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

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).


The schedule will be available on Datanose


Registration is open to second-year or third-year Bachelor's students participating in an Honours programme. Between 8 June 10 am and 12 June 11 pm, you can register by completing the online registration form that will appear on our website Honoursmodules IIS.  

Please note: Registration is not through SIS. Placement is at random. There is no guarantee for placement if you register after June 12, so make sure you register on time. You will hear which course(s) you are registered for in the week of 20 June.  

If you have any questions, please contact us at Honours-iis@uva.nl

SDGs in education

The IIS strives to reflect current societal issues and challenges in our elective courses, honours modules and degree programmes and attempts to integrate the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in this course. For more information about these goals, please visit the SDGs website.

More information

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