Become familiar with the theory and practice of “Contemplative Reading” that constitutes one of the principal structural dynamics of Liberal Arts education
Be able to apply the general practice of “Contemplative Reading” to Dante’s Divine Comedy
Demonstrate in-depth and relatively advanced familiarity with and knowledge of Dante’s Divine Comedy, an epic poem of the highest cultural significance
Begin to articulate for yourself your own personal convictions in response to reflection questions about human dignity, freedom, and responsibility with which the Divine Comedy inevitably confronts its readers
Engage with the most fundamental goal of Liberal education, promoting the universal dignity of personhood
Become acquainted with the specific contributions the Christian, Catholic and Jesuit traditions of Georgetown University bring to the promotion of human dignity
Learning to read poetry is learning to do the deep magic of language. It’s learning to speak to the dead. At first the book just sits there silent as the grave, but if we listen carefully then, softly at first, the poetry begins to speak to us and we find ourselves speaking to it in response. Dante is the master of speaking with the dead. He convinces us that the dead can tell us things we do not know—things we cannot discover about the meaning of life because we are still in the middle of it. He shows us that conversations with the dead can change the way that we look at life. You and I may not have enough imagination to explore the realms of death that open up in the middle of life, and Dante knows that no one can find their way through life without a guide. This course will help you discover the magic of Dante’s poetry and Dante will teach you to imagine the deepest terrors and the highest hopes that are still undiscovered in your heart. Only then will you be in a position to decide finally, for yourself, who you choose to become.
In this course, you will begin to question for yourself 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 questions “who am I?” and “what meaning or value can my life have?” Dante struggled with the same questions before coming to a moment of vision that wholly transformed him as a person.
This course is presented to you through the MyDante platform, an online environment developed by Professor Frank Ambrosio in collaboration with the Georgetown University Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS). Throughout the course, you will be asked to reflect on Dante’s interpretation of freedom, how it functions in the formation of personal identity, and whether we might be able to find appropriate metaphors to discuss these issues in our modern lives. 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 genuinely contemplative. 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.
Introduction to the Course and Course/Inferno Themes
Book 1: Vita Nuova
Book 2: Inferno
Book 3: Purgatorio
Introduction to Purgatorio Themes
Book 4: Paradiso
Introduction to Paradiso Themes