Past Meetings and Events

2017 Events

DSA Sessions at the 2017 MLA Annual Convention (January 5-8, 2017)

The Dante Society of America has organized two sessions for the next Modern Language Association Annual Convention, which will be held in Philadelphia, January 5-8, 2017.


Chair: Beatrice Arduini, University of Washington, Seattle

Laura Banella, Duke University, "An Idea of Dante between Aï faus ris and the other rime."

The descort in three languages (French, Latin and Tuscan) Aï faus ris, pour quoi traï aves is one of the most fascinating and puzzling rime by Dante. Lyrics in more than one language can be found in various other vernaculars, but not in Italian before this one. In this canzone Dante makes the three languages work together and not just answer to each other, in order to represent the confusion and despair of the lover also through the signifier, proving himself in a genre of lyric that before him, in medieval Latin and in French and Occitan, and after him, is peripheral and tied to music.

This canzone has always been considered peculiar and fascinating for its experimental qualities, just like the petrose, to which – as Contini writes – it seems related. Yet Contini also claims that the content of the poem consists of platitudes. These statements summarize the main issues debated concerning this poem. Indeed, I argue that this lyric represents an example of how editors’ wills and (over)interpretation can forge the perception of an author. Indeed, from Michele Barbi’s 1921 edition of Dante’s Rime, until Domenico De Robertis’ edition in 2002, Aï faus ris has been filed among Dante’s uncertain poems, in spite of the fact that a large part of its tradition attributes it to Dante, while the other part witnesses it as anonymous. As Massimiliano Chiamenti argues, Barbi’s choice was probably due to his understanding of Dante, and some scholars still cast doubts on its authenticity. Thus, Aï faus ris is an  example of the tension between attention to the form and to the content in Dante studies. In my paper, exploring both a carefully selected specimen of its early tradition, and the contemporary accounts of its inclusion or exclusion as a possible product of Dante’s authorship, I will seek to review the vexata quaestio of the authenticity of the poem, and to open up the main issues at stake in the determination of the “Dante function” across time and space.

Bio: After graduating from University of Pisa and Scuola Normale Superiore, I earned a doctorate in Italian literature from the University of Padova. Currently, I am a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University. My main research interests lie in medieval Italian literature and material philology. Particularly, I am exploring the reception of Boccaccio’s edition of Dante’s Vita nuova, and the canonization of Dante through the study of lyric anthologies. Some of the results of my researches have been published in some journals of the field, such as Studi sul Boccaccio and Rivista di Studi Danteschi. My doctoral dissertation is in print for Editrice Antenore: La ‘Vita Nuova’ del Boccaccio. Fortuna e Tradizione.

Francesco Ciabattoni, Georgetown University, “Dante vs. Dante: The Ambiguity of the Term amico in Dante Alighieri’s Exchanges with Dante da Maiano.”

Moving from Barolini’s consideration that “Dante was not always already Dante,” I analyze Alighieri’s first steps as author of sonnets and his exchange with Dante da Maiano. In these tenzoni the two Dantes confront the importance of hermeneutics in visionary and love poetry. In each of their sonnets they employ the word amico (friend), but the meaning and function of this word shifts as the two writers measure up to one another: Alighieri will eventually end the correspondence with his interlocutor, whose identity has remained hidden, and use the word amico as a way to keep his distance rather than in the classical meaning of Ciceronian and Aristotelian noble friendship we read in the Convivio. This line of inquiry will shed light on the rhetorical ploys and mechanics of late Duecento tenzoni, as I will show resorting to Claudio Giunta’s notion of modo dialogico in the poetic exchanges of early Italian lyric.

Bio: Francesco Ciabattoni received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Italian Department at Georgetown University. He has published on international journals on Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Berto, Pasolini and Primo Levi. His monograph Dante’s Journey to Polyphony (University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2010) is a comprehensive study of the role of music in Dante’s Commedia. With P.M. Forni he has edited The Decameron Third Day in Perspective: Volume Three of Lectura Boccaccii (University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2014). Professor Ciabattoni’s main research focus is the interplay of music and literature. His book La “citazione” è sintomo d’amore (Carocci, 2016) is a study of the intertextual practice of literary in Italian songwriters.

Mirko Tavoni, University of Pisa, "Dante 1306-07: How He Gave Up Lay Philosophy and Linguistic Theory and Embraced Prophetic Poetry."

