How did you find Dante?

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How did you find Dante?

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1haftime
Redigerat: aug 9, 2006, 6:35 am

DoctorRobert over at Donne Afficionadoes originally asked this question there, but I think it's appropriate for this group, too. Did you first read Dante in school? If so, was it this experience that made you want to read more/ more deeply, or was it a later reconnection? Or did you perhaps discover Dante some other way?

I originally read Inferno during senior year of high school (at about 17 yrs old). I was intrigued at the time, so when I saw the following year in college that a professor of Theology occasionally offered a Dante seminar, I was intrigued. I asked him if he'd get to teach it during the four years I was there, and his response was to ask the department head. So I did a little campaigning, and by my senior year, I got to take the course, one on one with this professor. That was a very interesting experience, because reading Dante with a scholar of religion is very different that reading him with a scholar of literature (which had happened in a class earlier in my college career).

2Freder1ck
aug 5, 2006, 11:22 pm

I had dropped out of college and had been reading widely, including Theological Styles, which discussed Dante, Peguy, and others. So, I read the Divine Comedy in the shadow of a statue of Dante in Washington, DC. As a middle school teacher, however, I plan to offer students a couple of morsels of Dante to whet their appetite.

3lilithcat
aug 5, 2006, 11:38 pm

You know, I could have sworn I'd responded to this already! I must have been dreaming.

Anyway, Margaret Annan, my high school English teacher, led me to Dante. We read Inferno, in the Dorothy L. Sayers translation. Thank heavens for her notes! I loved it, but didn't follow up on the rest of the Divine Comedy until one summer, years later, when I read the entire thing.

Now I'm studying Italian. Maybe one day I'll read it in the original.

4haftime
aug 6, 2006, 8:17 am

yes, you did respond already, lilithcat. i accidentally posted it twice, and of course you can't delete a messed up post. i've mentioned it to tim, though, and they're working on it. so whether we discuss it on this post (where i made a typo) or the other, it's fine!

Freder1ck, i love that you're going to whet your students' appetites on dante! too often, younger kids aren't introduced to "meatier" authors because people think they can't handle it. but in italy, young students have been reading dante for years! bravo.

5jbd1
aug 6, 2006, 8:37 am

I came at Dante a bit obliquely - while I knew of and was interested in him all through high school and most of college, I never had actually read or studied the work. It was after reading Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club, which I absolutely devourted, that I decided I had to read the real thing, and did (using the Longfellow translation first and then some others). Now I'm hooked, of course!

6lilithcat
aug 6, 2006, 12:04 pm


Thanks, haftime! Good to know that I'm not losing my mind! ~smile~

7Freder1ck
aug 6, 2006, 8:41 pm

Haftime,
in Italy, the students have an advantage in that they speak Italian!

And here's a high school group in San Francisco that reads Dante outside of class: http://www.danteclub2006.com/

8haftime
aug 7, 2006, 9:40 am

well of course they do! i only meant that the young kids there are not thought unable to handle the subject matter. and it being a very latinate italian, even native speakers find it difficult, much as we do shakespeare.

9haftime
aug 9, 2006, 6:38 am

lilithcat, after editing the typo on this version of the post, i deleted the duplicate. i recommend that you do the same, so we can just have one thread of this discussion on the dantisti boards.

i'm still curious how the rest of our members discovered dante!

10sagespot
aug 9, 2006, 7:19 am

To be honest, I can't honestly remember when Dante came into my life...it feels like he's always been there. I think my father read to me from The Inferno when I was maybe 12 or so.

At University I spent about three months breaking down The Inferno for a class about Gods and Death.

11lilithcat
aug 9, 2006, 3:04 pm

Done! I'm so glad that we now have the "edit" and "delete" options.

12Dydo
aug 11, 2006, 4:55 pm

Freder1ck: I love the fact that you're going to expose middle schoolers to him. :D

OP: I was exposed to Dante in a strange manner. Well, I had known of him before this instance, but wasn't very interested in him before FlaRF put on an Inferno mudshow.

Ever since then, it's been love.

13ithuriel
aug 14, 2006, 3:17 am

What is middle school?

