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IT317 Introducing Dante's Hell

Module Code: IT317
Module Name: Introducing Dante's Hell

Module Coordinator: Dr Federica Coluzzi (

Fourth Floor, Faculty of Arts Building
University of Warwick

Term 2 Time: TBC In-person lecture and seminar
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

The module will leads students through a multisensory journey into the first realm of Dante Alighieri's grandiose vision of the afterworld: Hell.

Through the reading of selected cantos in English translation, the lectures will discuss the central figures and themes, the structure and stylistic features of the first cantica of the Divine Comedy. Students will learn to navigate the historical, narrative and allegorical complexities of the work while discussing the ethical issues still relevant in the contemporary world including, but not limited to, desire and sexuality, gender representation, freedom of thought, punishment and expiation. As they follow Dante's descent through the torture-pits of Hell, students will enhance their analytical and argumentative skills through the practice of close reading (of primary and secondary sources) and peer-discussion.

The seminars will introduce students to digital humanities methodologies such as Geomapping, network analysis and TEI (Textual Encoding) technologies. This will be employed to explore Dante's relationship with the ancient literary (Virgil, Homer, Ovid; the epic tradition) and biblical sources, as well as the reverberations and reconfigurations of Dante's Inferno in modern and contemporary culture, including world literature, visual arts and new media.

Outline Syllabus

Week 1. Reading Dante, reading the Inferno

L: Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy: a very short introduction

S: Dante the man and the poet: biographical sources in the digital age.

Week 2. The Dark Wood: Fear, Self-doubting and Divine intervention

L: Dante as a lost pilgrim and his guides: Virgil and Beatrice (Inf. I, II)

S: Descending into the underworld: an intertextual reading ((Inf. III, IV; Aeneid, VI, 236-751)

Week 3. `Liminality, Limbo and Ancient Authorities (Inf. III and IV)

L: The poetic journey: Dante and literary authorities (Inf. IV)

S: Mapping landscapes, soundscapes, and the moral structure of Hell (Inf. XI)

Week 4. The Psychology of Sin: Love, Gender and Sexuality

L: Sympathy, and Sin. Inferno V, XV and XVI

S: Vertical readings: Representing sexuality across the Commedia (Inf. XV; Purg. XXVI; Par. VII and IX)

Week 5. Fatherhood, Friendship and Florence

L: Poetic fathers and first friends: Guido Cavalcanti and Brunetto Latini (Inf. X; XV-XVI)

S: The power of Prophecy: tracing the political discourse through network analysis (Inf. VI, X and XVI)

Week 6. Reading week

Week 7. Bodies and borders

L: The structure and moral system of lower hell (Inf. XVI-XXXI)

S: Monstrous, Metamorphic, Non-binary: comparing bodies in hell (Inf. XIII; XX; XXIII, XXIV, XXV)

Week 8. Ulysses and the folle volo: from Homer to Dante

L: Ulysses: Politics of language and the threat of the Intellect (Inf. XXVI)

S: Individual projects presentations

Week 9. The Pit of Hell

L: The tragedy of Ugolino (Inf. XXXII, XXXIII)

S: Individual projects presentations

Week 10. "E poi uscimmo a riveder le stelle"

L: The Fallen Angel:Leaving Lucifer and hell behind, Inf. XXXIV

S: Individual projects presentations

This module will be taught in English language and will be open to students across the School of Modern Languages and Cultures as well as the Faculty of Arts including English, History, Film, Classics and Art History.


Essay (3000 words, 80%)

Students will be able to choose between a thematic analysis on a key aspect of the cantica and a commentary of a canto from Inferno.

Individual project presentation (10 minutes, 20%)

Presentation will focus on any aspect of Dante's global and interdisciplinary reception followed by group discussion.


Primary texts. Students can choose between two English translations.

The InfernoLink opens in a new window translated by Robert and Jean Hollander.

The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, ParadisoLink opens in a new window translated by Robin Kirkpatrick 

Secondary sources: Each week, the Moodle page will be populated with downloadable resources (articles, chapters) and links, please refer to this regularly to access required and further readings.