Scholars Plan 20-Year Public Reading Series
Romance Languages to Present Divine Comedy

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

In an undertaking of ambitious scope, Italian scholars at Boston College plan a canto-by-canto presentation of Danteís Divine Comedy in a series of public readings over the next 20 years.

"Itís a way to measure our lives," said Assoc. Prof. Laurie Shepard, chairwoman of Romance Languages and Literatures Department and a scholar of medieval Italian literature. "The Divine Comedy has an eternal dimension, like a great work of art. Itís a rich and deep poem, and I think our responses will change [over the course of the readings.]"

A 14th-century narrative poem considered one of the worldís great works of literature, the Divine Comedy is divided into three major sections, Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso, which trace the journey of Dante from the dark circles of Hell to the divine light of heavenly Paradise.

Series organizers plan to read three cantos, or sections, of the poem each spring and two each fall in a series spanning the next two decades. Funding for the endeavor has been provided by the Center for Italian Culture in Newton.

The program gets underway March 13 with the reading of Canto I by Asst. Prof. Franco Mormando, SJ (Romance Languages). Boston University Associate Professor Dennis Costa, chairman of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages, will present Canto II on April 10, and Shepard will read Canto III on May 8.

Meetings will be held in the Fulton Debating Room in Gasson 305 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. The reading of a canto ? in the original Italian ? will take 10 to 15 minutes, with the rest of the session devoted to discussion in English. A reception will follow.

Shepard said she participated in a similar marathon series a few years ago at Trinity College in Hartford. She recalled one elderly devotee of the serialized readings who drove 40 miles through a storm to hear her rendition of Paradise (Paradiso) 10, telling her: "I hope to live till the end of Paradise."

She said she hopes a similar following will be found here for readings of Danteís classic narrative. "We felt the Boston College community was the right place to do it, and hope members of the community will volunteer to read and discuss canti," Shepard said.

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