Dante in America VI

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Location: Special Collections

In connection with the 2021 Dante centenary, the Devers Program in Dante Studies and the Center for Italian Studies are organizing a year-long lecture series, which will be held on the Notre Dame campus throughout the 2021 calendar year. The aim of the series is to assess the ways in which Dante has impacted the literary and popular culture of the United States. The series is divided into six sessions. Each session will consist of two speakers who will speak for 30-45 minutes each. The series will address topics including translation, iconography, library collections, the Civil War era, African-American literary culture, American religious culture, American poetry and narrative, and Italian-American culture.

In this session, Arielle Saiber, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Bowdoin College, will give a lecture on American artist, Paul Laffoley's plan for a Dante museum in outer space, and Christian Dupont, Burns Librarian & Associate University Librarian for Special Collections at Boston College, will speak on Dante collections in US libraries and museums.

The Fall lectures are being planned in a hybrid online and in-person format. Please register here.

Christian Y. Dupont, "Recollecting Dante Collecting"

Christian Dupont is Burns Librarian and associate university librarian for special collections at the John J. Burns Library at Boston College. He holds a Ph.D. in theology from Notre Dame and a M.I.S from Indiana University. He has worked in curatorial positions and special collections at the Universities of Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Virginia. His primary research interests relate to the history of libraries and collecting, including the formation of institutional collections relating to Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy and their role in the reception of Italian literature in the United States. Since May 2014, he has been serving as Secretary and Librarian for the Dante Society of America.

Arielle Saiber, “The Lantern of the World Rises to Mortals by Varied Paths:  Paul Laffoley (1935-2015) and Dante”

American artist and architect Paul Laffoley (1935-2015) had a life-long fascination with Dante. Not only did he refer to Dante and the Commedia throughout his writings and paintings, but he created a large-scale triptych illustrating the poem, as well as sketched out plans for a full-immersion Dante study center on a planetoid orbiting the Sun, complete with a to-scale replica of the medieval earth, Mount Purgatory, the material heavens, and the Empyrean through which a “Dante Candidate” could re-enact the Pilgrim’s journey. Laffoley’s work is often placed by art critics within the “visionary” tradition and Laffoley himself embraced that label, even as he deconstructed the term in his writing. Among the many visionary artists, poets, and philosophers Laffoley studied, Dante was central. This talk offers a brief biography of Laffoley and his works; an overview of his two main Dante projects (The Divine Comedy triptych [1972-1975] and The Dantesphere [1978]); and initial considerations on how Dante’s works and thought fit into Laffoley’s larger epistemological project.

Arielle Saiber is Professor of Romance Languages & Literatures at Bowdoin College. Saiber's books include Images of Quattrocento Florence: Writings on Literature, History and Art, co-edited with Stefano U. Baldassarri (Yale, 2000); Giordano Bruno and the Geometry of Language (Ashgate/Routledge, 2005); and Measured Words: Computation and Writing in Renaissance Italy (University of Toronto Press, 2017). She publishes on Dante, medieval and Renaissance literature and mathematics, topics in “literature & science,” and early print history, as well as on science fiction, visual culture, and experimental electronic music. In 2006 she built the web-based archive, Dante Today: Sightings and Citings of Dante’s Work in Contemporary Culture, which she now co-edits with Elizabeth Coggeshall. Saiber has also served on the executive council and as Vice President of the Dante Society of America.