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Lecture: Translation and Ideology - The Construction of Dante as a Prophet of Liberty

January 16, 2019 3:00 PM
Conference Room B, Irwin Hall, Beirut campus

The Department of Humanities is hosting a lecture titled: “Translation and Ideology: The Construction of Dante as a Prophet of Liberty” by Dr. Edoardo Crisafulli, cultural attaché at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.


This lecture will focus on the ideological appropriation of Dante’s Comedy – one of the greatest works of the Western literary canon, according to the American critic Harold Bloom – in nineteenth-century Britain. The British Romantics transformed a Medieval poet of (Christian) hierarchical order into a modern prophet of civil and religious liberty: Dante, in their eyes, was a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation. The Comedy’s anticlericalism was congenial to a British readership that was fiercely anti-Roman Catholic. Politics too loomed large: there is a clear bond between progressive-liberal politics and Protestantism. In fact, Dante was seen as the embodiment of the spirit of Italian “free communes” (or city-states) opposing despotic Popes and Emperors. The Protestant reading of Dante throws up interesting issues which are relevant not only to Italianists, but also to translation scholars, historians and philosophers. Does the Comedy’s anticlericalism or its ‘antipapal spirit’ lend itself to the Protestant reading? Or do the British Romantics manipulate – in Umberto Eco’s terminology: ‘over-interpret’ – the Italian text? In order to provide an answer, Isaiah Berlin’s distinction between negative and positive liberty will be examined. Nineteenth-century Catholics and Protestants shared a Christian vision of moral liberty, yet they had diametrically opposed conceptions of political liberty.


Edoardo Crisafulli (Ph.D., National University of Ireland) is currently a cultural attaché at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Before entering the Foreign service (in the area of cultural diplomacy), he lectured at the Universities of Dublin, Manchester, and Jeddah. He has published extensively on Italian politics and Translation Studies. Among his publications, The Vision of Dante. H.F. Cary’s Rewriting of the Divine Comedy into English.

All are welcome to attend.

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