How should we read the classics? Should we, as C. S. Lewis suggested, read like a detective, searching for clues and patterns that reveal meaning? Or should we be more like inventors, looking for interesting bits and pieces to recombine into new meaning for ourselves? One approach respects the text; the other rewrites it. John Scott’s and Harriet Rubin’s books on Dante illustrate this striking difference.
The Divine Comedy, Dante’s story of salvation, continues to make a compelling claim on readers. It traces a journey we all are invited to take, through God’s grace: to recognize sin in our lives, to be released from it and to become whole by loving God. But the complex and highly imaginative structure of Dante’s work openly invites interpretation.