HUMS 452, Translating Dante

Meeting Time: 
Th 9.25-11.15

Course Description

Dante Alighieri is celebrated for The Divine Comedy, his epic journey through Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise, in which he moves from despair to bliss, watched over by his beloved Beatrice. Yet the story of Beatrice begins well before the Divine Comedy, in a powerful and problematic text called the Vita nuova (New Life). Here Dante recounts how his life was changed - made new - by his youthful encounter with her. Simultaneously a profound exploration of the power of love and an elaborate experimentation with poetic form, this early work is essential to our amorous and literary traditions. It is also a meditation on translation: of life to text; of prose to verse; of the divine to human, and vice versa. A moving reflection on beginning - and beginning again - in the face of loss, this medieval work invites us into the past yet is freshly relevant in our current historical moment. We will analyze the text through a comparative analysis of several translations before turning to relevant moments in the Divine Comedy and a selection of modern and contemporary works that the Vita nuova has inspired. This course offers a rare opportunity to read deeply Dante’s most enigmatic, restless work, to study its influence, and to participate in the making of a new translation of Dante’s New Life


Led by:

Professor Virginia Jewiss received her PhD in Italian literature from Yale University and taught at Dartmouth College and Trinity College’s Rome campus before returning to Yale, where she is currently Lecturer in the Humanities and Director of the Yale Humanities program in Rome. She has translated the work of numerous Italian authors and film directors, including Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah, Melania Mazzucco’s Vita, and screenplays for Paolo Sorrentino and Gabriele Salvatores.