The Divine Comedy" /> <span>Dante's "Inferno": A 700th-Anniversary Exploration of <span style="font-style:italic">The Divine Comedy</span></span> fullscreen background
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LIT 57 — Dante's "Inferno": A 700th-Anniversary Exploration of The Divine Comedy

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 23—Dec 2
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Drop Deadline: Sep 25
Units: 2
Tuition: $485
Instructor(s): Nicholas Jenkins
Status: Closed
Please Note: No class on November 25. In addition, some of our refund deadlines have changed. See this course's drop deadline above and click here for the full policy.
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Sep 23—Dec 2
10 weeks
Drop By
Sep 25
2 Units
Nicholas Jenkins
Please Note: No class on November 25. In addition, some of our refund deadlines have changed. See this course's drop deadline above and click here for the full policy.
Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, written in Italian in the early fourteenth century, is a spiritual and poetic epic like no other. It was composed after Dante’s political career had ended in complete failure and forced exile had left him in a kind of living hell. Epic poems are usually the stories of journeys, and The Divine Comedy is the account of a soul’s progress away from sin and toward the vision of God. The work is divided into three parts—“Inferno,” “Purgatorio,” and “Paradiso.” In this course, we will read “Inferno,” which depicts a harrowing passage through the many circles of hell. “Inferno” is a masterpiece of sorrow, anger, regret, wonder, and despair, expressed through a memorable series of ultra-particularized encounters between Dante and friends, enemies, and contemporaries trapped in the lowest levels of the afterlife. With Dante and his guide, the Roman poet Virgil, we meet thieves tortured by snakes, counterfeiters agonized by unquenchable thirst, traitors gnawing on each other’s flesh. Dante’s story might be a metaphysical one but his means of expressions are intensely literal and physical.

Arrayed in one of the earliest works of literature to be written in a vernacular European language rather than Latin, the images and situations in Hell have haunted the minds of believers and nonbelievers alike for centuries. This is a foundational text for Italian culture and, more broadly, for European literature. But to understand the poem is not just to read it, but also to study it, dwell with it, learn about it, discuss it, and travel along its ingenious and poignant path, step by exploratory step. The character Dante portrays as himself was permanently changed by his voyage into the underworld. And we will be too.

The reading for this course will be in English and presupposes no knowledge of the Middle Ages or medieval Italian.

This course is the first in a three-part series on Dante's "Divine Comedy." While these courses build upon one another, each course can be taken independently as well.

Nicholas Jenkins, Associate Professor of English, Stanford

Nicholas Jenkins is the primary investigator for Kindred Britain, a digital humanities website that traces relationships among nearly thirty thousand British people. He has contributed to the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, and The New Yorker. He received a DPhil from the University of Oxford.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Dante, Mark Musa, Inferno (ISBN 978-0142437223)
(Required) Dante, trans. and eds., Robert M. Durling and Ronald L. Martinez , The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Vol. 1: Inferno (ISBN 978-0195087444)