseudo-Dionysius's theory of biblical metaphor, this becomes a way of witnessing to the impossibility of comprehending the Divine essence, yet also to the opening of a way for humanity to participate in the Divine life. Furthermore, humanity's hybrid nature can imitate the double nature of Christ, which Dante presents in grotesque form as a griffin. The argument makes use of John Ruskin's theory of the grotesque in Modern Painters as the result of limited perception of truths too great to grasp. (Alison Milbank)