Medieval Studies

MDV 392M • Dante II

39800 • Raffa, Guy
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM HRH 2.106C
(also listed as ITL 390K)
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Fall 2019                                                    Dante II

ITL 390K, crosslisted with MDV 392M

Guy Raffa, Dept. of French and Italian, HRH 3.104A

Note: While the language of instruction is English, students are encouraged—and Italian Studies students are required—to read primary Italian texts in the original language.   

This course focuses on Dante's Commedia—the Purgatorio and Paradiso above all—within late medieval literary, intellectual, and historical contexts by attending to his engagement with works by classical authors and medieval poets, philosophers, and theologians. The Danteworlds commentary and website will provide much of this background material and help guide your reading of the Commedia. We will supplement and complement this focus with discussion of Dante's earlier life and poetry (Vita nuova), his treatise on the vernacular (De Vulgari Eloquentia), and selections from the poet's other works (Inferno, Convivio, De Monarchia).

Given Dante's vital importance for teaching and research across disciplinary and temporal boundaries, the course is designed to work for motivated graduate students in various departments, programs, and schools, including Comparative Literature, Medieval Studies, English, History, Art History, Religious Studies, Music, and other language and literature programs in addition to Italian Studies. The class makeup will therefore help determine final decisions on course readings. However, all students are encouraged to (re)read or review the Inferno before the beginning of the semester.

Since a goal of the course is to become familiar with major voices in Dante Studies, our discussion of Dante's works will be informed by selected works of criticism (available on Canvas). Twice during the semester you are required to write a short response essay—both descriptive and analytical—to one of these critical works in relation to Dante's text(s). For the final project, you will present your research to the class and write a polished draft (12-15 pages minimum, with full documentation) of a full-blown research essay.

Required Texts: Inferno (Garzanti, 2008); Purgatorio (Garzanti, 2008); Paradiso (Garzanti, 2006); Vita nuova (Garzanti, 2009); De vulgari eloquentia (Cambridge, 1996).

Recommended: The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the Divine Comedy (Chicago, 2009) 


Classwork and participation (including weekly Discussion Forum entries on Canvas): 30%

Two short essays (750-1000 words) on a critical text in dialogue with a primary work: 20%. Each student will write on one work from the first half of the course (Purgatorio) and one work from the second half of the course (Paradiso)

Research presentation and paper of 10-15 pages (2500-3750 words) with full documentation: 50%

Selected Critical Works on Canvas (with indication of assigned pages)

Singleton, Dante Studies I (84-98), Barolini, Dante's Poets (153-73); Musa, Advent at the Gates (85-109), Barolini, The Undivine Comedy (122-42), Wetherbee, The Ancient Flame: Dante and the Poets (161-88, 196-202), Musa, Advent at the Gates (111-28), Hawkins, Dante's Testaments: Essays in Scriptural Imagination (54-71, 159-79), Singleton, Dante Studies 2: Journey to Beatrice (15-38), Mazzotta, Dante's Vision and the Circle of Knowledge (34-55, 154-96), Barolini, Dante's Poets (57-84), Havely, Dante and the Franciscans (123-53), Schnapp, Transfiguration of History at the Center of Dante's "Paradise" (14-35), Raffa, Divine Dialectic (147-64, 178-86), Ascoli, Dante and the Making of a Modern Author (67-129), Cestaro, Dante and the Grammar of the Nursing Body (49-76), Moevs, Metaphysics of Dante's "Comedy" (147-67), Botterill, Dante and the Mystical Tradition (64-107), Freccero, Poetics of Conversion (245-57)

MDV 392M • Medieval And Early Mod Curric

39805 • Woods, Marjorie
Meets T 2:00PM-5:00PM CAL 323
(also listed as C L 381, E 387R)
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The Medieval and Early Modern Curriculum

This course will encompass overlapping but not identical sets of texts taught at schools during the medieval, late medieval, and early modern periods. A number of these texts were also taught in American schools and colleges (and formed the basis of libraries of British and American novelists and poets well into the nineteenth century). When possible, both medieval and early modern approaches to the texts will be discussed.

Although some histories of education will be consulted, the emphasis of the course will be on actually reading the texts known to most educated men (and some women) of the periods. Almost all the works were originally written for adults and in Latin, although all required reading for the course will be in English. (Students focusing on the Early Modern period may read texts on EEBO if they wish.) Printed editions of some and manuscripts of a few of the works are in the HRC’s collections.

Students of all periods are welcome, and research projects (including those focusing on other periods or cultures) will be worked out individually for each student according to his or her research interests.

Selective reading list of primary sources:

Building Blocks:

            The Distichs of Cato (proverbs)

            Eclogue of Theodulus (debate poem with paired classical and biblical stories)

Troy Books for Boys:

            Achilleid of Statius (boyhood of Achilles, including when he was disguised as a girl)

            Ilias Latina (“Latin Homer”)

Sexual Exploits;

            Elegies of Maximian (memories of love and sex)

Geta (Jupiter pretends to be a student returning to his wife)

Pamphilus on Love (so widely read that it’s said to be the origin of the word “pamphlet”)

Auctores (with both medieval and early modern commentary)

Ovid, Metamorphoses Book 1

Virgil, Aeneid, Books 1, 2, 4, and 6

Biblical Narratives:

Tobias of Matthew of Vendôme

“Judith” from the Aurora (Dawn) of Peter Riga.

Glossa ordinaria on the Book of Jonah

Composition Texts:

Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Poetria nova (rhetoric taught rhetorically)

Erasmus, selections from De copia (composition based on classical models)

Aphthonius, Progumnasmata (linked sequence of preliminary exercises)


Additional primary readings  and secondary sources will be chosen taking into account the research interests of the students.