February 8, 2021

MBC-011-INFERNO by Dante


William Cook is Professor of History, SUNY Geneseo (Retired). Professor Cook earned his PhD in History from Cornell and taught Medieval History for 42 years, lecturing and writing on Dante extensively for a variety of different audiences. Bill now runs the William Cook Foundation which provides educational opportunities in low resource communities.

Show Notes:

Below are the topics covered in this conversation (with time stamps). 

Profound lesson from teaching Dante to murderers [2:15]

Overcoming the bitterness of factionalism [5:15]

Dante’s identity and the bygone Roman Empire [12:30]

Hearing the Italian and breaking down structure [17:45]

Good translations and don’t get lost in the notes¬† [20:30]

Free Will understanding who you are [23:00]

The journey of conversion [26:50]

Finding your place in the Divine Comedy [33:15]

Plug for the great work of the Bill Cook Foundation [37:00]


Professor Cook’s Dante Translation Recommendations:

1. Jean and Robert Hollander. Bob Hollander is a famous Dante scholar at Princeton and his wife is a poet. Good translation, with English/Italian facing pages. It is a verse translation but does not try to imitate Dante’s rhyme scheme. There are a lot of notes, many to scholarly works of Hollander. Published in 3 volumes by Doubleday

2. Mark Musa. I taught this translation for years. Musa was an Italian professor at Indiana U. Good intros and notes that are useful but not overwhelming. It comes in 1 and 3 volume versions. No Italian. Published by Penguin (beware because there are 3 current translation of the Commedia published by Penguin, one being the Longfellow translation.

3. Robin Kirkpatrick. 3 volumes in paperback with English and Italian. Good notes and intros. I am not quite as fond of the actual translation than I am some of the others. Still, it has good notes and intros and the paperbacks are relatively inexpensive. Also done by Penguin.

4. John Ciardi. Ciardi is a poet and it shows in this translation. Adequate notes and good introductions. It comes in one and three volume editions. Published by New American Library.

5. Robert Sinclair. This is an old, standard translation in 3 volumes. At one time it was the only cheaply available version with Italian and English. Thee translation is in prose, which takes away the poetic quality but also probably leads to a more literal translation of the original. Published by Oxford UP.

6. Durling and Martines. Rather new. It is what I used in my Dante course for my last few years of teaching. Has Italian and English, good intros, good notes. In Purgatory and Paradise points forward and backwards to the other parts of the Commedia, which we call intertextuality. Big and imposing volumes but in paperback.

Don’t Forget:

Read the Mouse Book Club Inferno Blog.