LLS Center City Philadelphia

Spring 2018:

Dante’s Divine Comedy (LLS 179PHL)

Meets Thursdays, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m.
Feb. 1 – March 29, 2018
3000 Two Logan Square (18th & Arch St.), 31st Floor, Pepper Hamilton

In the evening of April 7, 1300, a thirty-five-year old man from Florence finds himself utterly desperate and helpless at the edge of Hell. From there he is rescued by the shade of his favorite poet, Virgil, who guides him through the worlds of the damned and of the repentant souls. The journey forces him to confront his shortcomings as a sinner, a lover, a philosopher, a citizen, and an author. When he reaches the Earthly Paradise, he is ready to meet with his angelic Beatrice and begin the ascent to a higher type of knowledge, finally to experience a vision of God. As he gradually realizes his prophetic task, the lost Pilgrim becomes the Poet.

This is The Divine Comedy, the most important epic poem between Virgil’s Aeneid and Milton’s Paradise Lost. We will read it in the English translation by Allen Mandelbaum (with facing Italian), exploring its many levels of meaning. We will consider Dante’s use of ancient authors and current love poetry, while situating his worldview in the broader context of Medieval culture.

Major Topics:

  • The essence of Dante’s poetry
  • The Christian interpretation of classical texts
  • Dante’s debt to vernacular lyric poetry
  • The relation between love and sin
  • Life and politics in the Italian Commune

The Professor:

Rosaria V. Munson, the J. Archer and Helen C. Turner Professor of Classics. At Swarthmore she teaches Greek and Latin language and literature, Greek History, and a course on Dante and the Classical Tradition. Her research is on Greek fifth-century BCE historiography.

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