Dante: Digital and on the Web

Article excerpt


Language programs have tended to shift away from the focus on the classical literary studies that dominated university language majors for so long. Opening up the profession to small "c" culture and language study for other purposes strengthens our programs. Literary studies, however, continue to be a major interest of many who are passionate about their language. Great works continue to draw new specialists into the field and serve to bring the history of a language, its people, and their culture to life. Literary works serve as examples of the power and beauty of language at its best. Helping to make such texts more accessible to learners, the Web can make use of hypertext and multimedia to provide context that is so often lacking for those without the general background knowledge that a good reader is assumed to possess.


Digital Dante, a project supported by the Institute for Learning Technologies at Columbia University, is one example of an effort to treat classical texts with a modern perspective and make them available through communications technologies to a much wider audience.

About the Project: This descriptive overview, found under the Resources heading (http://dante.ilt.columbia.edu/new/net/) explains the Digital Dante Project, identifying it as an online, multimedia Dante-related academic resource that presents traditional elements of scholarly research through new technological means, specifically digital technology. The work treated is The Divine Comedy, and the main translation used for the project is that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The project seeks to provide multimedia supplementary materials to those studying the original text, enabling readers to envision the poet's meaning in an expanded and multi-dimensional way. By taking advantage of the technologies currently available, this project presents a 21st century illuminated manuscript of Dante's masterpiece. Indeed, the project is described as a multimedia translation of Dante's text. Though the integration of multimedia is not extensive yet, at the time of this writing, the features of the site that are already in place are quite interesting for anyone studying Dante.

About Dante: Includes a short biography and chronology of Dante's life. This section also provides links to Web sites for Dante Studies and Medieval Studies.

The Comedy: The project presents The Divine Comedy in its original form, along with translations by Longfellow and also by Allen Mandelbaum. One may chose to view the original with a translation by Longfellow, the original with a translation by Mandelbaum, or both translations together without the original text.

This presentation of the translations, one above the other, allows for easy comparison with the original or between translations. The texts are annotated with hyperlinks to a text box at the bottom of the page. These notes contain comments about the wording, symbolism, related works, personages, historical notes, etc. This text box can be resized for easier access.

There is a second column for annotations, but this does not appear to have any links at the time of this writing. We assume that this is intended for the multimedia annotations described in the project overview. This presentation of the Comedy is already a very powerful tool for studying the text. The implementation of HTML frames is a bit inconsistent in this section, causing windows to sometimes appear where they are not expected or new information to appear in frames where they do not seem to be intended. But this seems a minor problem.

In the Classroom: The General Resources section includes a set of resources for use in the Classroom. Study and research guides, lessons plans, as well as a sample syllabus for a class on Art in the Time of Dante are available here. …