Week 23: Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Chrisitianity in Transition: Dante, Beatrice, and the Virgin Mary

In the two centuries between 1100 and 1300, Christianity underwent an almost complete transformation.  In the 11th Century, the most prominent representation on the walls of churches was the Last Judgement.  People worried, were afraid of the future.  Life seemed dangerous and religion  warned of catastrophe ahead.  Then all of a sudden, something happened.  A beautiful and loving mother figure emerged and churches were names for her:  Notre Dame.  By 1300, a new church anywhere in Europe was dedicated to her.  This transformation paralleled the life and work of Dante.  It paralleled his own salvation offered to him by his own Lady, his Beatrice.


Make sure you bring your copy of the Divine Comedy, Inferno, to class as we now discuss and read passages together. We will begin with the first few cantos (songs) and move on. The Mandelbaum translation is the one we have chosen and it is on the Required Texts page for this class.  THIS  DUAL-LANGUAGE TEXT IS NOT AVAILABLE ON KINDLE BECAUSE THEY CANNOT REPRODUCE THE  2 FACING PAGES WITH ENGLISH AND ITALIAN.  WE WANT THE ABILITY TO SEE BOTH ENGLISH AND ITALIAN.


The Divine Comedy: Inferno,

translated by Allen Mandelbaum,

Bantam Classic,

ISBN 0553213393

Why choose this translation from among the 100's that exist? Read these comments:

Review "The English Dante of choice."--Hugh Kenner.

"Exactly what we have waited for these years, a Dante with clarity, eloquence, terror, and profoundly moving depths."--Robert Fagles, Princeton University

"Tough and supple, tender and violent . . . vigorous, vernacular . . . Mandelbaum's Dante will stand high among modern translations."--The Christian Science Monitor

"Lovers of the English language will be delighted by this eloquently accomplished enterprise." --Book Review Digest

From the Publisher: This splendid verse translation by Allen Mandelbaum provides an entirely fresh experience of Dante's great poem of penance and hope. As Dante ascends the Mount of Purgatory toward the Earthly Paradise and his beloved Beatrice, through "that second kingdom in which the human soul is cleansed of sin," all the passion and suffering, poetry and philosophy are rendered with the immediacy of a poet of our own age. With extensive notes and commentary prepared especially for this edition.


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: There is a good biography of Dante written by the late R. W. B. Lewis, Dante (ISBN 0670899097) and it is excellent and exactly what many of you will want: a short (200 pages), well-written, inexpensive ($19.95) biography of Dante. It is perfect for our course and although I don't want to make it a required book, I am sure that anyone who buys it will be happy they did.

R. W. B. Lewis,


Viking Books,

ISBN 0670899097

PART TWO: Dante in Florence.