In the last several decades, much important work in Dante studies has focused on intertexuality and on “reading Dante with Dante.” These approaches have not, however, treated the lived experience of Dante’s texts, their performative context. Dante’s writings were addressed to audiences that heard texts as often as they read them, and transmitted them by memorization as well as with the pen. Civic and religious rituals – the Mass and the Office, banquets and festal processions, marriage rites, church councils, royal entries, peace treaties, and the ceremonies of the law courts, universities, and trade guilds – filled the calendar, occasions on which spectacle, word, and gesture were joined. These contexts variously inform Dante’s works: the whole Convivio is conceived as a banquet of wisdom, as is, in a sense, the Paradiso. The Comedy as a whole appropriates catholic liturgy to enact an exodus from a corrupt Florence to “a city just and hale,” but the native city itself and its strife-torn history never cease to act as significant frames of reference for the poem. Many of these aspects of the poet’s work remain unread, and this conference, gathering both senior and junior scholars working in a range of interdisciplinary approaches intends to remedy this omission and open new dimensions to understanding Dante.
The conference is supported by Brown University and the Dante Society and sponsored by the C. V. Starr Foundation Lectureship. Registration is not required and there is no fee for attending.