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Dante's Divine Comedy

Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

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.


Dates: June 28–August 2 (5 weeks)
Director(s): William A. Stephany, University of Vermont, and Ronald Herzman, SUNY Geneseo
Grantee Institutions: University of Vermont
Location: Siena, Italy
Information: Ronald Herzman
Department of English
State University of New York, Geneseo
1 College Circle
Geneseo, NY 14454
(585) 245-5273

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. An NEH Summer Seminar for school teachers enables sixteen participants to explore a topic or set of readings with an expert scholar. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


Full-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply to NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens. Librarians and school administrators may also be eligible.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one. Eligibility criteria differ significantly between NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes and NEH Landmarks Workshops.

Please note: Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are available for current graduate students, who intend to pursue careers in K-12 teaching.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.