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Dante and His Divine Comedy by Timothy B. Shutt

Dante and His Divine Comedy

by Timothy B. Shutt

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Unabridged Edition
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8 Hrs.
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By near universal agreement, Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy stands very high among the greatest literary works ever written. This may come as a surprise, because Dante is best known for the Inferno, the first cantica of the Commedia, which is, by any standard, fairly grim in some respects. If you think of Dante with the Inferno primarily in mind, then it may be hard to imagine what it is that makes the Commedia such an enduring work of art. But the Commedia, as a whole, is about the afterlife, not just Hell, but Purgatory, and Heaven too. Dante's genius is the genius of the allegorical method. In talking about his journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, Dante is talking about the whole course of human life. The Commedia is, in the first instance, an account of Dante's own salvation. In midlife, he was beset by deep depression and doubt. He was a reasonably prosperous and highly esteemed Florentine citizen, ambitious and well aware of the unsurpassed gifts with which he had been blessed. And then, in a coup d'état engineered by his enemies, French forces with papal backing took over in Florence, and Dante found himself not only exiled - but condemned to death in absentia. If the Florentines caught him, he would be burned alive. At a stroke he lost everything - except for his fame, his ambition, and his talent. Dante had lost his way and, it may be, he lost his faith. He found himself, as he tells us, "in a dark wood where the straight way was lost" (Inferno 1.2–3). The Commedia chronicles how he got out. But in chronicling his own recovery, indeed his salvation, Dante not only provides us with an autobiography, he also suggests that not only the problems he confronts, but the means by which he overcomes them, are in some sense universal. He is talking not just about himself, but about everybody, about all Christian history, and about non-Christian history as well. In talking about his salvation, he is talking about the salvation of his readers too. All things considered, Dante is arguably the best guide to life this side of unambiguously sacred scriptures, and generations of students have, on the whole, agreed. And even if such purported guidance leaves you unconvinced or untempted, he is still, by even the most skeptical judgment, one of the greatest poets who has ever lived. Ultimately, Professor Shutt's course will impart listeners with a new appreciation of Dante and this timeless work of literature.

Lecture 1 Dante: His Life and Times

Lecture 2 The Structure of the Commedia

Lecture 3 The Dark Wood

Lecture 4 The Gates of Hell

Lecture 5 The City of Dis

Lecture 6 Malebolge

Lecture 7 Cocytus and Satan

Lecture 8 The Shore of Purgatory

Lecture 9 The Seven Terraces

Lecture 10 The Earthly Paradise

Lecture 11 The Lower Heavens

Lecture 12 To the Sun and Beyond

Lecture 13 The Eagle of Justice

Lecture 14 To the Heaven of Pure Light

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