Dante: The Divine Comedy
Dante’s Divine Comedy follows the journey of the poet through hell, purgatory, and paradise. This epic Italian poem, composed between 1308 and 1321, is an allegory for the movement of the soul toward God. But it is also a multifaceted exploration of ethics, metaphysics, politics, love, order, chaos, poetic form, and the Classical literary tradition.
In this course, we’ll read The Divine Comedy in translation—Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso—with special attention to its status as an epic poem. To what ends does The Divine Comedy reinvent the category of epic poetry? What are the contexts for the genesis of this poem and what are the contexts for its reception? How should we think about the profound influence of Dante’s work on subsequent poetic and political traditions? Supplementary readings will include Dante’s Vita Nuova, a selection of alternate translations of his work (to offer a window into the process and poetics of translation), as well as creative responses to The Divine Comedy, and orienting essays drawn from the poem’s lengthy critical tradition.