In the years 2012 and 2014, my husband and I traveled several times to Italy.  We fell in love with the country and decided to add Italian to the arsenal of languages that we speak.  We enjoyed taking classes in Italian at Berkeley Adult School for several semesters with a wonderful teacher and scholar named Oscar Luca d'Amore.  


Each student would be required to prepare a 10 minute presentation on a topic of their choosing. Appropriate to a class in Italian, I prepared a presentation that incorporated my illustrations and libretto of Dante's Inferno and compared those illustrations to the more famous illustrations of the Inferno from Gustave Doré.  I was struck with the remarkable similarities between the themes chosen by both myself and Monsieur Doré.  In the YouTube video below, I present the images with an underlying soundtrack of various types of music appropriate to an infernal theme.  Below the video are the text versions of my presentation in both English and Italian. 



English translation of presentation for Italian Class:


So what’s the big deal about Dante’s Inferno?  This was the question I asked myself when I first decided to read The Inferno.  Because I majored in Religion in college and studied theology in graduate school for several years, I had always heard about how important Dante’s Divine Comedy was, particularly for a student of art and religion. Additionally, the idea of a journey to the underworld always makes for a great classic story.  I felt that I couldn’t be a true student of religion or a real intellectual if I didn’t at least understand the story of the Inferno and what were the images and symbols contained in this important work of art.  Unfortunately, my attention wandered every time I attempted to read the work and I got no further in my attempts to answer my questions because every time I sat down with the book, I got an irresistible urge to take a nap. 


As the years went by, it always bothered me that I still hadn’t accomplished my goal.  I was determined to finish what I had started.  So about 5 years ago, I devised a way to trick myself into accomplishing my goal.  I decided to undertake a project whereby I would read a Canto, and then at the end of the Canto, I had to draw a picture of the central image that I had taken from that Canto.  There are 34 Cantos in total in the Inferno so I had 34 pictures to draw before I was finished.  The only rule was that I was not allowed to cheat and peak at other renditions before I did my own.  After I completed my pictures, I finally allowed myself to look at other well-known illustrations of Dante.  I discovered that the same images that I had focused on were the exact same images depicted by my confreres in infernal illustration, particularly the great illustrator, Gustave Dore.  Seeing this was particularly gratifying as it showed me that I was on the right track in terms of understanding what I read.


Since that time, I have revisited Dante’s Inferno again many times.  Most recently, I have rediscovered the work through a class in Italian literature I have been taking. And now that I am studying Italian, I am also interested in learning more about the Italian language in the work.  When I have the time, I intend to read the original terza rima and listen to Vittorio Gassman’s readings of the work.  I also intend to read other modern re-interpretations of the work that make the work relevant to a modern reader.


My interest is not scholarly or academic or religious.  I know that I will never be a Dante scholar or understand life in Florence during Dante’s time.  However, I have come to appreciate what endures in the work and the ways in which it is applicable to modern life.


Italian version of presentation for Italian Class:


Allora, perche tutti sono cosi interessati a l’Inferno di Dante?  Questa era la domanda che mi sono chiesto

quando ho deciso di leggere L’Inferno.  Perché mi sono laureata in studio della religione

e ho studiato teologia a Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley per alcuni anni, ho sempre sentito parlare di quanto sia importante Divina Commedia, soprattutto per uno studente di arte e religione.    Sentivo che non potevo essere un vero studente di religione o un vero intellettuale, se non ho capito la storia dell'Inferno e le immagini e simboli contenuti in questa importante opera d'arte.


Purtroppo, la mia attenzione vagava ogni volta che ho tentato di leggere l’opera.  Ogni volta che mi sono seduto con il libro, ho avuto una voglia irresistibile di fare un pisolino.  Col passare del tempo ero sempre deluso in me stesso, perche non avevo ancora raggiunto il mio obiettivo.  Ero determinato a finire quello che avevo iniziato.   Ho deciso di fare un progetto.  Ho deciso di leggere un canto, e poi alla fine del Canto, ho dovuto disegnare un disegno di immagine  entrale che avevo preso da quel Canto.     

Ci sono 34 Cantos in totale nel Inferno.   Così ho dovuto 34 immagini per disegnare prima ero finito.


L'unica regola è che non mi era permesso di guardare altre versioni prima ho fatto la mia versione. Dopo aver completato le miei disegni, ho finalmente permesso a me stesso di guardare altri illustrazioni ben noti di Dante. Sono stata felice di scoprire che i miei disegni erano molto simili alle altre disegni famosi di  l’inferno. In particolare il grande illustratore, Gustave Dore.


Vorrei condividere con voi i miei disegni. Io non sono uno studioso di Dante. Sono semplicemente  interessato a comunicare una comprensione generale della struttura complessiva di questo importante pezzo di letteratura.  Le mie scuse che ho usato la lingua inglese nel mio progetto. Vorrei anche condividere questo con i miei amici che non capiscono italiana.


E adesso, l’Inferno.