(Full Term: Feb 5-May 14) Dante’s long narrative poem, “The Divine Comedy,” opens with the poet-narrator, midway through his life, lost in a dark wood. There, he is found by Roman poet Virgil, sent from the afterlife by a woman Dante had loved who has reached down from Heaven to set him back on the right path by showing him what waits for human beings after death. The first two parts of the “Comedy” tell the story of Dante and Virgil’s journey together through hell to the mountain of Purgatory; atop the mountain lies a lost Eden where Dante will meet Beatrice once more.
The “Comedy,” itself a kind of response to Virgil’s own epic poem the “Aeneid,” has generated a rich tradition of commentary, illustration, translation, and allusion that date back to the poem’s completion in 1320. As well as making use of this tradition, we will continue and add to it through practices of active reading. Work for the class includes reading journals, homework groups, leading discussion, and three short reflection papers. [Pre-1900]