This essay will suggest that Dante’s journey through the earthly paradise in the Purgatorio
is a figural representation of the journey of Cleopas and the unnamed disciple on the road to Emmaus in Luke
24. By making several references to the Gospel of Luke
, Dante seems to be setting the stage for the reader to understand his own pilgrimage through the Garden of Eden as a retelling of the Emmaus story in the context of the Church Triumphant. Indeed, reading Luke
24 alongside Cantos XXIX–XXXI of the Purgatorio
helps students to unpack the complex images of Dante’s experience in light of the themes present in the Emmaus story. For example, the concealment of Beatrice’s face and the gradual unveiling of her beauty mirrors Christ’s gradual revelation of his nature to Cleopas and the unnamed disciple. Cleopas and his companion also walk away from the promise of God revealed in Christ by leaving Jerusalem, just as Dante “took himself” from Beatrice and “set his steps upon an untrue way” (XXX 125, 130). In developing these and other parallels as well as elaborating on their significance for the latter cantos of the Purgatorio
, this essay will attempt to establish a pedagogical approach to Books XXIX–XXX that draws on students’ recollections of the familiar Gospel text of Emmaus, which Dante clearly intends (among others) as a resource for appreciating his vision of an essential passage in Christian life.
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