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

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, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon. If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dante’s Divine Com­e­dy: A Free Course from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty

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

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