This series aims to introduce the beauty, complexity and continuing significance of Dante’s Divina Commedia through readings of the text, in the original and in translation, and through commentary on it. The readings are accompanied by a rich visual display of medieval illuminations whilst the commentary explores and invites discussion of some of the leading ideas of the poem. Each session will begin by displaying a different printed edition from UCL’s rare-book collections.

The series is organised and presented by Alessandro Scafi (Warburg), John Took (UCL) and Tabitha Tuckett (UCL and University Of Manchester) in a partnership between the Warburg Institute and University College London.

Between October 2023 and March 2024: Wednesday evenings from 19:00 to 20:30 (online).

AUTUMN TERM 2023

  • 25 October - Introducing Dante. Dante’s world, life and works. 
  • 1 November - Inferno, Canto I. The dark wood and wild animals. The appearance of Virgil. 
  • 8 November - Inferno, Canto V. The lustful. Paolo and Francesca. 
  • 22 November - Inferno, Canto XIII. The suicides. Pier della Vigna. 
  • 29 November - Inferno, Canto XXVI and Canto XXVII. The evil counsellors. Ulysses and Guido da Montefeltro. 
  • 6 December - Inferno, Canto XXXIII and Canto XXXIV. Count Ugolino and Centre of Hell. Lucifer. 


SPRING TERM 2024

  • 10 January - Purgatorio, Canto XVI.58-105; Canto XVII.91-105; and Canto XVIII.13-75. The moral structure of Purgatory; the nature of love and its relation to free will. 
  • 17 January - Purgatorio, Canto I and Canto II.106-132. Dante and Virgil emerge from the abyss of Hell on the shore of Mount Purgatory. Cato. The ritual of purification. Casella. 
  • 24 January - Purgatorio, Canto X.1-45 and Canto XI.1-117. The First Cornice: the proud. The Lord’s Prayer; Omberto Aldobrandeschi; Oderisi da Gubbio. 
  • 31 January - Purgatorio, Canto XXX. Appearance of Beatrice on the chariot of the Church. 
  • 7 February - Purgatorio, Canto XXXIII. Beatrice’s prophesies. The final ritual of Dante’s spiritual cleansing. 
  • 21 February - Paradiso, Canto I. Ascent to the heaven of fire. 
  • 28 February - Paradiso, Canto III. Heaven of the moon. Piccarda Donati.
  • 6 March - Paradiso, Canto XI. Thomas Aquinas. Francis of Assisi. 
  • 13 March - Paradiso, Canto XVII. Heaven of Mars. Cacciaguida. 
  • 20 March - Paradiso, Canto XXXIII. The Empyrean. The vision of the Trinity.


SUMMER TERM 2024

Additional in-person discussion evenings:

  • Weds 1st May 2024 [18:00-20:00] - Dante’s Hell. BOOK THIS SESSION
  • Weds 15th May 2024 [18:00-20:00] - Dante’s Purgatory. BOOK THIS SESSION
  • Weds 22nd May 2024 [18:00-20:00] - Dante’s Heaven. BOOK THIS SESSION
  • Tuesday 4th June 2023 [17:30-19:00] - Rare and early editions from the Dante Collection of UCL Library Special Collections. BOOK THIS SESSION


A preliminary reading list:

Translations into English of the Divina Commedia

  • The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, translated by Charles Eliot Norton, 3 vols, Boston and New York: The Riverside Press, 1892 (various reprints). 
  • The Divine Comedy, Italian text with translation by John D. Sinclair, 3 vols, New York: Oxford University Press, 1939 and 1961 (with reprints). 
  • The Divine Comedy, translated with a commentary, by Charles S. Singleton, 6 vols, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970 (published in England by Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971). 
  • The Divine Comedy, translated by Allen Mandelbaum (with an introduction by Eugenio Montale and notes by Peter Armour), New York, London and Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. 
  • The Divine Comedy, translated with an introduction, notes and commentary by Mark Musa, Bloomington: Indiana University Press,1997–. 
  • The Divine Comedy, translated by Robin Kirkpatrick, 3 vols, London: Penguin Books, 2006- (combined in one volume with a revised introduction, 2012).

Introductions to Dante’s life and work

  • Barbi, Michele, Life of Dante (translated and edited by Paul G. Ruggiers), Berkeley: University of California Press, 1954 (originally Vita di Dante, Florence: Sansoni, 1933 and 1965).
  • Bemrose, Stephen, A New Life of Dante, Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2000 (with a revised edition in 2014).
  • Hainsworth, Peter and Robey, David, Dante: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Hawkins, Peter S., Dante. A Brief History, Malden (MA) and Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.
  • Hollander, Robert, Dante. A Life in Works, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001.
  • Holmes, George, Dante, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.
  • Santagata, Marco, Dante. The Story of his Life, translated by Richard Dixon, Cambrige, Mass.: Harvard University Press (the Belknap Press), 2016 (from the Italian Dante: il romanzo della sua vita, Milan: Mondadori, 2012).
  • Scott, John Alfred, Understanding Dante, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004.
  • Shaw, Prue, Reading Dante. From Here to Eternity, New York: Liveright, 2014.
  • Took, John, Why Dante Matters. An Intelligent Person’s Guide, Bloomsbury Continuum: London, 2020.