Perhaps direct address, ‘[you] in that little boat’. [1]


Perhaps the key to
opening the doors of perception lies in understanding the importance of
transhumanism in Paradisio. In the
first canto Dante invents the term ‘trasumanar’ (transhuman) to describe the transformation of
the human form in Paradise. The infinitive trasumanar implies a continuous process rather than a final state,
and Dante himself states that no meaning can be given to the word: ‘it ‘can’t
be done’.1
Rather than understanding this to mean that Dante could not translate the word,
which, in its most literal sense translates as “transcending the human”, we
ought to infer that Dante could not adequately describe his ascent into the
realm of the blessed with Beatrice, leaving behind the mortal condition. Though
perhaps it is not exclusively about a state beyond the human condition, but
rather about the way in which ‘the human state may be perfected.’2
This would imply then,
that the poet is already established as being superior to us – both mentally
and physically – indeed, we are not able to grasp nor understand the
transformation which he undergoes, nor are we able to alter our states to match
his. Quite simply put, his new state allows him to embark on the journey to perception and
enlightenment through the heavens – a state which we are not privy to. The
inferiority of the reader in relation to the pilgrim and poet is stressed further in the
following canto in which we see
perhaps the most noteworthy address to the reader in the entire Commedia. The canto begins with a direct address, ‘you in that little boat’.

1 Dante
Alighieri and Robin Kirkpatrick, The
Divine Comedy (London: Penguin Classics, 2012), p.322, I.71.

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2 Vittorio
Montemaggi, Matthew Treherne and Abi Rowson, “Canto 1”, Leeds.Ac.Uk,
2018 1
January 2018.