This year marks the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s death — which means it also marks the 701st anniversary of his great work the Divina Commedia, known in English as the Divine Comedy. We’ve all got to go some time, and it’s somehow suitable that Dante went not long after telling the tale of his own journey through the afterlife, complete with stops in Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. It remains a journey we can all take and re-take — and interpretively grapple with — still these seven centuries later. Starting this month, you can take it as a group tour, so to speak, by joining 100 Days of Dante, the largest Dante reading group in the world.
A project of Baylor University’s Honors College (with support from several other American educational institutions), 100 Days of Dante has launched a web site “through which modern seekers and pilgrims can follow the great epic poem with free video presentations three times a week.”
So writes Aleteia’s John Burger, who explains that “the three books of the Divine Comedy, known in Italian as Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, are divided into 33 chapters known as cantos. [Inferno actually had 34.] Each video will present one canto, with commentary on it from leading experts in Dante studies.” You can also read the entire work on 100 Days of Dante’s web site, in English or Italian — a language Dante’s own poetry did much to shape.
Nobody interested in the language of Italy, let alone the country’s history and culture, can do without experiencing the Divine Comedy. One of 100 Days of Dante‘s aims is a re-emphasis of its nature as a thoroughly religious work, one that renders in vivid, sometimes harrowing detail the worldview held by Christians of Dante’s place and time. But believer or otherwise, you can join in the reading from when it begins on September 8, to when it concludes on Easter 2022. You may well find, as the long Italy-resident English writer and translator Tim Parks observes, that Dante has a way of slipping through convenient interpretative frameworks cultural, historical, and even religious. “Long after the fires of Hell have burned themselves out,” he writes, “the debate about the Divina Commedia rages on.” Find more educational resources on Dante and The Divine Comedy below.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.