Teaching Resources

dante and virgil details

Details from an illuminated manuscript of the Commedia, North Italy, Genoa (?), 14th century
(Bodleian Library, Oxford University, MS. Holkham misc. 48)

On this page we have provided materials that we hope will facilitate and provide inspiration for creative use of the site in high school and university classrooms. We strongly recommend that instructors also consult the User’s Guide to learn about the site’s quirks and for tips about how best to navigate the resources.

Sample Syllabi: Dante in Modern and Contemporary Culture

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In-Class Discussions and Activities:

Discussion Topics:

  • By character:
    • How does Dante’s Beatrice differ from her contemporary counterparts?
    • How do the citings/sightings treat Francesca and Paolo? Are they giving a sympathetic portrait? Why or why not?
    • In what contexts does Count Ugolino appear? Is he depicted as a sinister or a pathetic character? What does this depiction say about the new context in which we find him?
  • By canto/verse:
    • In what ways is the incipit of the poem reinterpreted? In what sorts of context does it appear?
    • How do modern and contemporary authors and artists choose to represent Dante’s selva oscura, the dark wood of Inferno I?
    • Why is “Lasciate ogni speranza” (“Abandon all hope”) such a powerful meme?
    • Why does Canto VI (the terzo girone, reserved for the gluttonous) appeal to restaurants? Why do restaurants believe this marketing ploy will appeal to patrons?

Sample Lesson Plans:

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Research Essays and Other Assignments

By Category:

By Tag: Every post is tagged. A word cloud illustrating the most frequent tags is visible on every page, and students may also click on “All Tags” to see search by specific tags.

  • Look at the word cloud of frequent tags. Which are the most frequent? Why do you think that is? Why do Dante and his works appear more frequently in one genre than another? Create a hypothesis, and use specific entries to test your hypothesis.
  • Look at the list of all tags. Ask students to select a tag that they find particularly surprising. What about that tag is surprising? What do similarly tagged posts have in common?
  • Students may also be asked to brainstorm about what tags they most expect to find: Which of those tags appear, and which don’t? If there are tags that do not appear, students may be asked to research new entries that would be included under that tag heading (see the suggested assignment below, under “Finding new entries”).
  • N.B.: See the User’s Guide about the quirks of Tags.

Using the Search Function: Visitors to the site may also search for posts containing specific information, such as a person, historical event, band name, film title, etc.

  • Using the “Search this Site” function, have students select a specific citing/sighting of Dante and his works to create an argument about the way that citing/sighting reads the Commedia, the Inferno, or the poet himself. How deep is the reading? What modern/contemporary values are embedded in that reading?
  • N.B.: See the User’s Guide about the quirks of the Search Function.

Finding New Entries: The editors encourage students to seek out their own additions to the archive.

  • Beginning with a database search, a tour around the nearby Italian neighborhood, or sifting through a local bookstore or record store, ask students to pay attention to the ways Dante and his works appear in their own environment. Even a simple Google search can yield interesting new results! This project takes time and patience, so we recommend introducing the assignment at the beginning of a course, allowing students ample time to let their imaginations play.
  • Students may also be asked to write papers evaluating the new entries they discover. How does the new entry compare to other entries already on the website? How does the new entry use Dante and his works? How is Dante being translated, adapted, or illustrated in the new context? What aspects of the poem or its author are highlighted, and which are downplayed? What does the entry get “right,” and what does it get “wrong”?

Please also browse the sampling of questions posted on the User’s Guide.

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A Few Examples of Scholarly Articles

See the Bibliography page for more articles.

Colonnese-Benni, Vittoria. “Dante And Maciste: A Very Improbable Couple.” Rivista Di Studi Italiani 17.2 (1999): 150-161. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 28 May 2013.

Hawkins, Peter. “Dante’s Afterlife.” In Dante: A Brief History, 131-165. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.

Hoffman, Donald L. “Dante’s Alchemical Eucharist: Or, Technology In Hell.” The Image of Technology in Literature, the Media, and Society. 57-63. Pueblo, CO: Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Social Imagery, University of Southern Colorado, 1994. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 29 May 2013.

Schiaffini, Ilaria. “From Hell To Paradise Or The Other Way Round? Salvador Dalí’s Divina Commedia.” Dante on View: The Reception of Dante in the Visual and Performing Arts. 141-150. Aldershot, England: Continuum, 2007. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 28 May 2013.

Vickers, Nancy J. “Dante In The Video Decade.” Dante Now: Current Trends in Dante Studies. 263-276. Notre Dame, IN: U of Notre Dame P, 1995. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 28 May 2013.

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Sample Titles of Student Papers on Dante and Contemporary Culture

“Dante in Contemporary Television: Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations

“The Divine Comedy on Your iPhone: A Review of Two Dante Apps”

“The ‘Futurama’ of Dante’s Inferno

“The Modern-Day Dante: If Only the Escape From Hell Were That Easy” (on Vincent Ward’s 1998 film What Dreams May Come)

“The Musical Metamorphosis of Dante’s Inferno” (on Italian prog-rock band Metamorfosi)

“The Prison of Limbo: Dante’s Impact on Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Mamma Roma

“Sean Meredith’s Inferno: An Adaptation More Accessible to Modern-Day Society”

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For more information, please also see our User’s Guide or contact Arielle Saiber (asaiber@bowdoin.edu) or Elizabeth Coggeshall (ecoggeshall@fsu.edu).