Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 12, 2009

Dante’s Inferno…

danteworldsI have always meant to read Dante’s Inferno: it’s one of the gaps in my otherwise not-too-bad reading history of the great epic poems. (The other embarrassing gap is Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales *blush*). I’ve read the Epic of Gilgamesh; The Odyssey; The Iliad; the Eclogues, Georgics & Aenead; Beowulf; Paradise Lost; The Faerie Queen; and the Mabinogion.  But somehow, I managed to miss Dante, an omission I’d one day like to rectify.

And now, to inspire me, through Ready, Steady Blog, (which I monitor through the British LitBlogs feed) I have discovered a wonderful site to enhance my understanding of the text. Danteworlds  at the University of Texas at Austin is

an integrated multimedia journey–combining artistic images, textual commentary, and audio recordings–through the three realms of the afterlife (Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise) presented in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The site is structured around a visual representation of Dante’s worlds: it shows who and what appear where.  [You can] click on regions within each realm (circles of Hell, terraces of Purgatory, spheres of Paradise) to open new pages featuring people and creatures whom the character Dante meets during his journey. [You can] click on individual figures in the regions to view larger images in pop-up windows. Available for each region are explanatory notes, a gallery of artistic images, recordings of significant Italian verses, and study questions–all aimed at enriching the experience of reading Dante’s poetic vision of a voyage literally out of this world.

It’s not meant to be a substitute for reading the text, but from what little I’ve explored so far, it’s a magnificent enhancement of it.  It’s like the superb illustrated Seamus Heaney version of Beowulf in that illustrations of artefacts and buildings of the time help to visualise the story better.

So – is someone at Oxford doing The Canterbury Tales like this?  I certainly hope so!


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