"The Rainbow Fire-Breathing Topology and Combinatorics of Dante’s Trinity" - Arielle Saiber (Bowdoin College)


Location: Newberry Library

Arielle Saiber (Bowdoin) - "The Rainbow Fire-Breathing Topology and Combinatorics of Dante’s Trinity"

March 20 at 2pm at the Newberry Library, Chicago

This lecture examines Dante’s description of the shape, motion, size, color, and configuration of the three giri (“rounds”) of the Trinity in Paradiso 33.115-120, in order to envision what the Pilgrim “saw” when looking at this great Mystery. The first part of the talk considers possible theological, aesthetic, geometric, and nature-based configurations of three “rings” that may have inspired the Poet. The second part presents the work that mathematician Aba Mbirika and Prof. Saiber have done using topology—specifically, knot theory—and combinatorics to analyze one particularly suggestive arrangement for the giri: three intertwined circles in a triangular format. Of this figure’s many permutations, we isolated two variations (a Brunnian link, also called the Borromean rings; and a (3,3)-torus link) that strongly resonated with many of the qualities of Dante’s allusively depicted Trinity.

Arielle Saiber is Associate Professor of Romance Languages at Bowdoin College.

The Center for Renaissance Studies Dante Lectures have been held each year since 2001, bringing Dante scholars from throughout the United States and Europe to the Newberry to present cutting-edge research. From 1983 to 1997, multiple lectures were held each year under the series title Lectura Dantis Newberrania.

Co-sponsored with the Devers Program in Dante Studies at the University of Notre Dame and the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago.