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LIT 09 — Dante’s “Inferno”

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Apr 10—May 29
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Apr 23
Unit: 1
Tuition: $405
Instructor(s): Beverly Allen
7:00—8:50 pm
Apr 10—May 29
8 weeks
Drop By
Apr 23
1 Unit
Beverly Allen
The “Inferno,” the first canticle of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, is perhaps the most accessible part of his long poem and also the most dramatic. When a colleague told Dorothy Sayers (the British mystery writer who was also a scholar of the French Middle Ages) that she ought to read it, Sayers overcame her resistance and did so with relish, later chiding that same colleague, “Why didn’t you tell me it was such a good story?” She went on to become one of the most respected translators of the poem. Our guided reading of the entire “Inferno” canticle, with emphasis on some of its most exemplary cantos, is an exciting journey into the afterlife as imagined by one of the greatest geniuses of the late European Middle Ages. We will see not only what constitutes Dante’s complex poetic inventiveness but also how his poem opens vistas onto contemporary politics, theology, religion, and everyday life. We will study his work in the context of his biography as well, which, like the poem, puts us in the thick of the political turmoil of his time. Finally, we will consider the importance of the figure of Beatrice (who appears as a guide through Heaven), and, in a brief look ahead to “Purgatory” and “Paradise,” find some perhaps surprising implications of the poem as a whole.

Beverly Allen, Professor of French, Italian, and Comparative Literature, Emerita, Syracuse University

Beverly Allen has taught at Stanford, Cornell, UC Santa Cruz, and the University of Zagreb. She held the William P. Tolley Distinguished Teaching Professorship in the Humanities at Syracuse University. Her publications and books range from studies of Italian poetry to national identity to the war in Bosnia and correspondence with author Richard Brautigan. Allen received an MA in Italian from Columbia and a PhD in Italian Studies from UC Berkeley as well as awards for screenwriting and translation of poetry.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy 1:  Hell, translated by Dorothy L. Sayers (ISBN 978-0-14-044006-5)