Florence NEH seminar July 2014

NEH Summer Institute on Dante, poetry, philosophy and the city of Florence

“Self-Reflection and the Theological Apotheosis of Lyric in the Paradiso

NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) Summer Institute:

Dante’s Divine Comedy, poetry, philosophy, and the city of Florence

Florence, July 21-24, 2014

Faculty biographies

Summer NEH Institute Announcement


“Dante’s Divine Comedy: poetry, philosophy, and the city of Florence”

Florence was the most brilliant city in Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, so it is no coincidence that it inspired Dante’s Divine Comedy, one of Italian literature’s greatest and most celebrated works

I want to invite you to apply to be part of this four-week NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers that will take place in Florence in summer 2014. If you have ever thought about teaching Dante, or would like to expand your knowledge of the place and time that inspired the poem, or want to increase your knowledge of medieval literature, history and art, this NEH Institute may be perfect for you. Settled into this medieval-Renaissance city, we will study how Florence, as a vibrant and living archive, inspired the poet and shaped the poem. Situating the study of the Comedy in Florence offers an intellectually expansive view of the poem and of how Dante parlayed Florence’s emerging power into a critique of civic disorder, acquisitiveness, and corruption.  At the same time that Dante was formed as a poet in his turbulent but brilliant city, he was inspired by the intellectual, spiritual, and theological currents and cross-currents represented so pervasively in its built environment. This Institute will be especially attentive to these sites of artistic, civic, and intellectual or spiritual inspiration–including the San Giovanni Baptistry, where he was baptized; the Palazzo dei Priori, where he held office as a prior of the city until his exile; Santa Maria Novella, the center for Dominican studies; Santa Croce, the center for Franciscan studies; and San Miniato al Monte, the Benedictine monastery whose daily hours provided a model for Purgatorio.


As Institute director (Brenda Deen Schildgen), I will join a number of leading scholars of Dante, medieval history, art history, and philosophy, to lead you through a close reading of Dante’s Comedy. These institute leaders include Peter Hawkins, Professor of Religion and Literature at Yale University, in residence for two and a half weeks; Giuseppe Mazzotta, Sterling Professor in the Humanities for Italian and chair of the Italian Studies Department at Yale University; Professor William Franke at Vanderbilt University; Lino Pertile, Carl A. Pescosolido Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University and director of the Villa I Tatti. The focussed discussions of Dante’s poem will be supported through lectures on Medieval Ethics and Politics by Professor David Ardagh; the history and importance of Benedictine monasticism to the development of Florence, and more particularly, to Dante’s formation, by the Rector of San Miniato al Monte; and the role of St. Francis, Franciscanism, and Giotto in Dante by Professor Chiara Frugoni. (Faculty information, including resumés and web sites, can be found under Faculty).

In addition to our focus on the poem and its cultural setting, and certainly not the least important, we will be discussing strategies for teaching Dante. Pedagogical discussions will address the Comedy as a source for an interdisciplinary understanding of the medieval/Renaissance periods that can be incorporated into any of the humanities disciplines. To facilitate our discussions, we will provide specific downloadable articles on approaches to teaching Dante. The Institute will also discuss the tradition of reading Dante in English. Thus, we will address how to comb through the diverse trail of translations to select an appropriate version. Finally, we will discuss how to teach the poem to those who neither know Italian nor anything about Christianity, as is increasingly the situation for the reading and student audience for the poem. Besides regular daily institute meetings and lectures outside regular class meetings, I will meet with individual NEH summer scholars at least twice during the four-week session, and visiting lecturers will also be available for consultations.

Archbishop’s Chapel, Ravenna
In addition to using Florence as a living archive, we will also visit several other medieval cities central to Dante’s formation as a poet and to the Divine Comedy. These include Siena, Assisi, and Ravenna, where Dante spent his last years and all UNESCO world heritage sites.Dante’s Divine Comedy remains a core text in the humanities curriculum. It continuously inspires new translations into English, has influenced literary traditions around the world, and occupies a central role in the popular cultural imagination. It is regularly taught in translation, particularly in English departments, in Great Books courses, and in general Humanities courses as well as in Italian and Comparative Literature.

If you teach, or want to teach, Dante in general humanities, great books,  literature, history, art history, or philosophy courses, this program is for you.

Last Judgment, Baptistry, Florence

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Institute Schedule



Primary Texts: Dante Major Works

Dante, The Divine Comedy 1: Inferno, trans. Robin Kirkpatrick (Penguin Classics, 2006). Recommended to buy.

