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The Divine Comedy: Dante's Journey to Freedom, Part 2 (Purgatorio)
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The Divine Comedy: Dante's Journey to Freedom, Part 2 (Purgatorio)

Course Description:

Now I shall sing the second kingdom,there where the soul of man is cleansed,made worthy to ascend to Heaven.-Purgatorio, Canto I, lines 4-6 While Hell is “black, confined, stinking, noisy, and suffocating, the great Mountain of Purgatory rises in pure sunlit solitude out of the windswept southern sea.” (Sayers, Purgatorio; Introduction)  Dante has undergone a conversion which has, literally, turned his world upside down. Sadly, the majority of Dante’s readers do not accompany him beyond his escape from the Inferno, in part, perhaps, because of an instinctive anticipation that when the excitement of adventure is over, then the hard work of maturation must begin. Indeed, there is work aplenty on Mount Purgatorio, but there is also so much more. There is day and night, labor and rest, waking and dreaming, all the rhythms of diurnal living; but above all, there is the delight of hope. All that the penitent souls suffer here, they undergo in the eagerness of passionate yearning to be healed of the wounds of sin inflicted on them as part of the universal heritage of humanity. Purgatory is a “school of contemplation,” where the healing of wounds coincides with learning to suffer the weight of responsibility for one’s own identity as a person. For those willing to undertake the steep ascent of Dante’s seven-story Mountain, nowhere in the legacy of human culture is the process of becoming a “whole person” more closely observed or rendered with deeper psychological and social insight than in the cantos of Dante’s Purgatorio. For us as modern readers, Mount Purgatorio is a steep ascent indeed, and if fewer of us accept this challenging invitation than do for the careen through Hell, then it should come as no surprise for us to learn of the untold years, centuries perhaps, that the souls whom Dante meets there require to complete their climb. A realistic willingness to suffer consciously and voluntarily, motivated by authentic hope, is hardly recognized as a possibility by most of us today for whom security and prosperity are accepted as the unqualified goals of our striving. Even to consider an alternative of the sort which Dante offers us in the Purgatorio is already a notable achievement, but one which the imaginative power of Dante’s poetry here places within our reach. Do not let the opportunity pass you by. In this course, you will be asked to participate in learning activities on both edX and on MyDante, an innovative platform for deep reading that emphasizes mindfulness and contemplative reading habits as key to deriving lasting meaning from poetic texts. The pedagogical approach of the course goes beyond mere academic commentary on the poem as literature; it introduces the reader to a way of thinking about the meaning of the poem at a personal level. This module is the second of three modules that compose the full course. A module on the Vita Nuova and Inferno will launch on October 15, 2014, and the concluding module on Paradiso will launch in April 2015. This course features Robert and Jean Hollander's contemporary translations of Dante Alighieri's Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, permission courtesy of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. The print editions contain valuable notes and commentary which are highly recommended as companions to the course materials.

  • Instructor(s) Frank Ambrosio, Francesco Ciabattoni and others
  • University
  • Provider
  • Start Date 25/Mar/2015
  • Duration 5 weeks
  • Main Language English
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