Quodlibetal Culture in Dante's Time


Florence, Italy, and Europe

April 26-27, 2019
100-104 McKenna Hall
University of Notre Dame

Lorenzo Dell'Oso (University of Notre Dame) and Paola Nasti (Northwestern University)

Sponsored by the Devers Family Program in Dante Studies and the Center for Italian Studies with the Medieval Institute and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

In his philosophical treatise Convivio (1304-7), Dante briefly describes a pivotal moment of his intellectual formation and declares that, after the death of his beloved Beatrice in 1290, when he was 25, he "truthfully" found "philosophy" by attending the "schools of the religious orders and the disputations held by the philosophers." Scholars agree that the "disputations held by the philosophers" where Dante found philosophy must include the quodlibetal disputations held at that time in the Florentine Mendicant convents. The quodlibetales were public discussions that tackled theological and philosophical topics often proposed by members of the public and, as such, they were prime occasions for the dissemination of highly technical material among a non-specialist audience. Laymen were in fact allowed to attend these learned debates and ask questions of the lectores or magistri who were in charge of leading the discussion. Participation in these events could be seen as one of the main channels through which a layman such as Dante could broaden or improve his knowledge in Florence in the years 1290-1302. Little is known, however, about the actual development of this fundamental Scholastic genre in the Italian studia and convent schools. Efforts to systematize our understanding of this phenomenon are very recent and as yet too few considering its importance. In this workshop, scholars will consider the who, why, where, and when of the "Italian" quodlibetales. They will explore the topics normally dealt with in Florence and in other cities of medieval Italy, they will assess whether the quodlibetal disputations debated in Italy were original when compared to those held in Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge. Above all, for those who are interested in Dante's intellectual formation, the workshop will address the issue of influence: how could these questions have molded or guided the poet's study of highly specialized subjects? Hoping to gain a better understanding of the intellectual concerns that shaped Dante's cultural environment and further appreciate the ways in which the poet developed a personal intellectual system, the workshop intends to bring together not only Dante scholars, but also experts in medieval theology, history, and philosophy who have worked on this essential genre of medieval scholasticism.

Friday, April 26, 2019
100-104 McKenna Hall

Saturday, April 27, 2019
100-104 McKenna Hall

The conference program and poster may be downloaded here:

Program (PDF, 185K)
Poster (PDF, 453K)

Papers will be pre-circulated to participants and registered attendees so that the sessions can be dedicated to discussion. Please contact Lorenzo Dell'Oso (ldelloso@nd.edu) with any questions.


Michael Biasin (University of Reading)
Lorenzo Dell'Oso (University of Notre Dame)
William Duba (Université de Fribourg)
Kent Emery (University of Notre Dame)
Roberto Lambertini (Università di Macerata)
Nicolò Maldina (University of Edinburgh)
Paola Nasti (Northwestern University)
Anna Pegoretti (Università di Roma Tre)
Christopher Schabel (University of Cyprus)
Andrea Tabarroni (Università di Udine)


Zygmunt G. Barański (University of Notre Dame)
Luca Bianchi (Università di Milano)
Theodore J. Cachey, Jr. (University of Notre Dame)
Ambrogio Camozzi Pistoja (Harvard University)
Therese Cory (University of Notre Dame)
Simon Gilson (University of Oxford)
Daniel Hobbins (University of Notre Dame)
Robert Lerner (Northwestern University)
Luca Lombardo (University of Notre Dame)
Christian R. Moevs (University of Notre Dame)
Justin Steinberg (University of Chicago)

Italian Devers Blue