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Summary

Professors Cook and Herzman provide you with an illuminating introduction to one of the greatest works ever written. One of the most profound and satisfying of all poems, The Divine Comedy (or Commedia) of Dante Alighieri is a book for life. In a brilliantly constructed narrative of his imaginary guided pilgrimage through the three realms of the Christian afterlife, Dante accomplished a literary task of astonishing complexity.

But the full achievement of the Commedia goes beyond anything merely literary. In these twenty-four lectures, as you follow Dante on his journey, you'll learn how medieval literature offers insights into fundamental questions: What is the quality of our moral actions? How does spiritual transformation come about? What is the nature of good and evil, virtue and vice, sin and sanctity? Why is the world so full of strife? How do we go on when we lose the things we love? You'll discover why, in the centuries since the Commedia was written, not one of these questions has lost its force. Moreover, you'll hear Dante address them in a demanding and innovative Italian verse form (terza rima) that makes the Commedia one of the great virtuoso pieces of world literature.

With the guidance of these two master professors, you'll learn invaluable background information on Dante's life and times; why Dante wrote the Commedia; how to approach the various English editions available; and how each part of the poem is connected to what has come before. But above all, you'll understand why the Commedia is not a puzzle to be solved or a book to be read and put aside-but a mystery whose beauty and richness is to be constantly savored.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Karen
  • Brill in Buckinghamshire
  • 31-03-15

A wonderful way to understand this masterpiece

Excellent teaching. Easy on the ear and a wonderful way in to this classic text. Full of interesting explanations and new thoughts for me on Dante

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Long Journey

This lecture series gives you exactly what it says. The tag-team lecturers take a few minutes to get used to, but its unnoticeable once you get going. It helps if you've read at least a synopsis of the poem and have a cursory understanding of Italian history, but they go pretty thoroughly into everything, so you could probably survive without any background read.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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fairly thorough

The poem itself is a huge undertaking and thus so are these lectures. I had no idea what the poem was at all before getting these lectures. I come from a Christian background but I am also a man of science. if your background differs or you're very devout then your opinion may differ but here is mine.

As these lectures explain the background of the poem in great detail, characters etc. this is very useful and no doubt vital. But as they never actually read the whole poem in English I found myself lacking in ability to follow what was happening. I think it may be better to listen to the first couple of lecturers which introduce the poem, then get yourself a translated copy to your own language (preferably one with English and Italian text so you can compare), read the entire poem, then listen to the rest of the lecturers. Then perhaps read the poem again. it really is so large and complex that it would require this effort.

I didn't do this, I just listened to the lectures and I perhaps would have preferred the prior approach. nevertheless, what I wanted to obtain was an understanding of what the poem was about to see if I could relate, find meaning and look forward in my understanding of theology and philosophy. I'm not sure that it really does all that for me so I don't know if I will study the poem more myself in future.

Aside from my own personal experience and interpretation these lectures are extremely informative, I dare say vital if you want to learn about the poem. Audio quality and performance are OK.

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  • Patti
  • 25-08-13

The Commedia for Modern Readers

Would you listen to Dante's Divine Comedy again? Why?

Yes I will definitely listen to this again. Its chalk full of information on the symbolism, characters, and political climate that existed in Italy around the time Dante wrote the Commedia. The first listen has given me an over view of the work. I will go back to fill in the details with my own copy of the translation so that I can experience the work as it was meant to be experienced.

What did you like best about this story?

Dante's "Divine Comedy" is a classic that is somewhat inaccessible to many readers today who don't have a degree in Italian history, politics and art. This presentation cuts through all that and allow everyone to access the themes and meanings in the work. The poem is presented line by line with descriptions of every line and character. Its provides an excellent way for a modern reader to enjoy this extraordinary work.

What about Professor Ronald B. Herzman and Professor William R. Cook ’s performance did you like?

The performance is presented in a clear and easy to listen to lecture format. Its broken down into 30 minute sessions which are excellent for the drive into work so its easy to bring Dante along.