The paper aims at investigating under which biographical, geographical and political circumstances, in response to which stimuli, and pursuing which projects, between 1306 and 1307, Dante abruptly abandons the composition of the De vulgari eloquentia and the Convivio and hurls himself into the composition of the Inferno. There is a strong discontinuity between Dante the lay philosopher and theorist of the vernacular who writes the two treatises in prose and the prophetic Dante who writes the sacred poem. A discontinuity, and a change of authorial identity, which occurred in a very short time, and is manifested at all levels: building the earthly city vs disseminating an eschatological message;  rationalism vs visionarity; philosophy vs poetry; Aristoteles vs Virgil; “tragic” vs “comic” style; vulgare illustre vs native Florentine. Are there any specific events in Dante’s life and Italy's history of those years,which may have given rise to such a radical re-orientation? The paper, starting from the research results published in Qualche idea su Dante (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2015), correlates this change of authorial identity with traumatic events of Dante's life such as the defeats suffered by the Guelph exiles in their attempts to regain Florence by force of arms; with the various cities and different political and cultural environments in which Dante the exile lived (Forlì, Verona, Bologna, the Lunigiana ruled by the Malaspina); and with Dante’s view that his future would be outside Florence vs his hope to be readmitted to Florence. A historicizing interpretation under the sign of Sainte-Beuve’s statement: «Il y a un degré de poésie qui eloigne de l’histoire et de la réalité et un degré supérieur qui y ramène et qui l’embrasse».

Bio: Born in Modena, Mirko Tavoni studied at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa from 1968 to 1972. He taught Italian Philology at the University of Calabria from 1976-79, and has, since 1994, been Full Professor at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Pisa, where he teaches Italian Linguistics, History of the Italian Language and Dante studies.

His early work concerned language history and the “language question” in 15th and 16th century Italy, in particular the relationships between Latin and the vernacular, the birth of vernacular grammar and the beginnings of historical linguistics. He later extended his research interests to linguistic theories of Renaissance Europe, coordinating the «Renaissance Linguistics Archive 1350-1700» bibliographic project at the Ferrara Institute of Renaissance Studies and promoting comparative historiographic research regarding the different national European traditions. A collection of his essays in this field, entitled Renaissance Linguistics in Italy and in Europe will be published by Nodus Publikationen (Münster).

Tavoni has studied the linguistic and poetic ideas and language of Dante and other aspects of Dante such as the visionary and prophetic dimension of his Commedia. A new translated and commented edition of the De vulgari eloquentia was published by Mondadori in 2012 and the book Qualche idea su Dante by Il Mulino in 2015. He has headed the research team that produced DanteSearch, complete corpus of the vernacular and Latin works of Dante with morphological and syntactic markup in XML-TEI format (, and DanteSources, knowledge base in RDF format on the sources of Dante’s oeuvre (, work in progress)

He has been working on digital text processing as a research resource, long distance learning of linguistic and literary subjects and general issues concerning e-learning. He was a founder of the Degree course in Digital Humanities at the University of Pisa. He is currently President of the ICoN (Italian Culture on the Net) Consortium, composed of 19 Italian Universities, which promotes the study of Italian abroad via the Internet and offers an online Degree course in Italian Language and Culture for Foreigners ( and online courses in Italian as L2.

Anthony Nussmeier, University of Dallas, "«Guidonem, Lapum [sic?], et unum alium, Florentinos, et Cynum Pistoriensem»: How Dante Became Dante in the De vulgari eloquentia"

As critics from Ascoli to Hollander have pointed out, the De vulgari eloquentia was not just “one more dialectical step on the way to the Commedia”. It goes without saying then, yet must still be said, that Dante the author of the DVE was not yet the “somma poeta”, the Dante of the Commedia. This paper explores Dante’s attempts in the Latin tractate to concretize his place in the intellectual milieu of the early Trecento, his desire, as Durling has observed, to “write for his intended audience, posterity”.

That Dante was not yet “Dante” is best illustrated by his place as a lyric poet at the time of the DVE’s composition, and this paper would further like to investigate how Dante frames his own poetry in the DVE by way of a determined program of ‘associative poetics’. Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo has argued that the DVE serves more and more as a basis for “ogni nostra ricostruzione di quel periodo [il Medioevo]”. Here I would like to show how Dante, in attempting to become “Dante” in the DVE, is responsible for the very construction of that period and its literature as it has been interpreted for centuries.

