Canto per Canto: Conversations with Dante in Our Time is a collaborative initiative between New York University’s Department of Italian Studies and Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, and the Dante Society of America. The aim is to produce podcast conversations about all 100 cantos of the Divine Comedy, to be completed within the seventh centenary of Dante’s death in 2021.
In May 2020, Paolo di Stefano interviewed Teodolinda Barolini for the Corriere della Sera, on how and why to read Dante in the 21st century. Below, an excerpt from the interview, which can be read in full here:
Corriere: “Secondo lei quale aspetto di Dante può affascinare di più un lettore giovane del nostro tempo?”
Barolini: “Il fatto che Dante è un uomo che ha voglia di capire, come Ulisse. Mentre Virgilio nel II libro dell’Eneide squalifica Ulisse come fraudolento, Dante trova il lato positivo di Ulisse in Orazio e soprattutto in quella bellissima espressione di Cicerone che, nel De finibus, definisce la sua discendi cupiditas. Il Convivio comincia con la frase di Aristotele: ‘Tutti li uomini naturalmente desiderano di sapere.’ Ecco, è la brama di sapere il vero motore di Dante.”
Corriere: “Come leggere Dante a scuola?”
Barolini: “Il modo più utile è prendere il testo alla lettera. Basterebbe far leggere ai ragazzi il racconto, avendo fiducia nella narratività della Commedia. Io mi dispero quando arrivo a Petrarca per far capire ai giovani quanto siano squisite quelle poesie, questo sì è un problema. Ma non ci si può disperare di fronte alla Commedia che è un grande motore narrativo che trascina tutti con sé.” — “Dante, un ribelle. Ora leggiamolo.” Interview of Teodolinda Barolini by Paolo di Stefano. Corriere della Sera (May 31, 2020)
“Near the start of the film, John Wick: Chapter Three – Parabellum (2019), the eponymous hitman (played by Keanu Reeves) is at the New York Public Library when he is surprised by another assassin, Ernest (a cameo by Boban Marjanovic), who makes his introduction by reading a tercet from Ulysses’ speech in Inferno 26, and then mentioning Dante by name: ‘Consider your origins: / you were not made to live as brutes, / but to follow virtue and knowledge’ (Inf. 26. 118-120).” –Contributor Devin Fernandez
The Philadelphia Enquirer describes the fight scene between Reeves’s character and basketball-star-and-acting-newcomer Marjanovic as follows: “In the scene, Boban’s character is the first of what will be a hundred or so assassins who try to kill Wick, so it’s a small role but with a prominent position in the film. Reeves is the star, of course, and the outcome of the scene is never in doubt. Even so, [director Chad] Stahelski finds some (wait for it) novel ways to administer the final blow. The phrase ‘eat your words’ comes to mind.
“’He a super-nice guy. Very humble, and I remember he paid a lot of attention to detail. He really practiced his lines, and he got a lot of coaching from Keanu. This is like his first movie gig, and he’s quoting Dante’s Inferno, so it was a lot to ask. I give him credit, because that was a long day, and he really held up well and contributed.’” — Gary Thompson, “‘John Wick 3’ director talks about pairing Keanu Reeves with Sixers center Boban Marjanovic for a major fight scene,” Philadelphia Enquirer, May 10, 2019
Contributed by Carlos Devin Fernandez (University of Texas at Austin, PhD Candidate)
In Season 5, Episode 22, the main character Ted wants to add a little class and sophistication to his group of friends, so he starts quoting poetry:
Ted: “Guys, come on, I’m just trying to add a little class to these proceedings. It’s like that line from Dante’s Inferno…”
Ted: “Consider your origins; you were not born to live like brutes…”
Ted: “…but to follow virtue and knowledge…”
Ted: “…Or, in the original Italian…”
Friends, groaning: “Nooooo…”
Ted: “…Considerate la vostra semenza…”
Contributed by Christine Khachiev
Primo Levi’s harrowing account of life in Auschwitz includes many references to Dante’s Commedia, most noticeably in the chapter called “Canto di Ulisse.” In the chapter, Levi recounts a scene where he and a French prisoner discuss books from their respective homes. The canto of Ulysses (Inferno 26) comes to his mind and he recites several lines from it.
The memoir Se questo è un uomo (If This is a Man) appeared in English translation as Survival in Auschwitz. The chapter “Canto di Ulisse” is but one of many references to Dante not only in Se questo è un uomo but also across the rest of Levi’s corpus; we recommend consulting the works on the bibliography for more on Levi’s relationship to Dante’s works.