Dante’s “Inferno” in the American Cinema Before and After World War II
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CMRS Distinguished Visiting Scholar Lecture
In this presentation, Mirko Tavoni screens and comments on selected clips from three films produced in the United States between 1924-1944, and two films produced in the late 1990s. These films actualize Dante’s Inferno within five – very different – contemporary stories. In the three pre-war films – i.e. Dante’s Inferno by Henry Otto (1924), the homonymous Dante’s Inferno by Harry Lachman (1935), and the Harlemwood production Go Down Death! by Spencer Williams (1944) – Dante is the source of a moral message to modern society: the infernal vision admonishes us not to make of our life, with our hands, a Hell on Earth. The message redeems or punishes those who, through greed for money, spread evil in modern industrial society. Dante is taken as a humanist antidote to the animal spirits of capitalism. The two films of the 1990s – i.e. Decostructing Harry by Woody Allen (1997) and What Dreams May Come (1998) by Vincent Ward – rewrite the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in opposite keys: the second in a spiritualist-New Age key, the first in a hilariously parodic key.
Mirko Tavoni is professor of Italian Linguistics and Dante Studies at the University of Pisa. He has worked on the comparative history of linguistic ideas in the Renaissance: Latino, grammatica, volgare. Storia di una questione umanistica (Padova: Antenore 1984); “La linguistica rinascimentale”, in Storia della linguistica, ed. G. Lepschy, II (Bologna: Il Mulino 1990: English translation History of Linguistics, III, London: Longman 1998); Italy and Europe in Renaissance Linguistics, 2 vols., ed. M. Tavoni at alii (Modena: Panini 1996). His main research interest today is Dante: see the edition with introduction, translation and notes of De vulgari eloquentia, in Dante, Opere, I (Milan: Mondadori 2011); Qualche idea su Dante (Bologna: Il Mulino 2015); “Linguistic Italy”, in Dante in Context, eds. Z.G. Barański and L. Pertile, Cambridge University Press 2015). Winner of a Humboldt Research Award, in 2017, Professor Tavoni has carried out a systematic research on the visionary dimension of the Divine Comedy at the Freie Universität Berlin (see “Dante ‘Imagining’ His Journey through the Afterlife”, Dante Studies, 133, 2015).
Please register below and let us know you’re attending. No fee. Limited seating. Self-pay parking in lots 2, 3, and 4. Parking information at main.transportation.ucla.edu/campus-parking/visitors
Funding for CMRS Distinguished Visiting Scholars is provided by the Humanities Division of the UCLA College of Letters and Sciences, and the Armand Hammer Endowment for the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Co-sponsored by the UCLA Department of Italian.