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Dante seminar held at ND

Jamie Holland | Friday, September 26, 2003

For those students who may not be acquainted with Notre Dame’s program in Dante and Italian studies, an upcoming symposium will provide the exposure they need.

The International Dante Seminar, which attracts world-renowned scholars to discuss the works of Dante, will take place in the McKenna Hall auditorium over the next three days.

The first featured event is a reading by Dante admirer Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney tonight at 8 p.m. in McKenna Hall.

The seminar, held every third year, is now in its fourth cycle. It has previously been held in Ascona, Switzerland, Florence, Italy, and at Princeton University just three years ago. The next seminar, in 2006, will be hosted by Oxford University in England at which two Notre Dame professors, Christian Moevs and Mary Burgess Smyth, have been invited to speak.

The seminar is primarily sponsored by Notre Dame’s William and Katherine Devers Program in Dante Studies. Co-sponsors include the Medieval Institute, Department of Romance Languages, Keough Institute for Irish studies and Princeton University.

The Devers Program has been busily preparing to host the conference, themed “Dante’s Cultures” at Notre Dame for the past number of years.

Rather than a series of lectures, in which researchers simply present their work, the seminar will highlight scholars as they present a short summary of their ideas. Following the summaries will be a discussion presented by a panel of other experts who have been provided the author’s paper in advance. This is intended to spur the progress of research, rather than present what has already been accomplished.

Panels will discuss four main topics: Dante and Aristotle, the Provencal Lyric influence on Dante, Dante and Politics and Dante and Ireland. The latter will focus on Dante’s continuing influence on modern literary figures, such as Seamus Heaney, and Ciaran Carson.

The proceedings of the seminar are open to the public and will be translated via earphones for those who are not fluent in Italian.

The Devers program’s head, professor Theodore Cachey, is also a member of the governing board of the International Dante Seminar. In addition to hosting preeminent international symposia, his program is very active on campus. For example, it organizes and supports new acquisitions for the extensive John Zahm C.S.C Dante Collection, which is, according to Cachey, “One of the three most important in the United States.”

A recent purchase was an extremely rare edition of Dante’s “Inferno” dating from 1515, which is on display in the first floor of the Hesburgh Library.

The Devers program also teaches courses on Dante through the Core program. In addition, the College of Arts and Letters publishes scholarly works, sponsors faculty and student research, conferences, lecture series and visiting professorships.

Cachey said he is pleased with progress so far.

“We would like for Notre Dame to achieve a leading position in the world of Dante and medieval studies and become an important point of reference for Italian studies,” he said.