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Honoursmodule: From Hell to Paradise: Dante's Journey Through the Arts and Sciences

What are Dante's ideas about literature, music and the visual arts? How did he use scientific knowledge? And what does he tell us about land and seas (geography, cartography), nature and matter (physics), human behavior and leadership (law and politics), the workings of the human body (biology), the heavens and the stars and their role in human lives (astronomy) and about the value and meaning of numbers (mathematics)?

In the spring of 1300, an unknown Florentine poet by the name of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) went on a weeklong journey in the world after death. About his experiences in hell, purgatory and heaven he wrote the Commedia, a truly miraculous poem that has exercised a profound influence on Western culture ever since.

The Commedia is many different things. It is the autobiography of a poet in love with an angelic woman; a visionary treatise on the history and world politics; a passionate sermon on how humans should live better lives; a theologically inspired story of a communion of a human soul with God. The Commedia is also a compendium of all existing knowledge, bringing together, discussing and often contributing to virtually all art forms and scientific disciplines of its time.

Besides acquainting ourselves with some of the world-famous episodes and powerful characters from InfernoPurgatorio and Paradiso, we will read and examine Dante’s masterpiece from artistic, scientific and interdisciplinary perspectives.

With regard to the Commedia itself: how did Dante incorporate the arts and the sciences of his time into his masterpiece? What are his ideas about literature, music and the visual arts? How did he use scientific knowledge? What does he tell us about land and seas (geography, cartography), nature and matter (physics), human behaviour and leadership (law and politics), the workings of the human body (biology), the heavens and the stars and their role in human lives (astronomy), and about the value and meaning of numbers (mathematics)?

With regard to the reception of the Commedia: how were artists, writers, intellectuals, scholars and scientists in the course of seven centuries inspired and influenced by Dante’s poetry? In our sessions, we will discuss many relevant examples, including the father of modern science, Galileo Galilei, who in 1588 tried to calculate the dimensions of Dante’s hell. But also in modern times, different branches of science (e.g. astronomy) and new disciplines that emerged (long) after Dante’s time (e.g. psychoanalysis, psychology, criminology) have on many occasions been in a fruitful dialogue with his work or have dubiously misused and misinterpreted it (e.g. fascism and other regimes) through a ‘scientific’ or political framework (racial hygiene, nationalism vs. cosmopolitanism).

Schedule

The schedule will be available on Datanose

Registration

Registration is possible for bachelor students participating in an Honours programme. Registration for the Honours courses will start on 6 June at 10 am and end on 11 June at 11 pm. You can register through the online registration form that will appear on Honoursmodules IIS (registration is NOT through SIS). Placement is random and students will hear within two weeks for which course(s) they are registered. There is no guarantee for placement if you register after 11 June, so make sure you register on time! 

For questions about registration please email to: Honours-iis@uva.nl 

More information

Facts & Figures
Mode
Honours programme
Credits
6 ECTS,
Language of instruction
English
Starts in
November