14haftime
aug 14, 2006, 9:33 am

Middle school comes between elementary and high school. It usually comprises grades 6 to 8, or ages (approx.) 12 to 14. That was my school district, anyway (in Seattle, Washington). In middle school, kids move from the elementary school style of one teacher teaching most of the academic subjects (like math and reading) to a schedule of several different classes with different teachers for different subjects. I hope that helps clarify, and if anybody has anything to add, please do! (especially Freder1ck, who actually teaches middle school!)

15ithuriel
aug 16, 2006, 12:37 am

Thank you, halftime. The term "middle school" has always confused me and seemed to mean whatever the particular school district wished it to mean. Your note on moving from a single to several instructors is helpful. I asked because reading here about young students attempting Dante reminded me of a professor of comparative literature who once told me that teaching Shakespeare to high school students " is like feeding an infant a steak." What is the intent of teaching Dante to a 6-8 grader?

16Dydo
Redigerat: aug 16, 2006, 8:12 am

*cough*

ithuriel:
"I asked because reading here about young students attempting Dante reminded me of a professor of comparative literature who once told me that teaching Shakespeare to high school students " is like feeding an infant a steak." What is the intent of teaching Dante to a 6-8 grader?"

Just want to point out that I've been reading Shakespeare (and capable of) since I was in elementary school - may not be the 'norm', but people read to the level you teach them. I was even a capable enough reader that I could decide whether or not I liked the writing (or certain aspects there of) from more than the 'pretty pictures at the beginning of chapters' in my textbooks.
If you continue to mess around with The Giving Tree or Lucy Lobster and her Clacky Claws throughout middle and high school, how do you expect children/students to grow? Some (perhaps most) kids may not be capable of fully comprehending certain pieces of writing/writers (i.e. Shakespeare, Dante) on their own: This is why there are teachers (brave ones like Freder1ck). Obviously more challenging work isn't right for *all* groups of young students, but a teacher can usually tell whether or not they're 'ready' or 'capable'.
I didn't eat steak as an infant, but that's just because I didn't like it. I just don't agree that students should be limited in school based on their age. (Not a cut at you, this is just a subject I'm passionate about, so I apologize if this came out snappy.)

17lilithcat
aug 16, 2006, 12:35 pm

Obviously more challenging work isn't right for *all* groups of young students, but a teacher can usually tell whether or not they're 'ready' or 'capable'.

I agree! And there is nothing wrong, either, with introducing young children to Shakespeare and other classics through versions designed for younger audiences. While some are pretty bad, they're not all "dumbed down".

18Freder1ck
aug 16, 2006, 6:24 pm

The main method of teaching Shakespeare in 6-12th is through performance, which is a far cry from the literary analysis of the ivory tower. One can also introduce students to small bits (like Queen Mab from Romeo and Juliet, a song from The Tempest, or a soliloquy).

Why teach Dante or Shakespeare to younger students? It exposes them to major works of Western culture. It "breaks the ice" with a name that may intimidate them. Best of all, students get to engage directly with authors that reflected broadly and deeply about the human condition.

I'm all for classic comics also.

19ithuriel
aug 17, 2006, 5:09 am

This professor really did mean an infant. A newborn. One incapable of eating a steak. To him, it was not a question of introducing or ice-breaking; of liking or dumbing-down. He simply believed that the themes, situations, characters and relationships were beyond the ken of younger readers. My own experience inclines me now to agree with him.

I would note that he was speaking only of classroom instruction. What he thought of performance I have no idea. As Freder1ck notes, performance is quite different. He may have liked it.

20Freder1ck
aug 18, 2006, 7:32 pm

Performance is a teaching method, but one seldom used by curmudgeons, who prefer lectures and poorly prepared PowerPoints.

5th graders do Hamlet

21Dydo
aug 19, 2006, 1:41 am

Oh, the majesty of the PowerPoint.

22haftime
aug 19, 2006, 4:27 pm

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

23ithuriel
Redigerat: aug 20, 2006, 12:56 am

Curmudgeons? 5th graders doing Hamlet? Sorry, but not following you, Freder1ck.

24Freder1ck
aug 20, 2006, 2:02 pm

In general, college profs (curmudgeons) tend to use a much narrower array of teaching methods than teachers of 6th-12th graders. For the profs, teaching is equivalent to lecturing, or at most using PowerPoint.

