Note from the Editor (2017)
Digital Dante is a venue for research and ideas on Dante. Our effort is to stimulate new perspectives and new approaches to Dante Studies.
Our core management team is affiliated with Columbia University’s Italian Department and includes Ph.D.s in Italian Medieval Studies who have gone on to teach at other institutions as well as current graduate students. Our Managing Editor is Meredith Levin, the Western Humanities Librarian at Columbia University’s Butler Library.
Our vision has been brought to life by the Columbia University Libraries. We are grateful in particular to the folks in Digital Scholarship who have supported us over the years, and especially to the Director of Columbia University Libraries Digital Scholarship, Mark Newton, for his longstanding commitment to our enterprise.
Digital Dante showcases the research of Columbia’s dantisti. The site also features the contributions of colleagues not affiliated with Columbia, such as the canto readings by Francesco Bausi. We look forward to more such collaborations in the future.
Key components of the site are:
- The Commedia in the Petrocchi edition along with the English translations of Mandelbaum and Longfellow. Each canto is accompanied by illustrations from our image gallery, readings, original commentary, and videos of class lectures.
- The Commento Baroliniano is my personal vision of the Commedia distilled into a canto-by-canto commentary. This is the only commentary of the Commedia that was expressly composed for a digital medium. In keeping with the fluidity of the medium, this commentary engages in speculation and offers many suggestions for future lines of research and inquiry. A different form of commentary, more pedagogically attuned, is made available through the recorded class lectures of my 2015-2016 Columbia University course on the Commedia (videos edited by Matteo Pace).
- Intertextual Dante, conceived and created by Julie Van Peteghem, and the fruit of her original scholarly research, is a portal into the intertextual aspects of the Commedia that begins with Ovid (ed. Julie Van Peteghem) and will be expanded to include other authors (currently in the pipeline: Guinizzelli, ed. Akash Kumar).
- Image will feature not only interpretive assessments of artistic perspectives (for instance, the page devoted to illustrator Sandow Birk, ed. Kristina Olson) but also originally designed interpretive maps of the Commedia (in the works: maps by Allison DeWitt). Also featured here are the illustrations from the holdings of Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library that are a signature of Digital Dante (sourced by Meredith Levin).
- Sound features aural and musicological investigations of Dante and his world. Canto-by-canto readings of the Commedia have been recorded by Francesco Bausi exclusively for Digital Dante. The Sestina Readings feature a unique reading method of multiple interlocking voices that captures the metaphysical resonance of the sestina as an art form.
- History includes a Dante chronology and biography (ed. Grace Delmolino) and will eventually feature subject bibliographies as well as original historical research (for instance, research on Ugolino by Nassime Chida) and family trees.
- Library houses a small collection of Dante’s works in their original Italian, as well as English translations by Richard Lansing and Andrew Frisardi exclusive to Digital Dante.
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.”
Through its sponsorship of original research, Digital Dante endeavors to live up to Mandelstam’s mandate, aiming Dante’s missiles in the direction of the present day.
It is 2014 and we have arrived at the relaunch of Digital Dante, the website created by Jen Hogan in the early 1990s. As we embark on the new iteration of Digital Dante, a word about the site’s history and a tribute to the intrepid and farsighted Dr. Hogan is in order.
Jen conceived of the Digital Dante project as a graduate student more than twenty years ago. She was a philosophy student, interested in epistemology, and she was embarked on a Ph.D. within the context of Columbia University’s Institute for Learning Technologies, where she worked with the Institute’s founder, Robbie McClintock. She 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 Emile, but chose Dante’s Commedia instead because it struck her as better suited to pushing the envelope on a multimedia environment.
When Jen approached me in the early 1990s she was such an innovator! There were no multimedia Dante websites at the time. Jen’s commitment to Digital Dante led her to take my year-long Dante course in 1994-1995 and initiated our collaboration, a highlight of which was our meeting with the poet and translator Allen Mandelbaum, who immediately saw the value of what Jen was creating. After spending nearly a decade on the development of Digital Dante, Jen got her Ph.D. in 2000 and left the site to reside within the Institute for Learning Technologies, where it remained for the next decade: consulted by Dante readers and students the world over, but not subject to further development.
Time passed, and over this time many more Dante websites came into existence. And yet folks kept contacting me to let me know that Digital Dante remained important to them. I read an Italian article on Dante websites that praised Digital Dante, which by then had been for many years dormant and untended. I realized that we could not allow such a valuable resource to degrade, and so began the work of relaunching the website.
This new iteration of Digital Dante has been made possible by the extraordinarily helpful and supportive folks at CDRS, Columbia’s Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. Rebecca Kennison and Mark Newton have guided our rebirth with the devotion of Virgilio guiding Dante. And in its current iteration Digital Dante is deeply sutured to Columbia’s Italian Department. We have built a team that boasts recent Ph.D.s in Dante Studies who have gone on to teach elsewhere as well as current graduate students. The invigorated site will thus provide a venue for collaboration with scholars at other institutions as well as for the new research and perspectives of Columbia’s emerging dantisti.
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.” In a similar vein, the great Italian philologist Gianfranco Contini wrote: “Our genuine impression, upon meeting Dante, is not of bumping into a tenacious and well preserved survivor, but of catching up with someone who arrived before we did” (“L’impressione genuina del postero, incontrandosi in Dante, non è d’imbattersi in un tenace e ben conservato sopravvissuto, ma di raggiungere qualcuno arrivato prima di lui”). In that spirit, Digital Dante endeavors to aim Dante’s missiles in the direction of the present day. Perhaps, if we’re lucky, to catch up with him now and again.
We look forward to an exciting future.