Spring 2002

English 311/MDST 300: Dante

Dr. Jane Chance

TTH (2:30-3:45)



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)




Week 1

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

Week 2           

            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"


Week 3           

            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


Week 4           

            Feb. 5              Inf. 17-21: Malebolge (Fraud)--The First Four Trenches (Bolge)


            Feb. 7              Inf. 22-26: Malebolge--Bolge Five to Eight


Week 5

            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


Week 6

            Feb. 19            Exercise on Hell Due.


            Feb. 21            Midterm Examination (on the Inferno).  Ten Specific Items or



Week 7



                                    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)


                                    SPRING BREAK (Mar. 4-8)


Week 8

            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)


Week 9

            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"


Week 10

            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).


Week 11

            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

                                    and Venus


Week 12

            Apr. 9              Par. 10-14.78: Students and Teachers--the Sun.


            Apr. 11            Par. 14.79-18.51: Soldiers, Family Ties--Mars           


Week 13         

            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


Week 14

            Apr. 23            Par. 30-33: The People of God and the Vision of God in Glory


            Apr. 25            Final Paper Due


                                    FINAL EXAMINATION


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

description attached).


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




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

Canadian university.


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



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"

©Copyright 2001, all rights reserved.
Updated Oct. 31, 2001

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