Dante and the Legibility of the Universe: Facts and Narratives

Bernardo Lecture Series, No. 21

By Alison Cornish
Edited by Olivia Holmes

Subjects: Medieval Studies, Italian Studies, Classics
Series: The Bernardo Lecture Series
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9781438486949, 34 pages, May 2021

Argues that the Divine Comedy dramatizes the risks and rewards of competing narratives, or different ways of reading.


"Dante and the Legibility of the Universe: Facts and Narratives" is the twenty-first in a series of publications occasioned by the annual Bernardo Lecture at the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CEMERS) at Binghamton University. This series offers public lectures that have been given by distinguished medieval and Renaissance scholars on topics and figures representative of these two important historical, religious, and intellectual periods.

In these polarized times, we often accuse others or are accused by others of choosing facts to suit a particular narrative—a narrative of choice, as if one side had the narrative and the other, the facts. If the universe is a book, written in the language of mathematics, as Galileo says, or bound by love into a single volume, as Dante says at the very end of Paradiso, the ability to read or interpret data as part of a narrative proves a most essential skill and a very good reason for reading the Divine Comedy.

Alison Cornish is currently President of the Dante Society of America and Professor of Italian at New York University. She is author of two monographs, Reading Dante's Stars and Vernacular Translation in Dante's Italy: Illiterate Literature.