Matthew Collins on “Reading Dante with Images: A Visual Lectura Dantis”

A Contribution by:

Matthew Collins
holds a PhD from Harvard University’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. His 2018 dissertation was on the early printed illustrations of Dante’s Commedia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. He has taught at Harvard and at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and a Lauro De Bosis Postdoctoral Fellow.

“The Lectura Dantis is an interpretive tradition initiated by Giovanni Boccaccio in the late fourteenth century in which one reads and comments on Dante’s Comedy on a canto-by-canto basis. This volume, the first of a series, unprecedently merges the Lectura with another longstanding interpretive tradition: the illustration of Dante’s work, beginning with manuscript illuminations created in the near immediate wake of the poem’s completion in 1320 or 1321. In this Visual Lectura Dantis, scholars select a canto and engage in some intrinsic fashion with images that intertwine with it. In addition, three artists in this volume provide their creative perspectives on the process of developing visual representations of the poem. In Reading Dante with Images, authors thus develop and apply methods for inquiring into the multimedial quality of literary illustration—or, more broadly stated, they confront and/or develop paradigms of visual and verbal relations.”

Reading Dante with Images: A Visual Lectura Dantis

Scheduled for Winter 2021

This volume contains an unprecedented meeting of two major traditions, each of which are forms of careful engagement with Dante’s Commedia: the Lectura Dantis, and the illustrations of this work. The Lectura Dantis, initiated by Giovanni Boccaccio in the fourteenth century, consists of a canto by canto study of Dante’s poem. The history of Commedia illustration has equally deep roots, as illuminated manuscripts of the text were being produced within decades of the work’s completion in 1321. While both of these traditions have continued, mostly uninterruptedly, for more than six hundred years, they have never been directly brought together. In this volume, Dante scholars take on a single canto of the Commedia of their choosing, reading not just the text, but also exploring the illustrations of their selected text to form multifaceted and multi-layered visual-textual readings. In addition to enlivening the Lectura Dantis, and confronting the illustrated tradition of the poem in a new fashion, these studies present a variety of approaches to studying not just the Commedia but any illustrated literary work through a serious inquiry into the words themselves as well as the images that these words have inspired.