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ITAL3816 Dante's Divine Comedy: a medieval masterpiece for the modern world

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 option in the ITLNB Italian Studies; ITLNI Italian Studies; ITLNA Italian Studies major sequences
  • Level 3 elective
This unit is a study of the Inferno, the first part of one of the great works of world literature, Dante's Divine Comedy. The unit focusses on the structure of the work and the nature and meaning of Dante's journey through the otherworld. From the first line, Dante states that his individual journey is actually the universal journey of the human condition. Though it is now 700 years since the Comedy was completed, interest in Dante continues to grow. The unit will analyse what this medieval masterpiece, so deeply rooted in the Italy of Dante's own time, has to say that appeals to modern readers. The focus will be on the themes of good and evil; suffering, justice and mercy; Church and State; freedom and desire; and how Dante finds poetic expression for the deepest questions that are part of the human condition.
Students are able to (1) demonstrate understanding of this medieval text and its relevance to the contemporary world; (2) relate single episodes in the text to the overall structure; (3) critically compare medieval and modern attitudes to questions of individual morality and social co-existence; and (4) analyse how Dante reworked biblical, classical, mythological and contemporary figures to construct his poetic universe.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) in-class presentation; (2) research essay; and (3) participation in tutorials and online forum. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor John Kinder
Unit rules
any Level 2 Italian unit or approval of Convener
Contact hours
Up to 3 hours per week.

Dante, Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. Any edition that contains an English translation.





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  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.