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Unit information: Dante: Purgatorio and Paradiso in 2021/22

Unit name Dante: Purgatorio and Paradiso
Unit code ITAL30059
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Kay
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Italian
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Dante’s Commedia, written in the early fourteenth century, is one of the masterpieces of world literature – an extraordinarily vivid, beautiful and provocative poem that provides a panoramic view of the culture and thought of the later Middle Ages. The poem, written in Dante’s Florentine vernacular, helped to establish the Tuscan dialect as the standardized Italian language and represented a landmark in the history of the conceptualization and representation of the Christian afterlife. This unit will consider the second and third cantiche of Dante’s poem: Purgatorio and Paradiso. The former relates the character Dante’s journey through Purgatory: a realm of transformation and penance, nostalgia and anticipation, friendship and forgiveness. The latter is a daring attempt to describe the indescribable, as the poet probes the very limits of language and human understanding in approaching (and experiencing) union with the divine. Each realm features some of the most memorable characters in European literature, ranging from Dante’s ancestors and boyhood friends to famous poets, politicians and theologians. Integral to both cantiche, meanwhile, is the complex and intriguing figure of Beatrice, the Florentine woman, formerly Dante’s poetic muse, who now becomes his heavenly guide. Central topics in our readings will include: language, knowledge, love and desire, exile, poetry, and justice. The poem will be situated within the context of medieval history, philosophy and literature and will be related to Dante’s other works. Successful completion of this unit will enable students to assess Dante’s contribution to European literature and to the development of the Italian language. Students will also consider diverse critical approaches to Dante’s work and will apply these constructively to their own analysis in both essays and oral presentations.

This unit carries a formative piece of assessment; 1 x reflective online post (max 500 words).

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. develop a detailed understanding of Dante’s Commedia;
  2. assess the significance of the poem for literary history in Italy and beyond;
  3. select and synthesise relevant material from a range of critical sources to conduct formal and thematic analysis of the poem;
  4. formulate sophisticated arguments both in oral presentations and in writing;
  5. collaborate effectively on a joint project.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation

Assessment Information

1 x 20-minute group presentation (30%). Testing ILOs 1-5.

1 x 3000-word essay (70%). Testing ILOs 1-4.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ITAL30059).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.