Italian Studies 212: Becoming Dante: Dante before the Commedia

Instructor: Professor Albert Ascoli

This course is the first half of a two semester sequence which will study the evolution of Dante’s cultural project and his poetics.  In this semester we will examine the major works leading up to the writing of the Commedia: Vita Nova; the major “canzoni”; De Vulgari Eloquentia, and Convivio, seen in proleptic relationship to selected passages from the Inferno.  Our focus will be on the dialectical construction and reconfiguration of authorship and readership in both poetry and prose, viewed through the filter of a series of pertinent late medieval contexts: including the emergence of a romance vernacular canon; proto-humanistic valorization of classical Latin literature; the rhetorical, philosophical and theological traditions; the shifting macro- and micro-politico-social order.  In the second half of the course we will read the balance of the Commedia; the Monarchy; and two or three other of the late, “minor” Latin works.  The aim of the course as whole is to recover, in some measure, the uneven historical process by which “Dante became Dante”.

Course Conducted in English
Reading Knowledge of Italian or Latin Required
May be taken for 2 or 4 credits

Course Requirements: Students are expected to attend and participate regularly.  Students taking the course for two credits will do the reading, plus in-class reports and other short assignments.  Students taking the course for four credits will also develop one of their shorter assignments into a final research paper of 6000-7500 words (25-30 pages).

  • Elective Requirement: This course fulfills an elective requirement for the DE in REMS.