Within the Universe/The Universe Within: Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, A Visionary Journey into Medieval Eco-Cosmology

Cross-listed with ITAL403

Dante Alioghieri, portrait reconstruction by Helios-rt

Undoubtedly the best-known among all poems written in the Italian language during the last seven hundred years, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy takes us on a most unusual journey. We begin our travels quivering with the wayfarer at the outskirts of a ghastly dark forest, and we end up basking in the blissful light of a cosmic embrace. What makes such a change of perspective possible? It is the journey itself, answers Dante, who in his visionary exploration of “the beyond” is taught by his teachers, Virgil and Beatrice, how fearlessly to plumb the abysses and expanse of the human psyche.

From exile to reintegration, from wretchedness to felicity, this is the story of a process of inner growth and transmutation, whose liberating power has touched countless readers over the ages and across cultures. More than ever today Dante’s poem is apt to teach us how progressively to uncover the vastness that lies hidden within every single atom of our own self, and of the universe that surrounds us.

This course offers a close reading of Dante’s masterpiece through a large selection of excerpts from all of the canticas (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso), along with a reading of Dante’s earlier work Vita Nuova (The New Life) in its entirety.

Required Texts:

Alighieri, Vita nuova, tr. S. Applebaum. Dover, 2001.
Alighieri, Inferno, tr. R. Kirkpatrick. Penguin Classics 2006.
Alighieri, Purgatorio, tr. R. Kirkpatrick. Penguin Classics 2007.
D. Alighieri, Paradiso, tr. R. Kirkpatrick. Penguin Classics 2006.

Recommended Texts:

Bemrose, A New Life of Dante, revised and updated. U Exeter Press, 2010.
R. Kirkpatrick, Dante, the Divine Comedy. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
G. Raffa, The Complete Danteworlds. A Reader’s Guide to the Divine Comedy. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Language of instruction: English