Dante in Translation (ITAL 310)

In this lecture, Professor Mazzotta discusses Inferno IX-XI. An impasse at the entrance to the City of Dis marks Virgil’s first failure in his role as guide (Inferno IX). The invocation of Medusa by the harpies that descend while they wait for divine aid elicits Dante’s first address to the reader. The question of literary mediation, posed in the previous lecture in the context of Inferno V, is explored further, and the distinction Dante draws between the “allegory of poets” and the “allegory of theologians” is introduced. Inferno X is read with a view to the uniqueness of the sin it deals with – heresy. The philosophical errors of the shades encountered here, Farinata and Cavalcante, are tied to the political turmoil they prophecy for Florence. From the disorder of the earthly city, Dante moves on to the order on its infernal counterpart, mapped by Virgil in Inferno XI. The moral system of Dante’s Hell is then discussed with a view to its classical antecedents.

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Fall 2008.

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