Points and Spheres: Cosmological Innovation in Dante's Divine Comedy

Date
2015-05-01
Authors
Blair, Matthew
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Abstract

This thesis analyzes the cosmology of Dante’s Divine Comedy, with particular focus on the ways in which Dante deviated from contemporary paradigms (and even from his own paradigms as expressed in his earlier Convivio) regarding the universe. Dante’s fictional universe is constructed in a way that resolves certain inconsistencies in medieval understanding and that reconciles Christian theology with Aristotelian and Ptolemaic cosmological thought. I argue that this was one of Dante’s conscious objectives in writing the Divine Comedy. This conclusion is then used to support a second, more specific theory: that Dante’s universe behaves as the surface of a hypersphere. Not only do I endorse this interpretation; I argue that modern scholars have been too quick to reject the possibility that Dante intended for his universe to be understood as a hypersphere. Although it can never be definitively proven, there is evidence to suggest that Dante was aware of the physical consequences of a hyperspherical universe, including the necessity for elliptical non-Euclidean space.

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Dante, Cosmology, Mathematics, Theology, Classics
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