Dante, The Divine Comedy 2: Purgatorio, trans. Robin Kirkpatrick (Penguin Classics, 2007). Recommended to buy.

Dante, The Divine Comedy 3: Paradiso, trans. Robin Kirkpatrick (Penguin Classics, 2007). Recommended to buy.

Primary Texts: Dante Minor Works

Dante, “Letter to Can Grande della Scala.” Ed. Ermenegildo Pistelli. Trans. Paget Toynbee. Testo critico della Societa’ Dantesca Italiana. Florence: Societa’ Dantesca Italiana, 1960.

Dante, Il Convivio (The Banquet). Trans. Richard Lansing. New York: Garland, l990. (dual language)

Dante, Monarchia. Ed. and trans. Prue Shaw. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Secondary Texts

Aquinas, Thomas. “Selections from Summa Theologiae,” in Inferno, ed. and trans. Anthony Esolen (New York: Modern Library, 2002): 381-97. On closed site.

Blue Guide, “Assisi,” “Ravenna,” “Siena.” On closed site.

Cambridge Companion to Dante, ed. Rachel Jacoff (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). (Selections will be available on closed site. Participants from subscribing institutions can access an e-book version.)

Frugoni, Chiara. A Day in a Medieval City, trans. William McCuaig (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005). Recommended to buy. Read before the seminar.

—. Le Storie di San Francesco: Guida agli affreschi della Basilica superiore di Assisi. Bilingual Edition (Torino: Einaudi, 2010). Recommended to buy.

Harrison, Robert Pogue. “Dante: The Most Vivid Version.” The New York Review. Vol. 60.16 (2013): 41-3. On closed site.

Keane, Monica. “Bibliographies of Dante Translations in English,” (work in progress). On closed site.

Muscolino, Cetty. “The Conservation of the Mosaics of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, 1989-1999.” Wall and Floor Mosaics: Conservation, Maintenance and Preservation. VIIIth Conference of the International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics (ICCM). Thessaloniki, 29 Oct.-3 Nov. 2002. 169-80. On closed site.

—.“On the Observation and Conservation of Mosaics in Ravenna, 5th-6th Centuries.” 43-52. On closed site.

Saint Francis of Assisi, “Canticle of Brother Sun.”

Stefanini, Ruggero. “Inscriptions in the Sala dei Nove.” On closed site.

Virgil. The Aeneid of Virgil. Trans. Allen Mandelbaum. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971. Books 4 and 6 on closed site.


Select Bibliography on closed site.


See LINKS for a list of web resources, including The Dante Society, Princeton Dante Project, Danteworlds, The World of Dante, and Dante Today.


Institute Schedule

Faculty Director BRENDA DEEN SCHILDGEN (bdschildgen@ucdavis.edu)

Time 9-1 M-F, with some days taken as field trips. There will be a twenty-minute break. There are some afternoon sessions.

Meeting Place: University of Florence, Via Capponi 9. Note: The room changes, so please check for each class meeting.


Week 1 (June 30-July 4)

Background: Dante, early works, Virgil, Florence, Politics, Economics, the Church, and Ethics

Reading for the week: Dante’s Inferno 1-22; Monday: Giuseppe Mazzotta, “Life of Dante,” pp. 1-13, CCD; John M. Najemy, “Dante and Florence,” pp. 236-56, CCD; Lino Pertile, “Introduction to Inferno,” pp. 67-90, CCD; Tuesday: Kevin Brownless, “Dante and the Classical Poets,” pp.141-60, CCD; Wednesday: Charles Till Davis, “Dante and the Empire,” pp. 257-69.

Recommended: “Letter to Can Grande della Scala;” Virgil’s Aeneid, selections; Thomas Aquinas, selections; Monarchia, Convivio, all on closed site.


Monday June 30: Introductions

Professor Peter Hawkins in residence from June 30-July 16

Read: Giuseppe Mazzotta, “Life of Dante,” pp. 1-13, CCD; John M. Najemy, “Dante and Florence,” pp. 236-56, CCD; Lino Pertile, “Introduction to Inferno,” pp. 67-90, CCD.

9:00-10:30 Aula 13

Institute faculty introduce themselves. Overview of the goals and objectives of the Institute and planned activities. Introduction to reading strategies for the Divine Comedy, and to iconographic art and literature.

