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IT317 Dante's Inferno

Module Code: IT317
Module Name: Dante's Inferno
Module Coordinator: Prof. Fabio Camilletti
Term 1
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

Why do we read Dante? And why is Dante's Divine Comedy still relevant to us?

Through the reading of selected cantos (in English translation), this module will discuss the place the Divine Comedy - and particularly its first, best-known canticle, the Inferno - still holds in our contemporary, global culture. Rather than remaining confined to the cabinet of medieval curiosities, the historical, narrative, and allegorical complexities of Inferno still challenge our concerns in terms of desire and sexuality, gender representation, freedom of thought, punishment and expiation.

By following Dante's descent through the torture-pits of Hell, students will enhance their analytical and argumentative skills while directly engaging with Dante's text and its ramified legacy in 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 does not require any prerequisite knowledge of Italian and is 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.