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Dante Now! event aims to make Dante’s Italian works accessible to students

| Friday, September 29, 2017

Members of the Notre Dame community will read works of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” in Italian during a flash-mob-style event called “Dante Now!” on Friday at 2 p.m. The participants will perform in groups starting at various locations across campus, and they will convene at the Grotto to read a final excerpt together, after which there will be a lecture and reception.

The event — which has taken place every year since 2012 — is based on a similar program in Florence, professor of Italian Studies Anne Leone, one of the organizers for the event, said.

“When we first got trained with the people in Florence, they were very specific about how it should be read,” she said. “So we probably started with the training sessions for each student, but now it’s built into the syllabus.”

All classes in the Italian Studies program, which include 200 to 300 students each year, incorporate Dante into the syllabus, but upper-level students are not required to participate in Dante, Leone said. Some of the students who do participate, including sophomore Beatrice Hall, see Dante Now! as a chance to share stories of what it means to be human.

“When we tell stories, it is a way of living together, of sharing humanity,” Hall said in an email. “How could there be a better example of this than reading Dante together? Dante wrestles with what it means to be human, how we confront good and evil in our very souls. It is a powerful, compelling, utterly human story, and we get to share it with each other and with everyone who listens.”

Leone said the event is not only open to people in the Italian Studies department, though.

“The idea is that you don’t have to be trained to perform either,” she said. “In the past, we’ve had people’s parents and alumni and people here for football. … Even if people haven’t studied Italian or don’t know who Dante is, that’s totally fine.”

Leone said part of the event is also making the works of Dante more accessible for those listening. Dante wrote the poem in the Italian vernacular initially for this reason, she said.

“It’s trying to make the poem more accessible to our students,” she said. “ … I think a lot of people have heard of Dante and how he’s Italian, but don’t know where he’s from or think that ‘Inferno’ is the only thing he wrote.”

Francesca Carfagnini, a sophomore Italian student who will participate in Dante Now!, is excited to serenade the unexpecting crowd with Italian so they can experience the language.

“Even if you don’t understand it, you can still hear the shift in the tone and the language,” she said.

The crowd usually notices the group, Leone said, since they are dressed in costume with tall, red Dante hats and golden wreaths.

Carfagnini said she is excited for the costume aspect.

“It adds to the effect to be dressed up like Dante,” she said.

A crowd is not always present in the area, but Leone said she enjoys getting the crowd engaged.

“You kind of have to create your audience as you go,” she said. “Some people have come with us and actually followed us to the Grotto. Every year we hope for more and more of that.”

For Leone, the best part of the event is the feeling of accomplishment after.

“It’s usually a very festive feeling,” she said. “Especially when we end all together, it’s like we’ve done all this together, and that’s very powerful.”

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About Alexandra Muck

Alexandra Muck is a Notre Dame sophomore majoring in business and economics. Originally from Dallas, she currently lives in Howard Hall.

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