CC 325 - C Dante's Divine Comedy

3-4 Credits
Professor Upton
TR 3:00-4:15pm

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) was a poet of exile. Originally part of an experimental democratic government in Florence, Dante was expelled from the city when a rival political faction, allied with the French and assisted by Pope Boniface VIII, forcibly took over the city and deposed the government. Dante would spend the rest of his life wandering to various Italian cities, devoid of home, citizenship, and power. A return to Florence would have meant immediate death. However, it was during this time of exile that Dante wrote one of the most stunning works of world literature, The Divine Comedy.

Dante’s poem begins, then, with exile, but of a spiritual nature. Dante has exiled himself from God. Awakening in a dark, menacing wood, he meets the Roman poet Virgil, sent to him by divine Providence to lead him out of this exile. Following this meeting comes one of the most extraordinary journeys in all of literature: Dante and Virgil travel from the depths of hell, with all its grotesque punishments, through the trials and inspirations of Purgatory, to the height of Paradise, the very presence of the triune God. And in an audacious twist, Dante claims that his account is true.

In this class, we will follow Dante on his spiritual quest, reading through the entire Divine Comedy over the course of the semester. In our own journey as readers, we will use the highly praised new translation of the Comedy by Robert Durling and Ronald Martinez. While placing Dante in his political, theological, and aesthetic contexts, we will ask what this poem says about the relationship between theology and literature, the life of virtue, the relation of religion to politics, and the spiritual life in all its fullness. Very rarely does one have the opportunity to read Dante’s poem as one continuous journey. This class will let us do that, and give us all the opportunity to savor the details that make the Divine Comedy one of our true literary masterpieces.

Texts will include:
Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy (Trans. Robert Durling/Ronald Martinez):
Vol. 1 Inferno (ISBN 978-0195087444);
Vol. 2 Purgatorio (ISBN 978-0195087451);
Vol. 3 Paradiso (ISBN 978-0195087420)