So, click on the link to the 5th graders doing Hamlet and watch the trailer for that program (it's on the right side, just beneath the pictoral montage and the white text against a red background); or better yet, find a local listing to watch the entire program.

As James Baldwin once observed: “Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it"

25Dydo
aug 20, 2006, 6:39 pm

Haha, James Baldwin.

26Ilmarinen Första inlägget
aug 27, 2006, 9:20 am

I read The Dante Club two years ago (bought and read it while on vacation in Venice actually), and I think it was after reading it I went on to read the divine comedy.

The first version I read was actually a Norwegian edition (I think it's the only available edition) which only included 34 cantos (most of them from inferno of course) - the rest were chopped away.

Btw, its introduction says that all the rhyming nouns in the original version are feminine, something that's natural in Italian - is this true?

27lilithcat
aug 27, 2006, 11:02 pm

its introduction says that all the rhyming nouns in the original version are feminine, something that's natural in Italian - is this true?

The nouns aren't all feminine, but the rhymes are; that is, the last syllable is unstressed. And that is natural in Italian, where words are generally stressed on the penultimate vowel.

28Ilmarinen
aug 28, 2006, 12:10 pm

Ah, I guess I remembered it wrong then. Thanks for the info! Are masculine nouns stressed on the last syllable then?

29lilithcat
aug 28, 2006, 1:40 pm

Are masculine nouns stressed on the last syllable then?

Not generally. Antepenultimate stress is the norm for most Italian words, be they adjectives, nouns, verbs, and be they masculine or feminine. There are some exceptions, but that's the general rule.

30Ilmarinen
aug 28, 2006, 4:43 pm

Oops, I meant masculine rhymes, not nouns.

31lilithcat
aug 28, 2006, 4:50 pm

Oops, I meant masculine rhymes, not nouns.

Oh! Then, yes, they are.

32aluvalibri
okt 13, 2006, 8:15 am

Oh well, I just stumbled into this group, and I am happy to be here!
As a native of the country that produced Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio and sooo many other literary giants, I first "really" met Dante when I was eleven years old. Yes, that is when we begin reading some part of La Divina Commedia, usually 'Paolo e Francesca', 'Farinata', 'Ulisse',
'Caronte'.
But I had met Dante before, when as a small child I spent hours looking at the wonderful drawing by Gustave Dore`illustrating my favourite edition of the book, which beloinged to my mother and now graces my library.
It is not an easy book, not even for a native speaker, quite the opposite, and, forgive me for saying this, even more difficult to read than Shakespeare is for a native speaker of English, perhaps also because Dante Alighieri lived three centuries before.
I have at least four copies of the book, one of which I got very recently, for my birthday, with very detailed notes and a wonderful introduction.
Giovanni Boccaccio himself wrote a comment to La Divina Commedia, which is very interesting reading. I have no idea whether that has been translated into English.
Speaking of English translations of the Commedia, I think one of the best is by Allen Mandelbaum.
On the whether or not it should be read by young children I am in doubt. It is not an easy book, full as it is of reference to the history and politics of the time, not to mention the theology in the Paradiso. However, it all depends on the interest and maturity of the reader.

33Mithalogica
dec 21, 2009, 10:29 pm

I have read Dante 'academically' twice now, beginning with The Purgatorio several years ago. I have just finished reading all of the Commedia (together with La Vita Nuova and the Aeneid) with a tremendously well-versed, passionate, and dedicated lifelong Dante scholar, and it was an amazing experience. I'm a grad student in Medieval Studies, and Dante's work really encapsulates a lot of the thought and reality of the late 13th C.

I will be doing my thesis work on the theology of eating in the Commedia - I think it's one of the most poignant and undiscovered threads in the trilogy. I am a newcomer here, though, and I hope to have lots of exciting discussions with all of you!

34aluvalibri
dec 21, 2009, 10:32 pm

What you say is quite interesting, raven_moon and, by the way, welcome to the group!

35TheoClarke
dec 22, 2009, 8:22 am

I was first introduced to Dante in the very early 1980s by a friend who was translating and illustrating Inferno but I really got engrossed by the Divine Comedy when another friend and I started writing a List of cultural references in The Divine Comedy for Wikpedia.

36LesMiserables
sep 14, 2017, 3:25 am

>3 lilithcat:

Sayers' notes are legendary.

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