Note from the Editor-in-Chief (2019)
Digital Dante offers original research and ideas on Dante: on his thought and work and on various aspects of his reception. Though our editorial structure is that of an academic journal, we do not publish prose essays, instead showcasing work that intersperses prose with visual components (see Author Guidelines). We accept contributions from scholars and Dante lovers around the world.
We feature original scholarship on Dante in three different contexts:
1) The Commento Baroliniano is the first online commentary to the Divine Comedy. The Commento is an original work written expressly for Digital Dante and it distills a lifetime of scholarship.
2) Intertextual Dante is a vehicle for intertextual study of the Divine Comedy developed by Julie Van Peteghem and featuring her original scholarship on Dante and Ovid.
Please see the Overview below for more detail on our content.
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, an innovator in the field of learning technologies, 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, because she viewed it as better suited to a multimedia environment.
Searching for support from a Dante specialist, Jen approached me in 1994, and thus began our collaboration. She effectively introduced me to the world of the internet and its manifold possibilities. I, in turn, approached my dear friend, the poet and translator Allen Mandelbaum, who immediately saw the value in what Jen was creating and granted permission for the exclusive use of his beautiful 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 Dante websites came into existence. 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, and ever more aware of the growing interest in Digital Humanities and the opportunities that could be made available to our Italian Department graduate students, I decided to take on Digital Dante and do what I could to bring it back to life. I set about finding a new institutional home, and was fortunate enough to meet the digital scholarship team in the Libraries, which resulted in the relocation of Digital Dante to its current home.
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 former Director of Digital Scholarship, Mark Newton, and to Ed Madrid and Jack Donovan, who offered us vital technical and organizational support. Our long-term viability continues to be supported by the Libraries, in the form of our amazing Managing Editor, Meredith Levin, who is Columbia’s Western European Humanities Librarian.
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 original research and ideas on Dante. Our primary aim is to stimulate new perspectives and new approaches to Dante Studies. To that end, we have organized our platform around broad categories through which readers and scholars of Dante can explore our site:
- Divine Comedy 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 & Manuscript Library as well as audio canto readings by native Florentine Francesco Bausi. (The audio readings are in process.)
- The Digital Dante edition is accompanied by the first Divine Comedy commentary to be published in a digital medium: Teodolinda Barolini’s 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. Created by Julie Van Peteghem, Intertextual Dante presents her original research on Ovidian intertextuality in the Comedy. Akash Kumar is currently preparing Guido Guinizzelli for Intertextual Dante, which will provide a medieval vernacular counterpart to the classical poet.
- Image gathers together scholarship on artistic interpretations of Dante along with our image galleries.
- Sound features aural and musicological investigations of Dante and his world.
- History highlights original research of a historicist bent.
- Text features original research of a text-focused nature. 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.