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P.P.2

Page 9



thorn-barbed and fruitless. As they are denied
the finality they sought in their ultimate ac-
tions, so too are they denied expression,
except through the wounds inflicted upon
them largely by the bestial Harpies who roost
and ravage amongst their branches.12 Medieval
morality condemned mortal violence against
the self as a sin greater than that committed
against others, maintaining that one does not
hold ownership of one's own life.13 Though
modern mores occupy a considerably more
enlightened position, having sufficiently disen-
tangled themselves from the medieval theol-
ogy that informed Dante's world, his portrayal
is far from unfeeling. The heteroglossic bifur-
cation of Dante Alighieri into Poet and Pil-
grim — one moved to pity by the plight of Pier
della Vigna, the other responsible for his in-
clusion in the Inferno — illustrates well the
power afforded by a plurality of narrative
voices and of the nuances that might play our
across their interactions.

Grotesque abjection swells the veins of this
scene — itself a grim burlesque of Virgil's own
Aeneid. The aberrant degradation (and, more
correctly, the enforced dissolution of identity)
visited upon Pier della Vigna and his arboreal
cohort speaks to a plasticity of form found at
the very root of the word ‘grotesque'. Indeed, 9