Bio: Anthony Nussmeier earned his Ph.D. in Italian Language and Literature from Indiana University and is currently Assistant Professor of Italian at the University of Dallas. His research interests include material philology and lyric anthologies, and he has authored articles on Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarca, and Guittone d’Arezzo, with his work appearing in journals such as Medioevo letterario d’Italia, The Medieval Review, and Textual Cultures. His book manuscript exploring the relationship between Dante’s selections of poetry in the De vulgari eloquentia and subsequent anthologies of medieval Italian vernacular poetry is under contract with the University of Toronto Press. Anthony is also eager to ensure that his research and teaching find an outlet outside the classroom, and as such he is the organizer of recent events such as a 20-hour, public marathon reading of the entire Commedia.


Chair: Beatrice Arduini, University of Washington, Seattle

Martin Eisner, Duke University, "Love Will Tear Us Apart, Again: Different Traditions for Bertran de Born in Inferno 28."

How can an exploration of Dante’s library change our understanding of Dante’s work? This talk reconsiders Dante’s encounter with Bertran de Born in Inferno 28 from the perspective of a codex, Martelli 12, which contains a narrative tradition about the Occitan poet that informed Dante’s representation of him in the Commedia. Examining the transcription of the Conti di antichi cavalieri in Martelli 12, which also contains Dante’s Vita nuova, the talk offers a new view of Dante’s library that allows for a novel understanding of his treatment of the Occitan poet, both in terms of his punishment and his association with figures such as Mohammad. Although Dante categorizes Bertran as a poet of arms in the De vulgari eloquentia, the Conti di antichi cavalieri reveals another tradition that makes Bertran the spokesman for Western ideas of love. In the Conti di antichi cavalieri Bertran travels east to visits the court of the Saladin and explains to the Saladin what "amore fino" means.  Inspired by this new idea of love Saladin begins a destructive war. Although this story has several suggestive connections to the figure of Bertran de Born found in Inferno 28, few critics have used this story to interpret the Dantean episode. The transcription of the Conti in the fourteenth-century Martelli 12 manuscript, however, suggests that these narrative traditions may have constituted an important context not only for Dante’s early readers but also for Dante himself. By analyzing the collection of the Conti in Martelli 12, this talk demonstrates how the material dimension of Dante’s early reception can provide a fresh perspective one of the most familiar episodes from the poem that can come some distance to explaining its particular contours.

Bio: Martin Eisner is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at Duke University. He is the author of Boccaccio and the Invention of Italian Literature: Dante, Petrarch, Cavalcanti, and the Authority of the Vernacular (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and editor-in-chief of a new Mellon-supported online research project entitled Dante’s Library, which aims to reconstruct Dante’s intellectual and material world in virtual form. His new monograph, Dante and the Afterlife of the Book: Rematerializing Literary History, uses Dante’s Vita nuova to experiment with a new mode of literary history that reinterprets Dante’s work through the lens of its transmission history. 

Corey Flack, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, " Quasi peregrino: Re-evaluating Dante and Pilgrimage."

It is quite surprising that, since John G. Demaray’s foundational studies on historical pilgrimage and Dante in the 70s, there has no been relatively no work on the topic, in spite of the continual presence of “pilgrim” and “pilgrimage” in the lexicon on Dante Studies. This trend remains in spite of the anthropological turn in pilgrimage studies that has given more attention to the dynamic role of the pilgrims themselves instead of earlier structuralist views proposed by Victor Turner. This paper seeks to re-evaluate Dante’s knowledge and utilization of pilgrimage in precisely this sense: a journey of an individual to a sacred place who subsequently interacts with that space or a relic through physical means. Drawing off of communal practices evidenced by pilgrimage literature written from 333 to Dante’s death, I will show how the body was perceived as necessary to interact with the sacred, itself intimately tied to place through the life of Christ. Seen in this light, the physical presence of Dante’s body in the journey of the Commedia is then integral to its process of salvation, even in the cantica least associated with pilgrimage: the Inferno. It is here, through Dante’s frequent encounter with signs of Christ’s Death, that he is revealed to be “incarnate,” that is made in likeness of Christ, whose own Incarnation opened up the possibility of salvation.

Bio: Corey Flack is a PhD candidate in Italian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently preparing to defend his dissertation, “True Flesh: Measure, Pilgrimage, and Perfecting the Human in Dante’s Commedia,” which analyzes embodied conceptions of space in medieval Italian literature and specifically Dante, contextualized through the material culture of travel and pilgrimage, as well as measurement practices.

Julianna Visco, Columbia University, "A Material Vision of Cloth Production in the Commedia"

Representations of cloth production form a rich discourse in the Commedia and have gone virtually unexamined in Dante studies. By historicizing the far-reaching impact of the textile industry in Florence, I demonstrate how Dante taps into this cultural imaginary.

