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Theses Doctoral

Visualizing Dante’s World: Geography, History and Material Culture

DeWitt, Allison Marie

This study examines the importance of geographical ideas in Dante’s Commedia and develops a historically sensitive geocritical methodology to analyze the function of real world geography within Dante’s poem. I aim to expand our understanding of the importance of the poet’s use of geography beyond the consulation of geographical sources and consideration of place names. In the first chapter case studies of geographical references with connections to the Islamic world show how historicized approaches open up new possibilities of understanding the medieval significance of the poet’s references. Subsequent chapters explore the relationship of the Commedia’s geography to medieval mapping technologies; comparing the parameters and borders of Dante’s world to the genre of medieval mappaemundi as well as putting this worldview into conversation with the emerging field of portolan charts and the developing navigational technology of the thirteenth century. This project further expands our definition of the stakes of geographical knowledge and traces the the social, political and cultural implications of the various modes of representing the world and how these implications are evident in the scholarly responses to the worldview represented within the Commedia. Ultimately, this project shows how a geocritical historicized reading of the Commedia opens up new directions for Dante studies and puts the geographical material of Dante’s work into conversation with other disciplines. The conclusion ends with a proposal for future digital directions for this research.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Barolini, Teodolinda
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 28, 2019