Professor Mazzotta begins this lecture by recapitulating the ambivalent nature of Ulysses' sin and its relevance to Dante's poetic project. Inferno XXVII is then read in conjunction with the preceding canto. The antithetical relationship between Dante's false counselors, Ulysses and Guido da Montefeltro, anchors an overarching discussion of the relationship between rhetoric and politics. The latter half of the lecture is devoted to Inferno XXVIII, where Dante's preeminent sower of discord, Bertran de Born, introduces the principle of the contrapasso. The law of retribution that governs Dante's Inferno is discussed in light of classical and contemporary theories of justice/crime and punishment. In conclusion, the opening of Inferno XXIX is read as a retrospective gloss on the limitations of retributive justice.
Dante, Inferno: XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII
September 30, 2008
The course is an introduction to Dante and his cultural milieu through a critical reading of the Divine Comedy and selected minor works (Vita nuova, Convivio, De vulgari eloquentia, Epistle to Cangrande). An analysis of Dante's autobiography, the Vita nuova, establishes the poetic and political circumstances of the Comedy's composition. Readings of Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise seek to situate Dante's work within the intellectual and social context of the late Middle Ages, with special attention paid to political, philosophical and theological concerns. Topics in the Divine Comedy explored over the course of the semester include the relationship between ethics and aesthetics; love and knowledge; and exile and history.
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 75 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2008. The original name of this course is Dante in Translation.