Dante's Divine Comedy

Martin Eisner
LS 770-91
Summer 2017
Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 pm - Begins Wed., June 7; Ends Wed., August 9

A close reading of Dante’s whole poem (Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise) in its philosophical (Plato, Aristotle), theological (Augustine, Aquinas), historical (Papacy vs. Empire, Florentine factionalism), and literary (Virgil, Arthurian romance) contexts, as well as an exploration of its influence on later thinkers, artists, poets, and popular culture (Machiavelli, Botticelli, Borges, Eliot, Rodin, Dali, ‘Se7en’).  Each class will require a close reading of several canti of Dante’s poem, along with a supplementary reading.  These secondary readings consider the poem from a variety of perspectives:  as an historical document produced at a specific space and time; an aesthetic object which uses particular narrative strategies to produce meaning; and an ethical and political treatise that both problematizes and prioritizes a certain set of values.

Course Materials

Four books to buy:


            Inferno, Tr. Mandelbaum.  9780553213393

            Purgatorio, Tr. Durling.  9780195087451

            Paradiso, Tr. Kirkpatrick.  9780140448979

            Vita nuova, Tr. Mortimer.  9781847493583 (try bookdepository.com)

One recommended book:

            Virgil, The Essential Aeneid, Tr. Lombardo.  9780872207905 or Tr. Mandelbaum

N.B. All other readings on Sakai

Course Work

            Course participation and in-class Provocation (25%)

            Three Short Papers (50%)

            One Final Paper (25%)

About Martin Eisner
Romance Studies

Martin Eisner is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at Duke University and Director of Graduate Studies for both the Department of Romance Studies and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He specializes in medieval Italian literature, particularly the works of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, as well as the history of the book and media.