Rage, heresy and politics… according to Dante

Friday 30 April 2010

Political passions and rivalries are more painful than eternal damnation, according to scholars of the Italian poet Dante.

At a major event in St Andrews today (Friday 30 April 2010), international experts will gather to discuss one of the most famous characters in Dante’s Inferno, who suffers a crushing political defeat that leads to exile.

For one day only, scholars of Dante’s Divine Comedy will meet at the University of St Andrews to continue a unique six year celebration of the famous Middle Ages text.

“Political passions and rivalries more painful than eternal damnation, Hell as a city in rebellion against God, sin as the destruction of everything that makes us human – this is Dante’s Inferno,” said conference organiser Dr Robert Wilson.

The event is part of series of readings and lectures of all 100 cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy, organised by Drs Robert Wilson and Claudia Rossignoli of the University’s Department of Italian. The unique event, launched in 2009, sees the most eminent Dante scholars in the world retrace the writer’s footsteps through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.

This week’s event presents cantos 8-11 of the Inferno, in which Dante, guided by the Roman poet Virgil, continues his journey deeper into Hell, crossing the river Styx and coming up against the walls surrounding the City of Dis. His progress is blocked by the angels who rebelled against God and divine intervention is needed for the journey to continue.

Dr Wilson commented, “One of the most striking scenes in the whole of the Divine Comedy then follows when Dante meets the most celebrated Florentine politician of the previous generation, a bitter political rival whose family are still in exile from the city. In the next canto Virgil explains to Dante how Hell is organised, listing the sins punished and the principle behind their arrangement.”

Well known experts on Dante in the city, Claire Honess and Catherine Keen will take part in the one day event which is open to the public.

Dr Wilson continued, “The encounter with Farinata degli Uberti in Canto 10 is one of the most dramatic moments in the whole poem, yet Dante manages to combine wide political themes with deeply personal and moving family concerns. Finally, the description and hierarchical arrangement of sins described in Canto 11 always gives rise to debate as we discover a very different assessment of what is a more serious offence than what we might believe today.”


The Lectura Dantis Andreapolitana continues with readings by Dr Catherine Keen (London), Dr Claire Honess (Leeds), Professor Ronnie Ferguson (St Andrews), and Dr Robert Wilson (St Andrews), introduced by Dr Claudia Rossignoli (St Andrews) at Parliament Hall, 9.30am-6.00pm, Friday 30 April 2010. The meeting is open to the public. For further information and the full programme visit www.st-andrews.ac.uk/lectura

Note to editors

Dr Wilson is available for interview on 01334 463 645, or email [email protected].

The Lectura Dantis series

One of the driving principles of the Lectura Dantis (which literally means ‘reading of Dante’) has always been to make Dante’s poem available to a wider public, and the lectures given by Boccaccio in fourteenth century Florence were specifically for ‘anyone who wanted to hear them’. The St Andrews Lectura series, the ‘Lectura Dantis Andreapolitana’, which was launched last October, similarly sets out to bring Dante to the widest public, but also aims to shed new light on his most famous work through the interpretation of today’s leading scholars.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Senior Communications Manager on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email [email protected].

View the latest University press releases at www.st-andrews.ac.uk.

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