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Reading Dante and Milton; lecture and workshop

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

Birkbeck's Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Worlds is pleased to host a guided reading workshop and lecture by Emeritus Professor Tom Healy (Sussex). This event brings us together face-to-face for the first time in a long time, to celebrate poetry and the power of group reading.

Dante’s 'Commedia' from the early fourteenth century and Milton’s 'Paradise Lost' from the later seventeenth are often held respectively to exemplify, if not epitomise, medieval and high renaissance cultural and literary perspectives. Yet, as with all texts that self-consciously participate within western epic traditions from Homer, they interestingly reflect on one another outwith conventional linear chronologies. How do comparative explorations of these two texts impact on the ways we might currently read them? Does an examination of them together challenge or solidify current categorisations of medieval and renaissance attitudes?   

In an opening lecture Prof Healy will set out aspects of these two works' epic visions, drawing attention to areas where both raise problematic questions about their endeavours. Following will be a workshop focusing on specific passages, in which considering the texts side by side raise interpretive questions for us as readers of epic/epic readers. We shall particularly address issues around: lying and truth; gender; history.

The edition of Dante that is recommended is the three volume ('Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso') parallel Italian/English edition with the translation by Robert and Jean Hollander (Anchor Books, NY, 2002-2008). 

LINK TO ACCESS THE PASSAGES SELECTED FOR DISCUSSION. Let me know ( if you have problems accessing this reading for any reason.

COVID restrictions/arrangements: Tickets are limited and booking is essential. Full contact details are required. Attendees will need to wear a face mask, unless they are exempt and have an exemption lanyard. Attendees must contact the event organiser if they later test positive for the virus, so that we can advise other attendees.

Contact name:

  • Professor Tom Healy -

    Professor Healy is emeritus professor at the University of Sussex. Before that, he taught at Birkbeck for many years. He has published widely on literary culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.