Material objects are, and have always been, both indicative and constitutive of the world around them. Textiles occupy a unique position in Trecento Italy due to their central role in the Florentine economy, impact on labor hierarchies, and their position in relationship to the East. Textiles are particularly ripe for investigation because of their intimate relationship to the body (both in making and wearing), their ability to stand as shorthand for delineating identity, and the bridge they form between public and private space. In the text they become receptacles for meaning; shifting sites upon which values can be (re)inscribed.

Dante calls attention to raw materials such as silk, wool, and linen—all of which dominate mercantile trade and artisanal production. He makes explicit reference to tools used in creating textiles—including the needle, spindle, and shuttle—when technology in textile production was rapidly changing the products produced. The scope and scale of textile production resulted in a stratified labor force. Metaphors involving complicated figures such as the sartore appear in both Inferno and Purgatorio, while finished products from cloaks and veils to belts and shirts appear in all three cantiche.

I argue that Dante deploys a poetics of textiles to communicate what it means to be human, to construct a discourse on deception, and to gesture towards social tensions and power relations. In this paper I reconstruct the finished textile objects Dante represents by tracing a historical path from creation through raw materials and production to consumption and use in order to demonstrate how Dante exploits the cultural values embedded in cloth for maximum linguistic and poetic payoff.

Bio: Julianna Visco is a PhD candidate in the Italian Department at Columbia University and is writing her dissertation on the representation of textiles and clothing in the works of Dante and Boccaccio.  Besides the intersection of material culture, specifically textiles, with late medieval Italian literature, her research interests include artisanal workshop practices and theories of the body and materiality. She is an assistant editor on the Digital Dante Project.

2016 Events

"Digital Dante" Session at MLA (January 9, 2016)

For the Modern Languages Association (MLA) Annual Convention, which was held in Austin, TX, from January 7-10, 2016, the Dante Society organized a session on "Digital Dante" (Session 480), which took place on Saturday, January 9, from 8:30-9:45am.

The presenters included: Carol Chiodo (Yale University), Martin G. Eisner (Duke University), Akash Kumar (Columbia University), Scott Millspaugh (Dartmouth College), Guy P. Raffa (University of Texas, Austin). The session was organized by Beatrice Arduini (University of Washington) and was chaired by Albert R. Ascoli (University of California, Berkeley).

Participants emphasized the pioneering role of Dante studies in digitization and discuss multimedia Dante-related academic resources that combine traditional elements of scholarly research with new communication and presentation possibilities enabled by networked digital technology.

DSA Sessions at the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting (March 31-April 2, 2016)

The Dante Society of America sponsored two sessions at the 62nd annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, held in Boston on March 31-April 2, 2016. The first session on "Dante and Science" was organized by Arielle Saiber (Bowdoin College) and was chaired by Kristin  Phillips-Court (University of Wisconsin-Madison); the papers included:

     “The Two-Headed Monster at the Base of Dante’s Hell: Anatomizing Temporal and Spiritual Power”
     Christiana  Purdy Moudarres, Yale University

    “‘Colui che volse il sesto’: Dante and Geometry”
    Corey  Flack, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

    “Altro dove: New Ways of Visualizing Dante’s Cosmos”
    Arielle  Saiber, Bowdoin College

A second session on "Communities of Reading and Dante's Divine Comedy" was organized by Deborah Parker (University of Virginia) and chaired by Kristina Olson (George Mason University). The papers included:

    “Hope in Exile: Poetic Authorship and Augustinian Citizenship in Dante’s Comedy”
    Laurence  Hooper, Dartmouth College [note: withdrawn due to illness]

    “Dante: Friendship and Poetry”
    Filippa  Modesto, CUNY, Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center [note: withdrawn due to illness]

    “Women Readers of Dante: A New England Renaissance”
    Christian Yves Dupont, Boston College

2016 Annual Meeting and Conference (April 22-23, 2016)

The 134th Annual Meeting of the Dante Society of America was held at Brown University in Providence, RI, on Saturday morning, April 23, 2016, from 9:00am-10:00am. The meeting room will be confirmed shortly (see below and the associated conference ).

In conjunction with our Annual Meeting, Professor Ronald Martinez hosted a conference at Brown University titled "Dante and the Protocols of Performance: Theatricality, Ritual, Feasts." The conference opened with a keynote address on Friday evening, April 22, by Marvin Trachtenberg, and concluded with a reception on Saturday evening, April 23. The conference was sponsored by Brown University with additional support from the Dante Society of America.

Dante Sessions at Kalamazoo (May 12-15, 2016)

The 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies was held at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, on May 12-15, 2016. The Dante Society sponsored three sessions.

