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 forever transformed literary language and our perception of the universe. Yet, Dante was also a product of his time, and his work is a reflection of the rich and diverse culture of the Italian peninsula in the late Middle Ages. Moreover, Dante’s legacy gains power and momentum from his uncanny ability to engage with a global audience centuries after his death. In our course, we will try to understand not only the The Divine Comedy itself, but also its author and his dialogue with the high and low culture of his time. Following Dante’s lead, we will engage with the poem through many points of entry, including art, cinema, language, material text, and other media. 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 exciting for modern readers.
In addition to preparing all required readings in advance of lecture and participating energetically in class discussions, students will take three in-class written exams at the conclusion of our reading of each canticle.
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]
Inferno ISBN-10: 0195087445; ISBN-13: 978-0195087444
Purgatorio ISBN-10: 0195087453; ISBN-13: 978-0195087451
Paradiso ISBN-10: 0195087461; ISBN-13: 978-0195087468
All further texts and materials will be provided in digital format.