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C LIT 361 A: Topics In Early Modern Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
ECE 037
Joint Sections: 
ITAL 262 A
Beatrice Arduini

Syllabus Description:

ITAL 262 A: Dante and the Middle Ages

Jointly offered with C LIT 361: Topics in Early Modern Literature

Instructor: Dr Beatrice Arduini

Office Hours: Online, by appointment, on UW Zoom Pro

Format: The move to remote instruction for spring quarter 2020 is a way to protect the health of our community while mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 public health crisis on students’ academic progress. As a result, this course will be conducted entirely online. Canvas and Panopto will be the primary platforms, though your instructor may also use other videoconferencing tools such as UW Zoom Pro intermittently. Please click here for instructions on downloading and signing in to Zoom for the first time.

Course description:

This course is devoted to one of the most fascinating and influential masterpieces of Western literature, Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. As readers we not only observe the pilgrim's journey through the afterlife, from the dark wood of error to the vision of truth, we participate in it as well, as we encounter questions about the nature of evil, the possibility for spiritual improvement, and the experience of true happiness. We will also discover surprising parallels with our own time, particularly this year when the Italian government decreed March 25th to be National Dante Day in honor of the celebrated author as a “symbol of unity." The course is taught in English. Course image: Go Nagai - La Divina Commedia (J-POP, 2019).

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.

Required Books:

Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, translated by Allen Mandelbaum: all volumes Bantam Classics (Inferno 1980, Purgatorio 1982, and Paradiso 1984), OR any other translation with footnotes and endnotes. You can also find the Mandelbaum translation here (without endnotes).

Websites (not an exhaustive list!):

The Dante Society of America

Dante Lab at Dartmouth College

Danteworlds (University of Texas at Austin)

Digital Dante (Columbia University)

Mapping Dante A Study of Places in the Commedia

Società dantesca italiana

The World of Dante (University of Virginia)

Course requirements and grading (deadlines can be found on Canvas):

10% Participation (through weekly assignments)

15% Annotation of a canto on Manifold

15% Discussion (leading and participating in groups)

30% Quizzes (3)

15% Long Live Dante (oral presentation + short research paper/creative project)

15% Final Exam

  • 15% Participation through weekly assignment: the course requires a steady preparation of the assigned cantos and of the video materials that will be available on Canvas. You will be required to answer weekly questions based on the readings and the video materials. You should also be prepared to discuss the representative sins (or virtues) and the representative characters of each assigned canto, and to describe, for each canto, the relevant contrapasso (in the case of the Inferno), 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
  • 15% Annotation of a canto on Manifold: the critical annotation of 3 cantos. This quarter you should be prepared to share with the class the aspects you find most difficult to understand about the cantos. Make notes, circle words and phrases, underline passages you find especially beautiful or eloquent, or especially disturbing or confusing, and aspects that stimulate meaningful discussion.In short, be an active reader. 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. You will be asked to prepare two questions inspired by the readings. Throughout the quarter you will be expected to engage with your peers in a thoughtful, detailed, and constructive manner online. To that end, in addition to posting your own two questions, you will also respond to one of your peers’ reflections on Manifold. Guidelines will be provided in a Manifold workshop on Zoom with Verletta Kern, Digital Scholarship Librarian, and Beth Lytle, Instructional Technologist with UW Learning Technologies, on Thursday, April 16 (date is tentative), 2:30-4:20pm PDT.
  • 15% Leading and participating in a Canvas discussion: I will put students in groups and assign to each group one cantos according to a Google sign up by the end of the first week of classes. One person from the group will have to come up with a discussion topic and post it on Canvas. Another person will moderate the group discussion on a Google doc. Another person will summarize the outcomes of the discussion on Canvas. Some possible topics are: 1. Allegory and Symbolism, 2. Historical Events (for instance, Guelph vs. Ghibellines), 3. Virgil and the Classics, 4. The Moral Architecture of Dante’s Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, 5. Church vs. Empire, 6. Latin and Vernacular(s), 7. Classical Mythology and Christianity, 8. Italian Literature Before Dante. More instructions on Canvas Assignments.
  • 30% Quizzes (3)
  • 15% Take-home Final Exam
  • 15% Long Live Dante: Oral Presentation (Video Presentation + PowerPoint or Script) + Short Research Paper / Creative Project:the starting point for this assignment is Dante as an inspirer. Find and explain in a recorded oral presentation an example of citation of Dante and his work in contemporary culture (see for examples, or engage in your own interpretation with a creative project, from a direct copy to an echo reflecting Dante’s narrative power, style and techniques, experimentation or psychological depth.

Writing Credits: If you wish to receive writing credits for this course, you will be required to write a 6-page first draft for your “Long Live Dante” assignment by May 1st, and revise your research 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.


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


Anyone who wishes to contest a grade on a particular assignment or exam must

consult his/her instructor within 7 days after the assignment was returned to them



Academic Standards:

Students are expected to maintain a high standard of academic ethics, honesty and integrity. Academic misconduct includes but is not limited to: plagiarism, cheating, harassment, and disruptive or offensive behavior (see statement above), and will not be tolerated. Please refer to theUniversity’s Student Conduct Code. Any student or situation found to be in violation of proper academic conduct will be addressed and potentially reported according to University policy.

“Netiquette” Standards:

Even though this course is conducted online, please remember you are still interacting with people, not a computer. As such,it is important to adhere to the same standards of behavior that you would follow in a real classroom environment for synchronous class meetings on Zoom. You and your instructor will work together to establish further class norms for teaching and learning remotely, but here are some preliminary guidelines for engaging in proper “netiquette”:

  • Log in to your class meeting a few minutes early and make sure your video and microphone are working properly;
  • Sit at a desk or table in a quiet, undisturbed place. Work on a computer (ideally) and avoid moving your device;
  • Turn on your computer camera, check the lighting, and make sure the background you are projecting to your instructor and classmates is work-appropriate;
  • Be dressed as if you were attending class in person;
  • Do not engage in distracting or disruptive behavior (listening to music, eating, answering the phone, carrying on a side conversation, coming and going, etc.)
  • Do not interrupt other speakers and use the “raise hand” function when you wish to speak;
  • Look and maintain eye contact with the camera when speaking;
  • Mute your microphone when not speaking;
  • Refrain from using slang and emoticons when using public chat functions.

Policy Regarding Student Concerns:

Please see your instructor, Beatrice Arduini at barduini@uw.eduabout your concerns as soon as possible. If you are still not satisfied, you may contact Geoffrey Turnovsky, Chair, at

Access and Accommodations

Your experience in this class is important to us, and it is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. Disability Resources for Students(DRS) offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students experiencing a wide range of temporary and permanent disabilities and/or health conditions that may impact their ability to perform well in the classroom. These include but are not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts. If you are experiencing any such difficulties, please contact DRS as soon as possible. Once you have established accommodations, please submit them to your instructor at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs and success in this course.

Religious Accommodations

It is the policy of the University of Washington to reasonably accommodate student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities in accordance with Washington state law. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Faculty Syllabus Guidelines and Resources. Accommodations must be within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.

Other Resources

Facts and information regarding spring quarter 2020

Novel coronavirus & COVID-19: facts and resources


Hall Health Center

The Counseling Center

UW Leadership Without Borders

The Q Center


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


Catalog Description: 
Explores topics in literature and cultures of the early modern world (approximately 1400-1800) across national and regional cultures, such as particular movements, authors, genres, themes, or problems.
Department Requirements Met: 
Literature Core
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
February 19, 2020 - 2:55pm