30: Dante: From the Belly of Hell to the Mind of God

MW 1-2 | Etcheverry 3106 | Instructor: Danielle Callegari

Units: 3 Satisfies L&S Arts & Literature or Philosophy & Values breadth requirement.

An austere ancient authority, a smitten teenage lover, a prophet, an embezzler, a national icon, an unapologetic heretic, a mercenary, and the only truly great poet to have ever lived: Dante has been called many things in the seven hundred years since he began writing, and he continues to attract the interest of a wildly diverse group of readers and commentators. In his medieval masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, Dante irreversibly transformed literary language and perhaps even the way in which our current consciousness perceives the universe. Yet, Dante was also a product of his time, and his work is a reflection and response to the rich and diverse culture of Italian peninsula in the late Middle Ages. Our goal will be to bring Dante’s world to life, reconstructing the diverse and complicated space and the people and objects that influenced Dante, and that continue to make him accessible to modern readers.

Preparation & Expectations:
Students should feel comfortable reading and analyzing poetry independently and to have a strong writing style and composition skills. A knowledge of Italian is not required but students who have experience in Italian are encouraged to engage with the original text. Attendance is mandatory and energetic participation is strongly encouraged

Students should be prepared to read approximately 6-7 cantos and their accompanying notes each week, as well as studying 2-3 selections from further primary and critical sources. In addition to preparing all required readings in advance of lecture and participating enthusiastically in class, students will be asked to prepare a comment or question each week based on the topics discussed in lecture to facilitate debate in Friday discussion sessions. There will be three written exams during the course in addition to a final paper.

Required Texts:
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. Edited and translated by Robert Durling. Introduction and Notes by Robert Durling and Ronald Martinez. 3 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996-2013. [Paperback and e-book versions available]

All further required primary and critical materials will be made available electronically on the class bCourses site.

Taught in English with readings in English. No knowledge of Italian language is required for this course, but students who have experience in Italian are encouraged to engage with the original text.