A Free Course on Dante’s Divine Comedy from Yale University

in Literature, Online Courses | January 26th, 2017

Over the years, we’ve featured the many drawings that have adorned the pages of Dante’s Divine Comedy, from medieval times to modern. Illustrations by Botticelli, Gustave Doré, William Blake and Mœbius, they’ve all gotten their due. Less has been said here, however, about the actual text itself. Perhaps the most important work in Italian literature, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) wrote the Divine Comedy (consisting of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) between the years 1308 and 1320. And that text is largely the subject of Dante in Translation, a free online course taught by Yale’s Giuseppe Mazzotta. The course description reads as follows:

The course is an introduction to Dante and his cultural milieu through a critical reading of the Divine Comedy and selected minor works (Vita nuova, Convivio, De vulgari eloquentia, Epistle to Cangrande). An analysis of Dante’s autobiography, the Vita nuova, establishes the poetic and political circumstances of the Comedy’s composition. Readings of Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise seek to situate Dante’s work within the intellectual and social context of the late Middle Ages, with special attention paid to political, philosophical and theological concerns. Topics in the Divine Comedy explored over the course of the semester include the relationship between ethics and aesthetics; love and knowledge; and exile and history.

You can watch the 24 lectures from the course above, or find them on YouTube and iTunes in video and audio formats. To get more information on the course, including the syllabus, visit this Yale website.

Primary texts used in this course include:

  • Dante. Divine Comedy. Translated by John D. Sinclair. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.
  • Dante. Vita Nuova. Translated by Mark Musa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973.

Dante in Translation will be added to our list of Free Online Literature courses, a subset of our collection, 1200 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Related Content:

William Blake’s Last Work: Illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy (1827)

Botticelli’s 92 Illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy

Alberto Martini’s Haunting Illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy (1901-1944)

Hear Dante’s Inferno Read Aloud by Influential Poet & Translator John Ciardi (1954)

Physics from Hell: How Dante’s Inferno Inspired Galileo’s Physics

Watch L’Inferno (1911), Italy’s First Feature Film and Perhaps the Finest Adaptation of Dante’s Classic

by | Make a Comment (5)

Comments (5)

  1. silvana maria de faveri says . . .
    January 31, 2017 / 2:27 pm

    Very interesting analysis.

  2. Silvio Roberto Santos says . . .
    January 31, 2017 / 2:54 pm


  3. Max Nyffeler says . . .
    February 1, 2017 / 4:24 am

    And don’t forget Monika Beisner’s 100 illustrations to the Divina commedia (here on the website of the Academy of ancient Music):

  4. Saira says . . .
    February 1, 2017 / 6:30 am

    Hi would love to be part of the Dante s course thankyou

  5. Ken Metcalf says . . .
    February 2, 2017 / 3:14 pm

    This is so good. Thank you Yale. Who is the prof?

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