English 311/MDST 300: Dante
Dr. Jane Chance
TEXT: John Sinclair, ed. and trans. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, 3 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1948), PB.
--Inferno (1983) ISBN 0195004124 $11.76
--Purgatorio ISBN 0195004132 $12.76
--Paradiso (1971) ISBN 0195004140
Peter Dronke, Dante and the Medieval Latin Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 1986), pb. ISBN 0-521-37960-1.
Rachel Jacoff, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Dante. (Cambridge University Press). $22.95 ISBN 0521427428
Mark Musa, trans. La Vita Nuova (Indiana University Press, 1973), pb. ISBN 0-253-20162-4
On Reserve: Dante’s Inferno (video) (the first eight cantos, with John Gielgud) Films for the Humanities and Sciences, Winner of the Prix Italia Special Prize
The Circles of Light: The Divine Comedy (BBC)
Jan 15 INTRODUCTION. DANTE'S WORKS AND LIFE: HIS TWO LOVES. Read Michele Barbi's "Life of Dante"
Jan. 17 PART I. THE CLOSED HEART: THE INFERNO
Film on Dante’s Inferno with John Gielgud (88 minutes)
Inf. 1-2: The Dark Forest
Jan. 22 Inf. 1-2: The Role of Vergil
Image, Symbol, Allegory: Read the Letter to Can Grande
on the Four Levels of Interpretation (Kinko's)
Slides on Medieval Allegory
Jan. 24 Inf. 3-8.66: Upper Hell (Incontinence).
Read "Maps and Charts" and “Astronomy and Chronology"
Jan. 29 Inf. 8.67-11: The City of Dis, a Crisis, and Circle Six (Turning
from the Truth)
Jan. 31 Inf. 12-16: The Violent
Feb. 5 Inf. 17-21: Malebolge (Fraud)--The First Four Trenches (Bolge)
Feb. 7 Inf. 22-26: Malebolge--Bolge Five to Eight
Feb. 12 Inf. 27-30: Malebolge--Bolge Eight to Ten
Ash-Wednesday: The Visual Structure of the Purgatorio. Next
week try to witness an Ash-Wednesday Catholic ceremony of
ashes and a ceremony of reconciliation (penance service) when
you can. It will help you to understand the Purgatorio and to
discover why Dante descended into Hell during Lent.
Feb. 13 Ash-Wednesday
Feb. 14 Inf. 31-34: The Cold Heart of Hell
Feb. 19 Exercise on Hell Due.
Feb. 21 Midterm Examination (on the Inferno). Ten Specific Items or
Feb. 26 PART II. CLIMBING THE SEVEN-STORY MOUNTAIN: THE
Purg. 1-5: The Beach (Ante-Purgatory)
Feb. 28 Purg. 6-9: The Beach; The First Garden and the Gate (Visual
Structure of the Purgatorio)
Mar. 11 Purg. 10-14: The First and Second Stories--Learning Humility
(Pride) and Generosity (Envy)
Mar. 13 Purg. 15-19: The Third and Fourth Stories--Learning Peace
(Wrath) and Zeal (Sloth)
Mar. 18 Purg. 20-25.108: The Fifth and Sixth Stories--Learning Mastery
over Money (Avarice), Food and Drink (Gluttony)
Mar. 20 Purg. 25.109-27: The Last Story--From Lust to Love, The Sacred
Garden, the Earthly Paradise
Music in the Purgatorio: Songs of the Trecento and Videocassette,
"To Sing and to Play"
Mar. 25 Purg. 28-33: The Pageant in the Earthly Paradise, the Meeting with
Beatrice, Freedom and Peace.
Mar. 27 Videos on The Medieval Universe: The Stars and the Planets
Exercise on Purgatory Due (2-3 pp.)
Mar. 31 Easter. Try to observe the pageantry and symbolism of Catholic or
Orthodox Holy Week services, especially the Easter Vigil Service
late Saturday night with its symbolism of light, fire, water, birth,
night, freedom (the Church of the Annunciation downtown has an
especially beautiful service).
