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Students perform excerpts from Dante

| Monday, October 3, 2016

Adorned with golden leaf crowns, roughly 250 Notre Dame students in Italian language and literature courses performed their fifth annual “Dante Now!” event Friday afternoon at the Grotto.

“We got the idea from this group in Florence that was doing it with thousands of people,” research assistant professor Anne Leone said. “That was a theater group, so they recite it like we do, but it’s informed by their theater work. The theater director who started that came here and trained us in the spring of 2012 and then we put it on in the fall for the first time.”

In past years, students would break into smaller groups around campus “flash-mob style” on a Friday before a home football game, when more people are on campus.

“The idea is really to introduce people who don’t know that much about Dante or the [‘Divine Comedy’] to the poem,” Leone said. “Part of it is also for people to hear it in the original language and celebrate that, but also to make it accessible.

“In previous years, it’s been great because people would come with us and follow groups around to hear more. That was the idea, to get people involved.”

Leone said part of the reason the timing changed this year, Leone said, was so the event could accompany Sacred Music’s “Journeying La Divina Commedia: Desert, Discovery, Song,” an opera inspired by the “Divine Comedy.”

“We thought we’d do the events close to each other so they can be connected in that way,” she said.

Three passages from Dante’s “Divine Comedy” were read at the event: the first canto of “Inferno,” when Dante describes the midlife crisis he’s having, the fifth canto of “Inferno,” which tells the tale of tragic lovers, and the final prayer that concludes the Comedy in “Paradiso.”

“We all came together at the Grotto and we’re all speaking together this prayer to the Virgin Mary,” Leone said. “It’s very appropriate and it really is a culmination of the whole journey Dante is set on by the Virgin Mary, essentially.”

Freshman Daniel Delfico said his Italian class attended a workshop to learn how to read the piece.

“It’s good to see the similarities between Dante’s time and now and see how the language hasn’t changed all that much in between now and then,” he said. “Dante really is the father of the Italian language.”

Following the recitation, Leone and associate professor Christian Moeves delivered a lecture on three passages from the Inferno with the model, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Leone said her part of the presentation emphasized how Dante presents Hell as being “not Eden.”

“Any given line I can read 700 years of commentary on that line,” she said. “It’s interesting, but it’s a huge challenge to see if I have something new to say that hasn’t been said in the last 700 years? It’s opportunity, but it’s also a challenge.”

Sophomore Matteo Muehlhauser said he appreciated that the University’s Italian program gave students “cultural immersion” right on campus.

Last year, the University celebrated the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth. Sophomore Joan Becker said it is no surprise why Dante’s work has remained so ingrained in Western culture.

“What he does with language is so clever and so earnest,” she said. “So many of the themes are universal — love, love for literature. People are always seeking to be better, to get to the good and seeking the best life.

“I’m so grateful to be at a university that supports this kind of work and puts on this kind of community-focused celebration. It’s really beautiful.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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