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Students celebrate ‘The Divine Comedy’ with Dante Now!

| Friday, September 28, 2018

Italian studies students can be spotted across campus during Dante Now! at 2:30 p.m. Friday wearing maroon Dante hats and gold laurel crowns reciting passages of the “Divine Comedy” in Italian. The celebration of Dante’s literature begins with a lecture by professor Christian Moevs at 2 p.m.

“It’s a brief talk, about 20 minutes, on how to read Dante,” he said. “So if you approach this text, how do you actually understand what it’s really doing and why it’s so transformative because you can read it on the surface, and it’s going to be a great text. But if you start asking the right questions, it explodes and becomes incredibly powerful and revalatory.”

After the lecture and performances around campus, the students reconvene all together at the Grotto to recite the last passage of the “Divine Comedy,” a prayer to the Virgin Mary.

For the first time this year, students studying abroad at the Rome Global Gateway (RGG) are participating in Dante Now! as well.

They are video conferencing in for the lecture, as well as reciting the same passages around the Celio neighborhood and local basilicas.

“Among the many Dantean initiatives at ND, Dante Now! has become a real tradition gathering students, faculty and visitors for a couple of hours of readings and lectures through campus,” Chiara Sbordoni, Italian language professor at the RGG, said in an email.  “Thus, Rome has asked to join Dante Now! as part of the Notre Dame community temporarily abroad, with the hope to contribute from here to the spirit of the initiative, the celebration of Dante.”

Dante Now! is a celebration for more than just Italian students. Professor Alessia Blad, coordinator for Italian language courses at Notre Dame, said the event’s goal is to encourage people to read “The Divine Comedy.”

“Our goal is to have people outside of our Italian group to understand that [The Divine Comedy] is worth looking at and reading,” she said. “We do it over a home football weekend so we can reach out to visitors, tourists and a lot of people read with us.”

Similarly, at the Rome Global Gateway, they are opening their doors to neighbors and elementary school students during their performance, Sbordoni said.

“I met with students to practice the readings and involved a group of Italian elementary school children who will take part in the initiative approaching Dante’s ‘Commedia’ for the first time: colleagues at the RGG will help the kids create their own hats to participate in the readings,” she said. “The RGG also decided to open the gate of the Villa to our neighbors in the hope that the people who live at the Celio will join us for the readings.”

The study of Dante and his works have been taught at Notre Dame almost since its inception, Moevs said. Around the year 1900, Fr. John Zahm started a Dante collection because he believed the study of Dante should be core to Notre Dame’s curriculum, Moevs said,

“Dante brought together and presented the full vision of what Catholic understanding is in the most powerful and the most profound form possible,” he said.

Dante Now! is about more than just a one hour parade across campus. The celebration is meant to raise awareness as to how Dante and his works still pertain to life today, 700 years after he wrote it, Blad said.

“[Dante teaches] the importance of community and the importance of reflection, slowing down. Instead of being in this rat race and always thinking about the next thing, the next job, the next internship, Dante gives us a chance to reflect,” she said.

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