Friday, 13 November 2015

Review: The Great Courses: Dante’s Divine Comedy

Professors: William Cook and Ronald Herzman

The professors work in tandem to impart their extensive knowledge of the Divine Comedy.  The set consists of 24 lectures, with four lectures of set up (one going over editions, one on Dante the poet and two on his literary influences), seven on Inferno, five on Purgatory, and seven on Paradiso.

Given the complexity of the poem, the lectures focus more on the skills you need to puzzle out the meanings of the various cantos on your own.  In some cases they show you how to read the poem so that you get the most out of it.  For some of the most important and/or difficult cantos, they look in more depth, sometimes spending the entire lecture on one or two cantos.

There’s a lot more regional politics in the poem than I expected, and the poem itself is much more interconnected and complex than I understood.  This is a series to watch, and rewatch, numerous times - before, during and after you read them poem - so you can get the most out of the poem and better understand what Dante was saying.

I started reading Inferno before I watched the first lectures and was amazed at how much I missed, even with the fantastic end notes of the translation I used.  There’s just so much there. 

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