MOOCs

Who am I? Dante, anyone?

Harrowhell

The Harrowing of Hell, from a fourteenth century manuscript Wikipedia

The Divine Comedy: Dante’s Journey to Freedom, Part 1 – began 15th October 2014 (Georgetown University).

I stumbled across this MOOC at edX last week. Goodness knows why I’m even looking at more subjects, doing far too many now. I’ve never studied literature before (oh hang on – there was Lord of The Flies in high school! ) and this seems really interesting and thought-provoking.  Apparently, if I apply due diligence, I shall come away from this experience the richer, and with a good idea of who I am. Yep, sounds promising.

You will question the meaning of human freedom, responsibility, and identity by reading and responding to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. The Comedy, which is richly steeped in the medieval culture of the 14th century, still speaks vividly to modern readers struggling with the question, “Who am I?” Dante, as a Florentine, a poet, a lover, and a religious believer struggled with the same question in each facet of his life before coming to a moment of vision that wholly transformed him as a person.

… engraving by Gustave Doré illustrating Canto X of Divine Comedy, Inferno, by Dante Alighieri. By scanned, post-processed, and uploaded by Karl Hahn (Pantheon Books edition of Divine Comedy) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The course really started 8th October, with an email suggesting a  pre-launch reading of Inferno, from Canto 1 to 34, just to get a feel, unswayed by lectures or others. I gave it a quick, very quick, once-over this morning and so many familiar names leapt out at me – and here I was thinking I knew nothing about this work, except its fame.  Somehow, I will find the 8-10 hours they reckon I need per week for the next six weeks.

I’m finding I’m able to let myself audit courses without feeling I have to submit assignments if I haven’t the time or the inclination. I’m not after certification, I keep reminding myself, so it doesn’t really matter. The ones on FutureLearn are a more relaxed format and I can go as slow as I like there. I’m loving my MOOC experience. I’m sure my brain is being enriched, and my future writing will be the better for it.

Part of the course is carried out on the university’s MyDante platform, an interactive experience, “a digital incarnation of the medieval illuminated manuscript”, where I will learn to use my upcoming  contemplative reading skills, adding thoughtful annotations and insightful journal entries. I’ve watched the first two videos and the professors aren’t talking over my head, so that’s a good start!

One thing I’m really looking forward to is listening to readings of the poem in Italian, despite not knowing the language. I’m sure it will sound wonderful.  I’ll work with the translations by Robert and Jean Hollander of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso (Random House).

The Divine Comedy: Dante’s Journey to Freedom, Part 2 (Purgatorio) 4 Feb 2015: (Four weeks)
&
The Divine Comedy: Dante’s Journey to Freedom, Part 3 (Paradiso) 8 Apr 2015 (doesn’t say how long)

Sandro Botticelli – Inferno, Canto XVIII Sandro Botticelli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

More brain-stretching coming up.  Has anyone in my community partaken of something like this before?

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16 thoughts on “Who am I? Dante, anyone?


  1. This is my adored Roberto Benigni, reading it with fervour and feeling and gestures, to a huge audience – that is, huge lots of audiences. It is, as you will see, THE WHOLE KIT’N BOILING !!!
    You will never hear it read with some a close relationship to the ordinary man, Christine: there are many readings in Italian in beautiful voices, but none like Benigni’s.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Marsha, I’ve immersed myself in family history research for the best part of the last decade, so it’s refreshing to have all this new stuff going on inside my head! I’m thinking, by broadening my knowledge, I can be a better writer. When I visited your blog again, I still missed that you were writing fiction, but I’ve spotted the page now: will have a read when I have some spare time – they certainly look great stories from the presentation. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have spent a year reading and learning more about writing good fiction. I wrote the novel during NaNoWriMo last year, and spent about 4 months editing. Then I took Steven King’s advice and set it aside. I haven’t looked at it since April or May. I will pick it up when I’m finished with this project book, but I will probably need to do major rewrites based on what I’ve learned. Do you belong to any writing groups? They are fun and very encouraging. 🙂

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        • I’m reading Stephen King’s advice for about the fourth time now. Each time it resonates more, as I get more writing under my belt. No, no writing groups, Marsha, not sure how I will cope with critique, but I suppose I will have to, one day. But not until I’ve made my story the best it can be. Nearly two years ago, after a sudden death in the family, I set mine aside for the best part of that year. When I read it over, I couldn’t even recall writing it – it was like reading someone else’s book, I even got quite wrapped up in it, so that’s a good sign, I hope. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I think what you’re doing is exciting. Learning for the sake of learning is always fun. It’s why I decided to go for my Masters while preggers with my second. If I were able to take classes at night now, i’d be taking classes again.

    I hope you have so much fun!

    Liked by 1 person

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