11-11:30 Orientation to Florence’s archives and libraries (Schildgen).

11:30-1 Professor Lino Pertile guest speaker

“Florence in the Divine Comedy: Politics, Exile and Creativity”

3:45 PM Afternoon Private guided visit to Uffizi with Professor William Cook (when it is closed). We will meet on Via dei Neri, the tiny street between the Palazzo della Signoria and the Uffizi at the staff entrance to the museum.

Immediately following the visit to the Uffizzi, we are invited to the home of Karen Pfitzger, friend of Florence and patron of Art and Education, for an apperitivo.


Tuesday July 1

Read: Kevin Brownlee, “Dante and the Classical Poets,” pp.141-60, CCD.

9:00-11:00 Private visit to the Baptistery of San Giovanni with S. Alessandro Bicchi, Diacono della Cattedrale.

11:00-1:00 Aula 16

Inferno 1-4. (Schildgen and Hawkins)

7PM Gathering at Caffetteria delle Oblate, Via dell’ Oriuolo 26.

Wednesday July 2

Read: Charles Till Davis, “Dante and the Empire,” pp. 257-69, CCD.

9:00-11:00 Aula 13

Inferno 5-7. (Schildgen and Hawkins).

11:15-1:00 Professor David Ardagh, “Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Free Will, Ethics and Politics and Inferno 11.”


Thursday July 3

9:00-1:00 Aula 16

Inferno 8-16. (Schildgen and Hawkins).


Friday July 4

9:00-11:30 Aula 16

Inferno 17-23. (Schildgen and Hawkins)

3:30 Santa Maria Novella visit with Arch. Donatella Donatini. We meet at the Museum (Cloister) entrance on Piazza Stazione.


Week 2 (July 7-July 11)

Background: Inferno, Purgatorio, Medieval Politics, Art, and Poetry

Reading for the week: Dante’s Inferno 23-34, Purgatorio 1-24; Tuesday: Ruggero Stefanini, “Inscriptions in the Sala dei Nove.” Wednesday: Jeffrey Schnapp, “Introduction to Purgatorio,” pp. 91-106, CCD.

Recommended: “Siena,” Blue Guide.


Monday July 7

9:00-1:00 Aula 13

Inferno 24-34. (Schildgen and Hawkins)


Tuesday July 8 Siena

Read: Ruggero Stefanini, “Inscriptions in the Sala dei Nove.” On closed site; Recommended: “Siena,” Blue Guide.

Siena (We meet at the Bus station on Via S. Caterina da Siena, just off Piazza Stazione at 9 to take Florence-Siena bus, arriving Siena 10:30). You are free to leave following the

Guided tour of Palazzo Comunale and Opera del Duomo, Siena with Professor William Cook or to return to Florence at your pleasure.


Wednesday July 9

Read: Jeffrey Schnapp, “Introduction to Purgatorio,” pp. 91-106, CCD; “Florentine Illuminations for Dante’s Divine Comedy, an assessment,” in Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance, on closed site.

9:00-1:00 Aula 4

Introduction to Purgatorio 1-6. (Schildgen and Hawkins)


Thursday July 10

9:00-1:00  Aula 5

Purgatorio 7-15. (Schildgen and Hawkins)

Afternoon 2PM-3PM (two groups) :

Visit to Biblioteca Laurenziana to see 4 fourtheenth-century Commedia illuminated manuscripts.

7:00 Hosted Gathering. Place TBA

Casual conversations about approaches to teaching

General issues: pedagogy, reception, canons, great books, translation, interrelationship of the arts and sciences in the medieval and early modern periods and applications in a pedagogical setting.

Friday July 11

9:00-1:00 Aula 13

Purgatorio 16-22. (Schildgen and Hawkins)


Week 3 (July 13-July 18)

Note: Aula 16 for the remainder of the seminar

Professor Peter Hawkins continues in residence.  Professors Hawkins and Schildgen will lead the discussions.

Background: Purgatorio, the Bible, Lyric poetry, Monasticism and Medieval learning

Reading for the Week: Dante’s Purgatorio 25-33, Paradiso 1-10; Monday: Peter Hawkins, “Dante and the Bible,” pp. 125-40, CCD, Teodolinda Barolini, “Dante and the Lyric Past,” pp. 14-34, CCD; Friday: Rachel Jacoff, “Introduction to Paradiso,” pp. 107-24, CCD.

