The Ethics, the Comedy, and Gatsby: Notes on the Distributive Hellscape
Thesis: An examination of Aristotelian distributive justice in the Divine Comedy and The Great Gatsby serves both to provide a grounding for Fitzgerald’s glamor-veiled hellscapes and to highlight Dante’s continuing moral relevance in American culture.
Frongia, Eugenio. “The Gate of Hell,” Lectura Dantis: Inferno, ed. Mandelbaum, Oldcorn, Ross. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998.
In this incisive meditation on Canto III of Dante’s Inferno, Frongia begins with a thorough examination of the gate of hell, with particular interest in the consummate blend of God’s justice and mercy evoked thereby. He notes that there is, of course, a retributive element to God’s infernal justice, as must be the case in considering the actions of autonomous creatures. More importantly, though, he suggests that Dante’s vision of hell (indeed, of the entire cosmos) depends on an Aristotelian and Thomistic understanding of distributive justice, wherein God can be understood as a kind of grand steward dispensing to all members of an estate their due inheritance. With this framework in place, Frongia moves on to a close consideration of the remaining events of Canto III, with special emphasis on the neutrals and on the damned souls’ haste to enter into their punishment.
PETROV, Flavia Alexandra. 2013. “Neoplatonic Influences in The Sacred Poem. Dante Alighieri, a Precursor to the Florentine Academy.” Scientific Journal Of Humanistic Studies 5, no. 8: 183-188. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed February 18, 2017).
While Petrov’s paper leaves the reader longing for a lengthier, more clearly organized work, it nonetheless highlights several features of Neoplatonic philosophy salient for an understanding of the richness of Dante’s poem. The description of the soul-body relationship as seen by the Neoplatonists, and the importance of this relationship for an understanding of sin, may prove especially important for linking Dante’s work with The Great Gatsby, throughout which Plato’s thought appears as a keystone for understanding Gatsby himself and the hell to which he contributes.
Wetzel, J. 2002. “A Meditation on Hell: Lessons from Dante.” Modern Theology 18, no. 3: 375-394. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed February 13, 2017).
In this study Wetzel, departing from a point in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, begins by commenting on the problems of a hell conceived in terms of retributive justice, arguing that such a conception tends to rest either on a vision of God as petty dictator or on a human desire for revenge. He then examines Dante’s Virgil, with particular emphasis on Virgil’s placement in Limbo and the nature of his sin. Virgil, in this reading, makes rather a poor reader of Aristotle’s Ethics as well as of human sinfulness. He finally moves through a reflection on the tale of Ugolino and Ruggieri (with comparison between the sins present in the depths of hell to the natures of the three beasts of Canto I) to a consideration that the wisdom, love, and justice of hell coincide in the hopelessness of hell.
Will, Barbara. 2005. “The Great Gatsby” and The Obscene Word.” College Literature 32, no. 4: 125-144. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed February 13, 2017).
Will examines the ever-intriguing character of Jay Gatsby through the particular lens of the obscene word Nick Carraway finds scrawled on his steps–and rubs out–at the novel’s conclusion, arguing that this erasure both highlights Gatsby’s essentially evanescent character and illuminates the thereby allegorized history of America, whose sins must ever be scratched out for its achievements to shine. Gatsby’s constant vanishing at the point of his emergence is pursued through Derrida’s concept of differance. The general turning of opinion against Gatsby within the book’s plot is linked to Gatsby’s status as an outsider with Jewish connections.
Will’s emphasis on the novel’s allegorical elements, especially as highlighted in the pronoun shift in the novel’s concluding sentence, should prove especially helpful in linking the text with Dante’s understanding of the human condition.