Genre and Medium.  Presider Kristina Olson

  “Lifting Up the Low Reeds: The Status of Genre in Dante’s Eclogues
  Jonathan Combs-Schilling, The Ohio State University.

  “Dante/Giotto – Matter and Relief”
  Henrike Christiane Lange, University of California, Berkeley

  “Interpretative Mediations of Dante’s Commedia: From the editio princeps to New Digital Practices”
  Isabella Magni, Indiana University

  “‘E, vinta, vince’: Poetic Appropriation of Conquest in the Commedia
  Molly Bronstein, University of California, Berkeley

Philosophical Questions.  Presider Albert Ascoli

   “‘Il mal seme d’Adamo’: Soul, Body, and Original Sin in Dante”
   Dana Stewart, Binghamton University

   “Curiosity and the Excess of Prudence”
   Gabriel Pihas, St. Mary's College of California

   “The Piccarda Donati Thought Experiment: Dante’s Self-Forming Absolute Will”
   Humberto Ballesteros, Columbia University

    “Heresy and Faith as Matters of Praxis Rather than Belief in the Divine Comedy
   Jason Aleksander, Saint Xavier University

Female Figures.  Presider Dana Stewart

    “Skirting the Issue: Reconsidering Cacciaguida’s History of Florentine Fashion”
    Kristina M. Olson, George Mason University

    “Materna Locutio”
    Eugene Petracca, Columbia University

    “Dante’s Matelda: Queen, Mother and Saint”
    JH Moran Cruz, Associate Professor of History, Georgetown University

    “The Hidden Passion of Dante’s Mary”
    John Bugbee, University of Virginia


2015 Events

Annual Meeting (May 2, 2015)

Our 2015 Annual Meeting was hosted by the University of Chicago on Saturday, May 2, 2015, from 9:00am-10:00am in 408 Weiboldt Hall, with coffee and light breakfast available from 8:30am on. Draft minutes will soon be available. The Annual Meeting was followed by the Annual Conference (see below).

Annual Conference (May 2, 2015)

An international, interdisciplinary conference on Dante’s Political Theology sponsored by the University of Chicago in collaboration with the Dante Society of America, was held on May 2, 2015, from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., in 408 Weiboldt Hall immediately following the Annual Meeting. The conference was free and open to DSA members and to the public, with no advance registration required. About 40 people attended.

Dante Sessions at Kalamazoo (May 14-17, 2015)

The Fiftieth International Congress on Medieval Studies was held at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, May 14-17, 2015. The Dante Society sponsored the following series of sessions, arranged by Alison Cornish (University of Michigan).

For additional information, please visit:

Dante I: Hybridity

Chair: Roberta Morosini (Wake Forest University)

Albert Russell Ascoli (The University of California at Berkeley): “‘Ponete mente almen come sono bella’: Poetry and Prose, Goodness and Beauty, in Convivio.”

Jonathan Combs-Schilling (The Ohio State University): “Lifting Up the Low Reeds: The Status of Genre in Dante’s Eclogues.”

Akash Kumar (Columbia University): “He Said/She Said: Hybridity and Cultural Contamination in Dante’s Lyric Poetry.”

Meredith Ringel-Ensley (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): “Haptic Poetics and Dante’s De Vulgari Eloquentia.”

Dante II: Other discourses

Chair: Jason Aleksander (St. Xavier University)

Stanley Benfell (Brigham Young University): “The Resurrection in Dante’s Paradiso.”

Corey Flack (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign): “The Counterfeiter and the Geometer: The Idea of Misura in Inf. XXX.”

Vincent Pollina (Tufts University): “The Fate of Courtly Convention in Dante’s Rime Petrose.”

Francis R. Hittinger (Columbia University): “Dante Sinistra: Aristotle and Discourses of Greed in the Medieval Italian Lyric.”

Dante III: Other Contexts

Chair: Albert Russell Ascoli (The University of California at Berkeley)

Roberta Morosini (Wake Forest University): “Un uom nasce a la riva de l’Indo (Par. XIX, 70). Mediterranean Dante or Tales that Travel in …. “Quel mar che la terra inghirlanda.”

Beatrice Arduini (University of Washington): “Reading Dante in the Eighteenth Century: Anton Maria Biscioni's 1723 Convivio.”

Jelena Todorović (University of Wisconsin-Madison): “Biscioni’s Edition of the Vita Nova and What It Meant for the Libello’s Fortuna.”

Zane D.R. Mackin (Columbia University): “Dante Shinkyoku: Fiction and Fact in Postwar Japan”