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Take this free online course on Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’


The great work serves as a window into the medieval understanding of the divine and the afterlife as it was influenced and developed by the Catholic Church.

In 1320, Dante Alighieri finished his work Commedia (The Comedy, later given the adjective Divine), which went on to become widely regarded as the pre-eminent work in Italian literature and one of the most celebrated texts in the world. The 14,233-line work of poetry gives vast insight into the medieval European understanding of the divine and the afterlife as it was influenced and developed by the Catholic Church.

Even today, nearly 700 years after Dante completed his influential work — just one year before his own plunge into the afterlife — recitations of the Divine Comedy can fill a concert hall and scholars devote countless hours of study to its pages for various theses. Now, thanks to the good folks at edX, we can all devote a little time to Dante, with the free online course, The Divine Comedy: Dante’s Journey to Freedom.

The lessons, run by Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, Frank Ambrosio, will take students through all three sections, or cantiche, of the Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Throughout each cantica, students will reflect on Dante’s interpretation of freedom, how it influences personal identity, and how the Divine Comedy can relate to the world today.

Of the class, Ambrosio says:

In this course, you will begin to question for yourself the meaning of human freedom, responsibility and identity by reading and responding to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. The Comedy, which is richly steeped in the medieval culture of 14th century, still speaks vividly to modern readers struggling with the questions “who am I?” and “what meaning or value can my life have?” Dante struggled with the same questions before coming to a moment of vision that wholly transformed him as a person.

The course is expected to take around eight weeks to complete if students commit 9-10 hours per week to their studies. As with all edX courses, however, the work load is intended to be accomplished at the pace set by each individual student. Registration for the course is free, but there is a $49 fee if participants would like a verified certificate of completion.

For more information on this free online course’s syllabus, or to register for the class, visit the edX website here.

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