Apr. 2 PART III. FULLNESS OF LIFE: THE PARADISO
The Paradiso: Introduction.
Par. 1-5.87: Fidelity and Failing--the Moon.
Apr. 4 Par. 5.88-9: Men and Women of the World, and Lovers--Mercury
Apr. 9 Par. 10-14.78: Students and Teachers--the Sun.
Apr. 11 Par. 14.79-18.51: Soldiers, Family Ties--Mars
Apr. 16 Par. 18.52-23: Rulers and World Powers--Jove
Apr. 18 Par. 24-29: Dante's Final Examination in the Heaven of the Fixed
Stars and Heaven Itself: A Backward Look
Apr. 23 Par. 30-33: The People of God and the Vision of God in Glory
Apr. 25 Final Paper Due
REQUIREMENTS: Three short (3-5 pp. minimum) papers, midterm and final examinations.
Feb. 19 Exercise on the Inferno. Trace a symbol through one episode in
Hell and analyze its meanings (2-3 pp.) Choose, for example, a color, sound, light, heat,
fire, posture, motion, etc. Underline each appearance in your episode. Try to see patterns
in its use. What does it suggest about the nature of Hell (or of life)?
Feb 21 Midterm Examination (on the Inferno). Ten specific
identifications drawn from class discussion, the text, or the readings, on which you will
write short essays.
Mar. 27 Exercise on the Purgatorio. Analyze one short section of the
Purgatorio as allegory (2-3 pp.). Choose a few pages of the texts (1-3), summarize the
action briefly (1-3 paragraphs), and then discuss what that action suggests to you about a
person's inner life or about modern social life. If Dante's purgatory is a map for a happy
life, then what does your section describe allegorically?
Apr. 25 Final Paper on the Paradiso. Write a paper on the Paradiso--on a
topic of your choosing (3-5 pp.) Some of these essays may be suitable as entries in the
annual competition of the Dante Society in America (see Dante Studies abd the
Final Examination. 20 Specific identifications primarily from the Purgatorio and the
Paradiso on which you will write short essays. This will be a self-scheduled exam.
CONFERENCES: Office Hours: 4-4:30 TTh and by appointment
Office: 501 Fondren Library
Office Phone: x2625
Fax Phone: 713-348-5991; 713-524-3304
THE DANTE PRIZE
Since 1987 the Dante Society of America has offered an annual prize of one hundred
dollars for the best student essay in competition on a subject related to the life or works
of Dante. In 1984 the prize of one hundred dollars is offered for the best essay submitted
by an undergraduate in any American or Canadian college or university or by anyone not
enrolled as a graduate student who has received the degree of A.B., or its equivalent,
within the past year.
In addition, a prize of two hundred dollars, the Charles Hall Grandgent Award, is offered
in 1983 for the best essay submitted by a graduate student enrolled in any American or
The title page of each essay should bear the writer's name, local and permanent address,
and a statement indicating his or her college or university affiliation. Essays sent by mail
should be addressed to the Dante Society of America, Boylston Hall, Harvard University,
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, and should reach the Society on or before the
(FIFTEENTH DAY OF MARCH)
Previous Winners and their Topics include:
1979 Dante Prize: Peter Borton (Yale), "Bestiality, Sin and Poethood: The Taming of
Geryon in the Inforno, Canto 17”
And Martha Toll (Yale), "A study of Music in Dante's Divina Commedia as
1976 Dante Prize: Felice Visceglia (Princeton), "The Divina Commedia as Prothalamion"
1975 Dante Prize: Steven J. Rowan (U. of Connecticut), "The Problem of Redemptive
Identity in the Canto of the Three Florentines"
Charles Hall Grandgent Award: Robert Giacone (Harvard), "Ugo Capeto e Dante"
1974 Grandgent Award: Donald Gilman (U. of N. Carolina), "Classical Convention and Dante's Concept of Poetic Inspiration"