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Subject: Call for Papers “Pandemic Perspectives: Reflections on the Conseq uences of COVID-19 • Pandemische Perspektiven: Re flektionen zu den Folgen von COVID-19 • Perspective s pandémiques : Réflexions sur les conséquenc es du COVID-19”
From: Andreas Önnerfors <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Andreas =?WINDOWS-1252?Q?=D6nnerfors?= <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 19 Jul 2021 14:26:25 +0000

text/plain (108 lines) , Call for Papers 1 English.pdf (138 kB)

Call for Papers 

“Pandemic Perspectives: Reflections on the Consequences of COVID-19 • 
Pandemische Perspektiven: Reflektionen zu den Folgen von COVID-19 • 
Perspectives pandémiques : Réflexions sur les conséquences du COVID-19”

A Series of Explorative Events organized by the European Academy of Sciences and 
Arts (EASA), Class I, Humanities (

Event 1: “Dante, the Divine Comedy and COVID-19”
Date: 18 September 2021, online
Deadline expression of interest: 18 August 2021

Starting with the outbreak of the COVID-19-pandemic in 2020, European society is 
placed in its largest cataclysmic crisis since 1945. After more than 75 years, 
progress towards an ever closer civilizational union has come to a dramatic halt. 
Real and perceived threats from within an outside have challenged the European 
project, but the pandemic has thrown the people, organizations and institutions of 
our continent into a limbo where sense (again) has to be created in the face of the 
looming abyss. 

The original meaning of the Greek noun for crisis, 
‘&#954;&#961;&#943;&#963;&#953;&#962;’ entails to choose and to 
make a decision. This is what we have identified as the starting point for a series of 
four explorative events – organized in autumn 2021 and in spring 2022 – during 
which members of the EASA and guests will explore answers to existential 
questions emanating from our current situation. For 2021, we have chosen to seek 
inspiration from two literary anniversaries: 700 years ago, poet, writer and 
philosopher Dante Alighieri passed away. Immortal for his Divina Commedia, Dante 
invites us to reflection about navigating different circles of hell, but also to seek for 
guidance and orientation with the aim to reach perfection and consolation. In 
1821, Fyodor Dostoevsky was born. He dedicated his literary career to the 
existentialist exploration of the contradictory human psyche, trapped in an eternal 
fight between divine as much as deplorable desires. From here it is possible to ask 
the question whether it is possible to establish trust and hope as the basis of 
European society. 

Our first event, hosted 18 September 2021 online, invites scholars to reflections on 
“Dante, the Divine Comedy and COVID-19”. What can Dante tell us about the 
transgression of trauma and diffusing disorientation? 

Please read further down concerning a more detailed rationale for this event. 
If you have any questions, please direct them to professor Önnerfors, 
[log in to unmask] (English, German) or to professor Boštjan 
Marko Turk, [log in to unmask] (French). To propose a paper for 
discussion, please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words no later to the 
Email-addresses above no later than 18 August 2021. For registration and 
participation, please fill in the following form: 

We look very much forward to your participation, 
Andreas Önnerfors and Boštjan Marko Turk (Dean and Vice-Dean of Class I, 
Humanities, European Academy of Sciences and Arts)

Dante, the Divine Comedy and COVID-19: preliminary reflections
Dante lived at a time when epidemics were rampant and death from infectious 
diseases was part of everyday life. The Covid 19 pandemic represents the largest 
global catastrophe since the Second World War. The following overview provides 
with support for our supposition:
In times of misfortune, cataclysms and wars, the suicide rate has always 
plummeted.  The number of personal hardships has also been lower. The reason is 
plain to see. When a person is threatened from the outside, internal distresses are 
pushed aside. COVID-19, however, is the first natural disaster to defy this rule. The 
suicide rate did not decrease (L'INSEE, France), on the contrary, the suicide 
ideation increased (Centre for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne).
How to explain this phenomenon? There has not been a war (or any major 
catastrophe) in Europe for 75 years. The comparison of suicide rate applies to the 
period before the Second World War. But Europe has changed in the last three 
quarters of a century. Technological progress has not been followed by what can be 
called individual fulfilment. The society has become atomized, the anxiety within 
its vital tissue has grown and, above all, it appears as if the bearings walls, the 
caryatides of the civilization, have come down. Today’s civilization, which is on the 
wane, has been left without its founding pillars. Thus, the acute problem of the 
absence of meaning, significance and sense has emerged. Man can live without 
order, without security, even without a home, but he cannot live without meaning. 
COVID-19 caused so much psychological trauma or depressive symptoms because 
it has stricken at a population that, in the absence of meaning, had become 
severely susceptible to psychological abuse. 
Dante Alighieri has much to say to us today in this very direction. However, to 
understand his message properly, it is necessary to think about it in a slightly 
unconventional way. We should question Dante Alighieri as a human being and ask 
him about his message for the time we live in. La Divina Comedia, in which the 
poet himself appears in the first person, offers an opportunity for this. At the half-
way point of his life, he sets out to explore the value system of the world, its 
morality, but also the meaning of human life and the mysteries of that what comes 
in supremis.
Thinking along these lines, the great text must be understood outside the 
allegorical meanings and symbolism of the time. It is necessary to place oneself in 
the position of the poet and ask how and in what way today's intellectual could 
relive his experience. The Divina Comedia is the story of a political dissident who 
was expelled from his native Florence for attacking the supreme papal authority, 
Rome at the time. Although persecuted, he did not bow down: his work is a 
testimony of an intellectual non-conformist, who chooses two meaningful 
companions for his journey through the fundamental spheres of human existence, 
hell, purgatory and heaven: Virgil, who stands for wisdom, and Beatrice, who 
represents the never completed ideal of eternal, divine love. This is also why 
Beatrice appears only at the third stage of the journey, where life takes on its final 
meaning. This is also why this is a ‘comedia’, a story with a happy ending.
The challenge for intellectuals today is finding the lost meaning. Great works are 
always great projections of ideas. But it is the conviction that things can retrieve 
their meaning and bring a happy ending that has always been the first stance of 
critical intellectuals. In the Greek sense of the word ‘crisis’, a pandemic can be an 
opportunity for going over trauma and reconstruct the vanishing unity of our 
civilization, its significance and its designs of meaning.

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