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The threat to mind and the power to imagine

Thursday, 21 Jan 2016

Siren on Dr John Dunn. First posted Wednesday, 18 February 2015 at 19:41

Dante allegorised the threat to mind and the power to imagine new futures as a siren (Canto XIX of Purgatory).

The pilgrim sleeps vulnerably. A passive object, the dream comes to him. Clearly, it is not willed, something that he chooses or wants. He is the passive receptor of sense sensations, the epitome of Aristotelian man.

The unexamined life becomes the way of choice. The dreamer’s desires transform the siren from the ugly image that she is to one invested with attributes of attractiveness, even love.

Beatrice intervenes. This personification of philosophical truth saves the dreamer. Virgil, his guide, rips open the clothes of the siren, revealing her belly, waking the dreamer by the stench of it. The naked truth of temptation was exposed. Dante's dream trope allowed the pilgrim to fall completely and be saved.

Pictured: Siren by Conor Walton (2012)

© John Dunn.

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