“Did Dante Alighieri Suffer From a Sleep Disorder?” by Henry Nicholls

“I was at a conference, standing in the queue for coffee during a break between sessions, and the woman in front of me went down. As she fell, she resembled a push puppet, one of those little elasticated toys that collapses when you press the button on the base. It all happened very quickly, but if it had been possible to slow down the motion, I would have seen her head drop first, chin onto chest, her shoulders relax, arms flop to her sides, and legs buckle.

[. . .]

“This is cataplexy, a condition in which emotions can cause the body’s muscles to fail; it affects many people with narcolepsy. Nathaniel Kleitman understood the difference between narcolepsy (the sleep) and cataplexy (the collapsing fits) only too well. ‘Boredom and monotony favor narcolepsy; gaiety and excitement, cataplexy,’ he wrote in Sleep and Wakefulness.

[. . .]

“Giuseppe Plazzi, head of the sleep lab at the University of Bologna, has argued that Dante Alighieri might have suffered from narcolepsy with cataplexy all the way back in the 14th century, as his autobiographical masterpiece The Divine Comedy features most of the symptoms, including cataplexy. In the middle of his journey through Hell, for instance, Dante hears the tragic love story of two lost spirits and collapses. ‘I fainted out of pity, and, as if l were dying, fell, as a dead body falls.’

“The idea that Dante suffered from narcolepsy is certainly intriguing, but most sleep specialists—including Plazzi—date the first unequivocal description of cataplexy to 1877, when German psychiatrist Karl Westphal presented a case at a meeting of the Berlin Medical and Psychological Society. [. . .]”   –Henry Nicholls, “Did Dante Alighieri Suffer From a Sleep Disorder?” LitHub (September 7, 2018)

The passage is an excerpt from Nicholls’s 2018 book Sleepyhead: The Neuroscience of A Good Night’s Rest.

See also the related discussion from The Guardian, posted here.

@Dante_Alighieri Twitter Profile

“Twitter profile dedicated to Dante Alighieri (@Dante_Aligheri) managed by Matteo Maselli, which periodically publishes original material related to the Italian poet: reports of Dantean cultural events, open-access educational material, breaking news. The profile was opened to make available to Dantisti and scholars in general an open space for free consultation and exchange of ideas.”  — Contributor Matteo Maselli

Contributed by Matteo Maselli (Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna, 2017)

Una commedia divina, Arianna Caldarella (lyrics) and Corrado Neri (music), 2015

One of the performances at the 58th annual Zecchino d’Oro (an international children’s music festival), held in Bologna in 2015, was “Una commedia divina,” with music by Corrado Neri, text by Arianna Caldarella. It was performed by Andrea Amelio and Chiara Casolari (pictured below), together with the Piccolo Coro “Mariele Ventre” dell’Antoniano.

Zecchino-d'oro-commedia-divina-SingersThe Zecchino d’Oro website describes the song as follows: “Originale rivisitazione a misura di bambino di uno dei più grandi capolavori della letteratura italiana: la Divina Commedia. L’amore di Dante per Beatrice si carica di un’energia tutta nuova, fresca e vivace, e prende vita sotto forma di un linguaggio semplice e dotato di una punta di ironia, concedendo anche ai più piccoli di addentrarsi nel favoloso mondo del ‘sommo poeta.’ Il brano si propone inoltre di omaggiare in musica Dante Alighieri nell’anno in cui si celebra il 750° anniversario della sua nascita.”

The full text of the song is available on the Zecchino d’Oro website (with videos) and at si24.it.

Was Dante Narcoleptic?

was-dante-narcoleptic“According to a study published this week by Giuseppe Plazzi of the University of Bologna’s Sleep Laboratory, Dante may have been narcoleptic: a sufferer from the neurological disorder that, among other symptoms, causes people to drift off suddenly at all times of day.” [. . .]    –Sarah Bakewell, “If Dante was a narcoleptic, why should it matter?” The Guardian, September 27, 2013

See also the related discussion from LitHub, posted here.

Laboratorio Terzo Girone, Gelato in Bologna


 (retrieved on March 25, 2011)

Dante at a Student Apartment in Bologna


“Inexpressibly happy that even in the utter chaos, Dante was able to say a few words at the party. Not what the quote wall is for, but it will do.”    –Darren Fishell (Bowdoin, ’09)

Found at Fumettotex (retrieved on February 10, 2008)