Recommended:  Chiara Frugoni,  Le Storie di San Francesco: Guida agli affreschi della Basilica superiore di Assisi; “Assisi,” Blue Guide, on closed site.


Monday July 14

Read: Peter Hawkins, “Dante and the Bible,” pp. 125-40, CCD; Teodolinda Barolini, “Dante and the Lyric Past,” pp. 14-34, CCD.

Recommended: Chiara Frugoni,  Le Storie di San Francesco: Guida agli affreschi della Basilica superiore di Assisi.

9:00-1:00 Purgatorio 23-28. (Hawkins and Schildgen)

Afternoon: 3PM We will meet at the small door to the right of the façade of Santa Croce at 3PM for a one hour tour of the church with Paola Vojnovic prior to Professor Frugoni’s talk.

4-6PM  Professor Chiara Frugoni, University of Rome, emerita, “Upper Basilica, Church of San Francesco, Assisi” at Sacristy, Pazzi Chapel at Santa Croce.

Tuesday July 15

Recommended: “Assisi,” Blue Guide.

9:00-5:00 All day visit to Assisi and a Franciscan guided visit to the Basilica of San Francesco with special attention to the Giotto frescoes in the Upper Basilica (Simone Martini, Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti, Giotto).


Wednesday July 16

9:00-1:00 Purgatorio 29-33. (Hawkins and Schildgen)

4:30 PM Visit to San Miniato, “Lecture on Monasticism: St. Benedict and St. Bernard,” with Padre Bernardo, Benedictine Monastery, San Miniato (followed by Gregorian Chant).


Thursday July 17

9:00-1:00 Paradiso 1-5 (Professor Giuseppe Mazzotta and Brenda Schildgen).


Friday July 18

Read: Rachel Jacoff, “Introduction to Paradiso,” pp. 107-24, CCD.

9:00-1:00  Paradiso 6-10 (Schildgen and William Franke)

4:00 PM Afternoon lecture OPA Centro Arte e Cultura, Aula Talenti:

Professor Giuseppe Mazzotta, Introduction to Paradiso and the encyclopedia of medieval learning.

7 PM Gathering: Place TBA


Week 4 (July 21-25)

Background: Paradiso, St. Francis, Theology and Pedagogy

Reading for the Week: Paradiso 11-33; Monday: Saint Francis of Assisi, “Canticle of Brother Sun;” A. N. Williams, “The theology of the Comedy,” pp. 201-17, CCD; Cetty Muscolino, “The Conservation of the Mosaics of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, 1989-1999” and “On the Observation and Conservation of Mosaics in Ravenna, 5th-6th Centuries;” Wednesday: David Wallace, “Dante in English,” 281-304, CCD.

Recommended: “Ravenna,” Blue Guide.


Monday July 21

Read: Saint Francis of Assisi, “Canticle of Brother Sun”; A. N. Williams, “The theology of the Comedy,” pp. 201-17, CCD. Cetty Muscolino, “The Conservation of the Mosaics of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, 1989-1999” and “On the Observation and Conservation of Mosaics in Ravenna, 5th-6th Centuries.”

9:00-11:45 Paradiso 11-18. (Schildgen and Franke)

12-1:00 Professor William Franke, “Self-Reflection and the Theological Apotheosis of Lyric in the Paradiso.”


Tuesday July 22

Recommended: “Ravenna,” Blue Guide.

8:00-5:00 All day guided trip to Ravenna and its Paleo-Christian monuments.

Cetty Muscolino, Direttrice Museo Nazionale di Ravenna Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici e Paesaggistici
per le province di Ravenna, Ferrara, Forlì-Cesena, Rimini
, with Carla Muschio as translator


Wednesday July 23

Read: David Wallace, “Dante in English,” 281-304, CCD.

9:00-1:00 Paradiso 19-27.


Thursday July 24

9:00-1:00 Paradiso 30-33.

Closing Session and Summations


Evening Closing gathering at the Institute director’s house.


Faculty and Participants


Institute Faculty

Professor Brenda Schildgen As a medievalist in Comparative Literature with training in biblical studies and theology, I am author of numerous essays on Dante and the NEH-supported Dante and the Orient (now translated into Arabic and Italian). I have experience teaching the Comedy to all levels of undergraduate and graduate students in Comparative Literature, who may or may not have had Italian language training, and to general humanities students at various types of institutions, including a community college, a four-year college, and a research university. I also have taught American students in Florence as part of my summer class “Florence and the Birth of Modern Europe” with the UC Education Abroad Program. As a medievalist reading the Comedy, I situate the poem in its larger pan-European context, and even in its reception history beyond Italy and the Middle Ages. I have intimate knowledge of the city of Florence, having spent at least two months there every year for the last ten years.  (Prof. Schildgen Resume).

