A five-week seminar for sixteen school teachers on Dante's Commedia, to be held in Siena, Italy.
This seminar immerses participants in studying Dante's Divine Comedy in its historical, political, theological, philosophic, and artistic contexts, under the direction of William Stephany (University of Vermont) and Ronald Herzman (State University of New York at Geneseo). In addition to exploring the Middle Ages and how the poem reflects its period of creation, the seminar examines Dante's responses to recurrent human concerns: the potential for good and evil, the possibilities for spiritual transformation, the nature and purpose of political institutions, and reasons for reading and writing. Meeting four times a week in three-hour sessions, participants examine at most five cantos per session, allowing them to "crawl through the text," building canto on canto, and thereby to read and discuss the poem as carefully and completely as possible. The co-directors point out that by setting the seminar in Siena, a town that has preserved its medieval character, "we coordinate the study of Dante's text with the study of relevant artistic monuments [and topographical elements] in an ongoing way." Dante's native Florence is easily accessible from Siena; additionally, scholar-led trips have been organized to relevant sites in Rome, Orvieto, Ravenna, and Assisi. The three-volume facing-page translation of the Commedia by Robert Durling and Ronald Martinez serves as the principal text for the seminar. The directors orient participants to online resources for Dante study and provide a small traveling reference library of secondary materials for the teachers to use, in addition to arranging for participants to have access to all University of Siena faculty libraries as visiting scholars. Participants give group presentations and complete written projects.