The Divine Comedy: Dante’s Journey to Freedom, Part 1

Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentine writer, said that no one should deny themselves the pleasure of reading Dante's Divine Comedy. In this course, you will discover precisely what Borges meant.

About The Course

Students will question for themselves the meaning of human freedom, responsibility and identity by reading and responding to Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. The Comedy, which is richly steeped in the medieval culture of 14th century, still speaks vividly to modern readers struggling with the question, “who am I?” Dante, as a Florentine, a poet, a lover, and religious believer struggled with the same question in each facet of his life before coming to a moment of vision that wholly transformed him as a person.

As a 21st century reader, you will encounter the poem in a novel online environment that integrates knowledge from the disciplines of literature, history, psychology, philosophy, and theology with modern technology. You will be guided through the poem by means of the "MyDante" Project, an online environment developed by Professor Ambrosio in collaboration with the Georgetown University Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS), which will aid your own contemplative engagement with the poem. Alone and with the edX community, you will reflect on both Dante's interpretation of freedom and how it functions in the formation of personal identity, and the problem of finding appropriate metaphors to discuss these issues in our modern life.

You, the modern reader, will only understand the full implications of Dante's poetry if you participate with it in a way that is personal and is genuinely contemplative. You will discover that contemplative reading goes beyond the literal meaning, and even beyond the traditional allegorical and interpreted meaning, to apply every possible meaning contained in the text to your own life and identity. Through the MyDante platform, you will learn to know yourself in your own historical, personal, and spiritual contexts as you journey toward a richer understanding of your freedom, identity and responsibility as a person.

In this course, you will be asked to participate in learning activities on both edX and on MyDante, an innovative platform for deep reading that emphasizes mindfulness and contemplative reading habits as key to deriving lasting meaning from poetic texts. This module will take you through Vita Nuova and Inferno. The module on Purgatorio will launch on February 2015, and the concluding module on Paradiso will launch in April 2015. This course features Robert and Jean Hollander's contemporary translations of Dante Alighieri's Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, permission courtesy of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. The print editions contain valuable notes and commentary which are highly recommended as companions to the course materials.

Recommended Background

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