Note from the Editor (2017)
Digital Dante, a venue for research and ideas on Dante, is managed by a group of affiliates with Columbia University’s Department of Italian.
While Digital Dante primarily showcases the research of Columbia’s dantisti, the site is continually broadening to include other voices, such as the scholarly contributions of Arielle Saiber and Kristina Olson and the canto readings by Francesco Bausi. We look forward to more such collaborations in the future.
A word about our history is in order.
Digital Dante was conceived by Jen Hogan in the early 1990s while she was a graduate student in Columbia University’s Institute for Learning Technologies. Jen wanted to create a website around a text that would embody the values of a liberal arts education; she thought of using Plato’s Republic or Rousseau’s Émile but chose Dante’s Divine Comedy instead as better suited to a multimedia environment.
Jen approached me in 1994 and thus began our collaboration. I, in turn, approached my friend, the poet and translator Allen Mandelbaum, who immediately saw the value in what Jen was creating and granted permission for the use of his wonderful translation of the Divine Comedy. After Jen earned her Ph.D. in 2000, the site continued to reside within the Institute for Learning Technologies.
Time passed, and many more Dante websites emerged. And yet, folks continued to reach out to me, letting me know that Digital Dante, though dormant and untended, remained important to them. Spurred by this feedback, we relaunched Digital Dante in 2014, a rebirth that was made possible by the extraordinary help and support of the Columbia University Libraries. We are very grateful to the Libraries, particularly to the Digital Scholarship Director, Mark Newton, and to Ed Madrid and Jack Donovan, who offered us vital technical and organizational support.
The Russian poet Osip Mandelstam wrote: “It is unthinkable to read the cantos of Dante without aiming them in the direction of the present day. They were made for that. They are missiles for capturing the future.”
Digital Dante endeavors to live up to Mandelstam’s mandate, aiming Dante’s missiles in the direction of the present day.
Digital Dante is a venue for research and ideas on Dante. Our effort is to stimulate new perspectives and new approaches to Dante Studies. To that end, we have organized our platform around broadly intuitive categories.
Readers and scholars of Dante can explore our site through these categories:
- Divine Comedy with Commento Baroliniano features Dante’s text in the Petrocchi edition with English translations by Mandelbaum and Longfellow. Every canto page includes illustrations sourced from Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Additional content includes a video lecture archive of Teodolinda Barolini’s Dante course at Columbia University and audio canto readings. The Digital Dante edition is accompanied by the first Divine Comedy commentary to be published in a digital medium: the Commento Baroliniano. Rather than a traditional line-by-line gloss, this commentary is a dynamic interpretation of Dante’s poem, grounded in a lifetime of scholarship. Readers can jump between cantos of interest and use the commentary to explore specific avenues of inquiry. The commentary may also be read in sequence as an overarching vision of the Divine Comedy.
- Intertextual Dante is a digital tool for visualizing intertextual references in the Divine Comedy. Conceived and created by Julie Van Peteghem, Intertextual Dante currently presents her original research on Ovidian intertextuality in the Inferno and will soon be expanded to include Purgatorio and Paradiso. Akash Kumar is editing Guido Guinizelli for Intertextual Dante, which will provide a medieval vernacular counterpart to the classical poet.
- Image gathers together both image galleries and scholarship on artistic interpretations of Dante.
- Sound features aural and musicological investigations of Dante and his world.
- History highlights original research of a historicist bent, including a Dante chronology (ed. Grace Delmolino).
- Text features original textual research. This section also houses a select library of Dante’s works in their original Italian, as well as English translations by Richard Lansing and Andrew Frisardi exclusive to Digital Dante.