Poetry News

Dante May Have Had Narcolepsy

By Harriet Staff


Turns out high school students aren't to blame for dozing off while reading The Divine Comedy-- Giuseppe Plazzi, an Italian neuro-motor scientist recently claimed that the rhetoric of Dante's canonical work suggests that Dante most likely suffered from narcolepsy. Previous reports surmised the guy just really liked to sleep in, so Plazzi's new report might be a breakthrough in both the literary and neuroscientific fields.

The Italian scientist takes "write what you know" to a whole new level, stating:

"Although some features may represent literary devices, it is difficult to argue that this descriptive accuracy is accidental," says Plazzi. "It appears to be a plausible hypothesis that Dante's sleep, dreams, hallucinations and falls are all clues to a lifelong pathologic trait, and that Dante either knew of or had this rare central nervous system hypersomnia."

In his article, Plazzi details numerous points in the Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia) where Dante, as author and narrator, appears – if taken literally – to be describing symptoms of narcolepsy and cataplexy.

He goes on to flip through his highlighted copy of the Inferno:

According to Plazzi, both of these can be seen in Dante's work, particularly his 14th-century epic poem in which his narrator travels through hell, purgatory and heaven. On the way, Plazzi notes, he experiences "sudden wake-dreaming transitions, short and refreshing naps, visions and hallucinations, unconscious behaviours, episodes of muscle weakness, and falls which are always triggered by strong emotions".

"Despite almost seven centuries of research, the lack of direct sources and autographic material mean that little is known about Dante's life and personal traits," writes Plazzi. "However, his writings represent a main biographic source of the poet's life, as Dante himself is the main character in his literary works."

To find yourself midway into this article upon the journey of your life, read more here.

Originally Published: September 25th, 2013
Quick Tags