Professor Peter Hawkins will be in residence for two and a half weeks when he will co-lead the Institute with me. During this time, we will focus on Inferno and Purgatory. As a professor of Religion and Literature at Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music, Worship, and the Arts, Professor Hawkins’ approach to the Comedy is to feature the respective roles of religion (and more particularly the Bible itself), music, liturgy, the arts, and ethics. He has taught the Comedy to specialists and non-specialists on the undergraduate and graduate levels. He is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on the Christian tradition and literature, on the Bible, and on Dante. In his book, Dante’s Testaments: Essays in Scriptural Imagination, he explores Dante’s use and relationship to the Bible and the Roman pagan poets in the Comedy.His Dante, a Brief History(Blackwell) provides an excellent introduction to Dante’s life and works. (Prof. Hawkins Resume)


Guest Lecturers

Professor David Ardagh, author of more than thirty articles on Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, ethics, and moral philosophy, is senior research fellow at Charles Sturt University, University of Melbourne, and Australian University. (Prof. Ardagh Resume)

Professor William Franke, presently teaching at the University of Macao, is professor of Comparative Literature and Italian at Vanderbilt University. He has published numerous books on Dante including the following most recently Dante and the Sense of Transgression: ‘The Trespass of the Sign’ and Poetry and Apocalypse: Theological Disclosures of Poetic Language. (Prof. Franke Resume)

Professor Chiara Frugoni, whose focus is medieval art and history, is emeritus professor of Medieval History, University of Rome. She is an expert on St. Francis and the art produced by his history. Among her books are Francesco e l’invenzione delle stimmate, which won the Viareggio Prize for Non-fiction in 1994, Vita di un uomo: Francesco d’Assisi; La Voce delle immagini: Pillole delle immagini, and A Day in A Medieval City. (Prof. Frugoni Resume)

Professor Giuseppe Mazzotta, guest lecturer on several occasions, is known for having shaped the debate on Dante’s far-ranging intellect in which poetry becomes theology and theology poetry. Professor Mazzotta is a noted international Dante scholar, and author of several books. Among these are Dante, Poet of the Desert and Dante’s Vision and the Circle of Knowledge, as well as over a hundred articles, mostly dedicated to Dante and other Italian literary subjects. He has taught Dante successfully to students from the freshman year to the PhD, and to general humanities students as well as to PhD candidates in Italian. Professor Mazzotta’s course, Dante in Translation, is available to the broader public on Open Yale Courses. In addition, he has led NEH Institutes in which the NEH summer scholars have gone on to teach Dante (as well as Petrarch and Boccaccio) to undergraduates or to publish articles and books on the poet. (Prof. Mazzotta Resume)

Professor Lino Pertile, who will introduce us to Inferno,  is currently director of Villa I Tatti, Harvard University’s Center for Renaissance Studies in Florence. He has published extensively on Dante. Among his books are the critical edition of the 16th century commentary on Dante, Annotationi nel Dante fatte con M. Triphon Gabriele  and La puttana e il gigante: dal Cantico dei Cantici al Paradiso terrestre di Dante, which won the Premio Zingarelli. (Prof. Pertile Resume)


All faculty and summer institute scholars will follow the NEH principles of civility:

The Endowment’s Seminars, Institutes, and Workshops are intended to extend and deepen knowledge and understanding of the humanities by focusing on significant topics, texts, and issues; contribute to the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; and foster a community of inquiry that provides models of excellence in scholarship and teaching.

NEH expects that project directors will take responsibility for encouraging an ethos of openness and respect, upholding the basic norms of civil discourse. Seminar, Institute, and Workshop presentations and discussions should be:

1. firmly grounded in rigorous scholarship, and thoughtful analysis;

2. conducted without partisan advocacy;

3. respectful of divergent views;

4. free of ad hominem commentary; and

5. devoid of ethnic, religious, gender or racial bias.

NEH welcomes comments, concerns, or suggestions on these principles at info@neh.gov. The NEH principles of civility can be found at http://www.neh.gov/grants/principles-civility


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