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C LIT 252 B: Introduction to Comparative Literature: Genres

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
MGH 231
Joint Sections: 
ITAL 262 A
Beatrice Arduini

Syllabus Description:

Intro to Genres: Dante and the Middle Ages

C LIT 252 B, ITAL 262 A

Autumn 2018


Instructor: Professor Beatrice Arduini

Office Hours: M 12:30-1:20 and W 3:30-4:30 (PDL 249)


Class meets: MW 1:30-3:20 (MGH 231)


Course description:

This course is devoted to one of the most fascinating and influential masterpieces of Western literature, Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Dante's poem relates one man's journey from the dark wood of error to the vision of truth, but as readers we not only observe the pilgrim's journey through the afterlife, we participate in it as well. We encounter questions about the nature of evil, the possibility for spiritual improvement, and the experience of true happiness, and we discover surprising parallels with our own time. Readings of Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso seek to situate Dante's work within the intellectual and social context of the late Middle Ages, with special attention to political, philosophical and theological concerns. Taught in English.


Learning objectives:

  • Introduce the major currents of thirteen-century Italian literature and the main historical events of that period of time
  • Discuss Dante’s major work, with particular emphasis on the historical and aesthetic significance of the Divine Comedy in the history of Medieval literature and European culture
  • Improve critical thinking, reading, writing skills while examining some episodes of the poem using a variety of media.

Classroom work and discussions, audio and visual materials provided by the instructor, and structured and creative assignments will facilitate the student’s achievement of the goals of the course.


Required Books:

Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, translated by Allen Mandelbaum: all volumes Bantam Classics (Inferno 1980, Purgatorio 1982, and Paradiso 1984), OR any edition with footnotes and endnotes.



Guy P. Raffa, The Complete Danteworlds. University of Chicago Press, 2009.


Danteworlds (University of Texas at Austin)

Digital Dante (Columbia University)

The World of Dante (University of Virginia)

The Dante Society of America


Course requirements and grading:

  • 10% Participation: the course requires steady attendance and preparation of readings. Come to class prepared to discuss the representative sins (or virtues) in each canto, and the representative characters of each canto. You should also be prepared to describe, for each canto, the relevant contrapasso (in the case of the Inferno), or the penitential sort of contrapasso (in the Purgatorio), or the relationship between a character’s history and his or her position in Heaven (in the Paradiso). It is essential that you read the cantos thoroughly and carefully, and use the endnotes of your edition of the Divine Comedy and the website Underline passages you find especially beautiful or eloquent, or especially disturbing or confusing, and those aspects that stimulate meaningful discussion. The works we will be reading are both thematically and linguistically complicated in a number of ways, and I encourage you to locate these complications and to engage the class in a discussion of them.
  • 20% Questions prepared beforehand: this quarter you should be prepared to share with the class the aspects you find most difficult to understand about the cantos. You will be asked to prepare two or three questions inspired by the readings for one of our class meetings according to this Google sign up. Questions should be posted on Canvas. Please bring these questions with you to our class meetings. Throughout the quarter you will be expected to engage with your peers in a thoughtful, detailed, and constructive manner, both in class and online. To that end, in addition to posting your own questions, you will also respond to one of your peers’ reflections via Canvas. These comments should be posted (as a reply to your peer) on the Canvas discussion page.
  • 30% Quizzes (10%x3; on October 10, October 24, and November 14)
  • 15% Take-home Final Exam (due on December 12)
  • 25% Dante Today: Presentation (5%, on November 19, 21 and 26) + Short Paper (10%, due on December 5): find and explain in a 3 to 5-page paper – in the standard 12 pt. font, double-spaced, margins – "citings" and/or "sightings" of Dante and his work in contemporary culture.

See for examples

If you wish to receive writing credits for this course, you will be required to schedule a meeting with me, write a 6-page first draft for your Dante Today assignment by November 7, and revise your paper according to my suggestions. Please contact me at if you need further information. Students who complete the additional requirements will receive Ws on their transcripts; the other students in the course will not.


Student Academic Responsibility: Students at the University of Washington are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic conduct. Most UW students conduct themselves with integrity and are disturbed when they observe others cheating. The information on these pages should help you avoid unintentional misconduct and clarify the consequences of cheating:




Any use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist, or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated.



Note: the syllabus may be changed at any time if necessary. I will communicate changes to the schedule via Canvas, if needed.


Weekly course schedule.pdf

Catalog Description: 
Reading and analyzing literature based upon rotating genres such as sci-fi, detective fiction, romance, love, poetry, and comedy. Draws from world literature.
Department Requirements Met: 
Pre-req to Declare Literature Major
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:13pm