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Publisher's 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.
©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

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By Patti on 08-25-13

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.

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26 of 26 people found this review helpful


By David Linz on 02-04-15

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!

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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By Karen on 03-31-15

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

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful


By Ian on 02-18-16

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.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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By rhys on 10-08-16

One of the best Audio book I have ever heard

I must confess that I had absolutely no background, or even interest in classic readings prior to this audio book. The reason for the purchase was to broaden my reading, as it was limited to say the least. I have since listened to this audio in its entirety about 5 times - This is a first! I would probably say that aside from the text the presentors are the reason why it is so amazing. The two presentors are so well versed in the text and so engaging at the same time, which makes it so fascinating. I particularly like it when they crack little scholar "in house" Dante jokes throughout their lectures. These two are without doubt two of the best lecturers I have heard to date. They bring an understanding that is quite remarkable. In short, I can not recommend this enough - congratulations and thak you.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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