"Covid-19 and Dante’s Hell: Venturing from a Black Hole on the Thread of a Tune" by Beatrice Sica

19 October 2021, 4:30 pm–6:00 pm

This lecture is organized in collaboration with Giuliana Benvenuti from the Department of Classical Philology and Italian Studies at Università di Bologna.

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Beatrice Sica

What do Covid-19, a 21st-century pandemic, and the Divine Comedy, a 14th-century literary masterpiece, have in common? Apparently not much, except maybe for important anniversaries in 2021: the very first one for the pandemic, which was declared such—a pandemic—in March last year; and the seven-hundredth for Dante Alighieri, the author of the Divine Comedy, who died in 1321. Yet the two have often been associated, and not just because celebrations for the Dante anniversary worldwide had to take place during the coronavirus pandemic. As every literary masterpiece, the Divine Comedy is still able to speak to us today and is a source for thoughts and metaphors, including those that help us reflect upon and describe the effects of the virus.

In this talk, I look at how Dante has been considered so far in relation to Covid-19, that is at allegorical and metaphorical readings of the Divine Comedy that have been offered, and I propose my own reading, which I call metonymic, based on an in-depth analysis of three lines by Dante (Inf. III, 1-3). While metaphorical readings take one or few aspects of the Divine Comedy, such as human suffering, sin, or moral judgement, and transfer them to the pandemic world of today, eventually wiping out Dante’s text, my reading keeps Inf. III, 1-3 always at the centre while reflecting upon the Covid-19 crisis, holding the two together as contiguous systems.

If you prefer to attend this lecture in presence, you should write to segreteria.isa@unibo.it within October 19th, 12 p.m. and book your place. The places will be assigned on “first come first served” basis.

As per the Decree-Law number 111, issued on the 6th of August 2021, in order to attend lectures in presence you must have a COVID-19 Green Pass and show it on the premises.

About the Speaker

Beatrice Sica

Associate Professor in Italian Studies at University College London

Beatrice Sica is Associate Professor in Italian Studies at University College London. She was educated in Italy, the US, and France, and has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and grants, including the EURIAS fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of Bologna, the Lauro de Bosis visiting fellowship at Harvard University, and the Fondazione Sapegno fellowship at the Collège de France in Paris.

Her publications include Poesia surrealista italiana (2007) and L’Italia magica di Gianfranco Contini: storia e interpretazione (2013), as well as other essays on Italian Futurism and French Surrealism; magical realism; Italian literature and art during and after Fascism; Franco-Italian cultural exchanges in the interwar period; and Italian poetry. She is currently working on a book on men on horseback in twentieth-century Italian history and culture.