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Through Hell to the stars

  • Posted by: Laura Bang
  • Posted Date: February 18, 2013
  • Filed Under: Events, Exhibits
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita. (I.1-3)
Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray
from the straight road and woke to find myself
alone in a dark wood.

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate (Abandon every hope, who enter here)
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate. (III.9)
Abandon all Hope ye who enter here.

On February 12, the Digital Library Team led a journey through Hell in the form of a marathon reading of Dante’s Inferno. The event was supported by the Library’s Scholarly Outreach Team, and co-sponsored by the Italian Club, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and the Villanova Center for Liberal Education. Reading began at 10am and continued through all 34 cantos to about 4pm, with cantos being read in English and Italian.

Mini exhibit of Dante-related books and movies.
Dante-related materials from a mini-exhibit.

This event was originally dreamed up by Dr. Diane Biunno, an assistant professor in the Italian Department and a Digital Library Intern for Summer 2012 (Diane is currently working on a Masters of Library Science at Drexel University), and Michael Foight, Digital Library & Special Collections Coordinator. As her internship project, Diane curated the online exhibit “Dante’s Illustrated Adventure” (you can read Diane’s post about her exhibit here). The marathon reading was originally scheduled for October 30, 2012, but was canceled due to the inclement weather produced by Hurricane Sandy. There was a lot of excitement for the event, however, so we rescheduled it for the February date.

Diane Biunno, dressed as "Beatrice," started the reading with Canto I.
Diane Biunno, dressed as “Beatrice,” started the reading with Canto I.

Diane provided a brief welcome and began the reading in Italian shortly after 10am. Volunteers were then asked to read each subsequent canto, with a choice of reading in either Italian or English. If a canto was read in Italian, the next reader would read the same canto in English, so that everyone could follow along. The English translation that we used for the day was John Ciardi’s (which is also used for the English translations within this post). There was a good turnout throughout the day and among the readers were students from Italian classes of various levels, faculty from the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures, and several others. All participants had a fun time, partaking of thematic snacks along the way, and we emerged on the other side of Hell at the end of Canto XXXIV just after 4pm.

E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle. (XXXIV.139) And we walked out once more beneath the Stars.
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Last Modified: February 18, 2013