33 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • David Linz
  • 04-02-15

Incredible, best audio course I have ever taken

I was really caught off guard by how enlightening this course was. The authors immediately dispel the common perception of the Comedia as some kind of poetic revenge fantasy and break through to the core of Dante's vision. Introducing the readers to a bit of the necessary history, the course is then able to spring board into Dante's perspective on sin and virtue. One warning, this course necessarily only skims the surface of what is to be found in The Divine Comedy. Nevertheless it is a great first step for anyone seeking to understand the great Florentine poet!

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Raleigh
  • 07-07-16

trying to find his way home

? do you ever suspect, that you're not as well-educated as you think
? are there great, classic works of literature that just intimidate you
? ron herzman and bill cook would like to help you with that problem

together, they have taught dante's " divine comedy " for decades
their experience and teaching talents are on vivid display in this recording
together they act as patient and proficient guides to this great poem

1300's florence has many tiresome similarities to our own modern world
commercial greed, urban apathy, political ambition, religious corruption etc.
dante was exiled from his home city, in one of these long-running squabbles

he wrote the poem as " a stranger in a strange land " longing for home
his initial hopes for return were crushed and he slowly learned to accept his fate
he wearily concluded, that heaven was the only home he could hope for

the recording is organized into 40 minute lectures and notes are provided
herzman and cook do an excellent job of providing context and back story
their ability to relate dante's struggle to a modern audience is remarkable

? has adult life dealt you a long series of defeats and obstacles
? are there times you feel " exiled " from the life you thought you'd have
the ancient voice of dante alighieri would like to help you find your way home




5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • FinalFrontier
  • 14-08-16

Excellent Commentary on the Divine Comedy

This is an excellent introduction to this poem. The lecturers are engaging, lively and informative.

The format reminds me of a sports commentator who describes an event and is assisted by his color commentator who gives the audience additional information.

Just as Virgil and others serve as Dante's guides on his journey, these lecturers serve as our guides through the poem. They especially remind me of how Virgil patiently explains things to Dante, since they give us some idea of what to expect, no matter what translation of the Comedy we work with. Also, like Virgil, they step back and allow us to explore the poem without them having to be there.

If you're having trouble with the Divine Comedy, this lecture series is highly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeff Rothe
  • 06-09-15

A must read

a great way to meditate and self reflect 30 minutes per day. will listen to it again

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Pedroalvarez
  • 04-12-17

Very good journey. A Voyage in human essence.

Very interesting course. I would never achive not even a small part of this poem without the help of this extraordinary teachers. Very pleasent and rewarding from start to end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Marian Friedrichs
  • 12-07-16

Essential and enjoyable

Dr. Herzman was one of my undergraduate professors; seventeen years ago he introduced me to Dante, for which I will always be grateful. What a pleasure it is to be able to learn from him all over again as I reread the Divine Comedy as an adult. One really does need plenty of background information to fully enjoy this poem. A well-trained guide is essential, and Professors Cook and Herzman fill the role admirably.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • JuanAndRaquel
  • 07-07-15

Historical Dante's Commedia

What made the experience of listening to Dante's Divine Comedy the most enjoyable?

The course is taught by two professors, apparently Catholic, and obviously well versed with Dante and one of them with Church history.

Any additional comments?

The course, however, is more like a history of who was who in Dante as well as the politics of his time, although they certainly touch upon the philosophical and theological points that Dante makes throughout.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Todd
  • 16-01-15

Wonderful teachers

Excellent pair of lecturers. Made the subject matter very accessible and understandable. Highly recommend this as an adjunct to your reading of the poem

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • DeeDeen
  • 18-05-18

Terrific

A great help in understanding Dante's influential masterpiece. Plenty of explanations, guidance, and historical context. I enjoyed the double teacher approach. Will listen to this again. Learned so much, and there's still more to learn about this opus.