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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ITAL2024 Introduction to Dante's Comedy

15 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Professor Matthew Treherne

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

EITHER a pass in ITAL1035 or ITAL1010 OR equivalent knowledge of the Italian language (Italian A-level or equivalent)

Module replaces

ITAL2021 and ITAL3020

Module summary

Dante Alighieri is one of the most important and innovative figures of the European Middle Ages. His Comedy tells the story of the journey to God of a character who is, at one and the same time, both Dante himself and Everyman. This module offers a general introduction to Dante studies for Level 2 students of Italian. It will place particular emphasis on understanding Dante’s world and his views on politics, religion, and poetry, as well as suggesting some of the reasons for his poem’s enduring importance in Italian – and European – literature. It will also provide a close reading of selected key passages from the text.


On completion of this module, students should be able to show an informed understanding of the importance of Dante as an author and of the key themes of his Comedy. They should be familiar with the historical, religious and cultural context in which Dante was working and with his relationship with this context. They should be able to show detailed knowledge of selected passages from the Comedy, with an ability to comment on their content and relevance to the poem as a whole. They should also be able to comment on the language and style of these selected passages.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module students should:
- have an informed understanding of Dante and his Comedy;
- be able to discuss the broad themes of the text in writing and orally;
- be able to analyse a short section of the text in Italian, commenting on its content, language and style;
- be able to read and engage with a text written in fourteenth-century Florentine;
- be able to demonstrate an awareness of the cultural, religious, historical and linguistic context of fourteenth-century Italy and the significance of Dante's text in this specific context;
- gather, evaluate and use information from secondary sources;
- communicate effectively orally and in writing;
- use IT effectively both as a means of communication and as an aid to learning;
- take responsibility for their own learning.

Skills outcomes
Students' Italian language skills will be enhanced through close engagement with a complex text, and through the reading of secondary literature in Italian.


Weekly lectures will introduce key themes in the text as a whole (weeks 1-5 of semester 1) before focusing in more detail on Inferno (weeks 6-11 of semester 1), and Purgatorio (weeks 2-6 of semester 2).
Indicative topics to be covered in weekly lectures and fortnightly seminars are listed below.
Seminars will feature student-led presentations as well as open discussions.
Semester 1
- Week 1
- Lecture: The Comedy in its literary and historical context
- Week 2
- Lecture: The theology of the Comedy: punishment and reward
- Seminar: Inferno I & II (Introduction to Hell)
- Week 3
- Lecture: Allegory in the Comedy
- Week 4
- Lecture: The Comedy and the classical past
- Seminar: Inferno IV (Limbo)
- Week 5
- Lecture: Politics in the Comedy
- Week 6
- Lecture: Dante-character and Dante-poet
- Seminar: Inferno V (Francesca)
- Week 7
- Week 8
- Lecture: The moral structure of Hell
- Seminar: Inferno XV (Brunetto Latini)
- Week 9
- Lecture: Virgil in Inferno
- Week 10
- Lecture: The appeal of sin: Hell's characters
- Seminar: Inferno XXVI (Ulysses)
- Week 11
- Lecture: Florence in Inferno
Semester 2
- Week 1
- Week 2
- Lecture: The 'birth of Purgatory' and Dante's Purgatorio
- Seminar: Purgatorio I (Introduction to Purgatory)
- Week 3
- Lecture: Pain with a purpose: the moral structure of Purgatory
- Week 4
- Lecture: 'Two suns': Politics in Purgatory
- Seminar: Purgatorio VI (Political invective)
- Week 5
- Lecture: Poets and poetry in Purgatory
- Week 6
- Lecture: The Earthly Paradise
- Seminar: Purgatorio XXX (Return of Beatrice)

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours15.00
Private study hours105.00
Total Contact hours30.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Students will be expected to spend approximately an hour/week engaging with online learning activities (via the Dante Discussion Forum) on the VLE (15 hours in total). The remaining study time, is broken down as follows:
Private study, reading of texts, preparation for classes: 60 hours
Preparation for exam: 15 hours
Preparation for and writing of essay : 20 hours
Preparation for class presentation: 10 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Progress will be monitored through feedback given on student presentations in seminars and on performance in the first exam, which students will have the opportunity to discuss with markers during Feedback Week in week 1 of semester 2. Progress will also be monitored informally through general class participation and work conducted online (e.g. via the online discussion forum on the VLE).

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2000 words65.00
Essay1000 word commentary (before Easter)35.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The essay set for students on the 15-credit version of this module will be on a general theme but will need to refer to Inferno and Purgatorio only.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:25:28


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