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The Dante discussion group will meet the last Thursday of every month from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the Seminar Room, unless otherwise specified.

In 2017–18 the Dante Discussion Group continues its reading (in English translation) of Dante’s Comedy, the “divine” epic narrative in Italian vernacular that relates Dante’s journey through the afterlife in search of salvation: salvation for himself, salvation for his readers, and salvation for a world careening toward destruction. Our reading will focus on, among other things, Dante’s analysis of the world in which he lived, of its history, problems, protagonists, errors, and promise. We will examine the social, political, moral, spiritual, and literary issues Comedy takes on. We will also read from Dante’s other works—his lyrics poems, La Vita Nuova, Convivio, his treatise on vernacular literature, his Latin eclogues, and his treatise on world government—as well as from the works of writers who stimulated his thinking, such as Ovid, Virgil, and his Tuscan contemporaries.

We will study works that Dante’s Comedy has influenced, such as Boccaccio’s Decameron, Joyce’s Ulysses, Pound’s Cantos, and Eliot’s Little Gidding. We may, on occasion, join with other discussion groups in exploring works from the visual media, such as the Pre-Raphaelites’ paintings, Rodin’s carvings, or Fellini’s 8½.

Each month we will try to cover three or four of the Comedy’s one hundred cantos. Ample discussion involving the questions, insights, and challenges of group members will be augmented by frequent oral readings. In advance of each meeting, our resident scholar, Todd Boli, will share a few optional study questions meant to guide and provoke, as well as a selection of images intended to aid our reading and stimulate discussion.

For the first third of the Comedy, we will all use Dante Alighieri, The Inferno, Allen Mandelbaum, trans. (Bantam Books, 2004), pbk.

For the second third of the Comedy, we will all use Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, Allen Mandelbaum, trans. (Bantam Books, 1984), pbk.

For La Vita Nuova we will use Dante Alighieri, La Vita Nuova (Poems of Youth), Barbara Reynolds, trans. (Penguin Books, 2004), pbk.

For Dante’s other works,  members are referred to the Princeton Dante Project at In addition to providing convenient access to authoritative original texts and good translations of Dante’s complete works, the Princeton Dante Project offers a rich collection of explanatory notes and interpretative comments on the Comedy. [Note: as of this posting, the database of Dartmouth Dante Project commentaries can no longer be accessed from the Princeton Project and must be accessed directly at instead.]

Participants must sign up in advance for the year. There is an annual fee of $100. Interested members should contact the group’s administrator to be placed on the email list:

2017–2018 Schedule

  • Oct. 26: Purgatorio, cantos 16–18
  • Nov. 30
  • Dec. 28
  • Jan. 25
  • Feb. 22
  • Mar. 29
  • Apr. 26
  • May 31
  • Jun. 28