Skip to main content

Dante's World: The Italian Renaissance

A painting of a man in a pink robe standing between the mountain of purgatory and the city of Florence
Domenico di Michelino, Dante and the Three Kingdoms, 1465, oil on canvas, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

This course studies fourteenth-century Italy through the works of Dante Alighieri, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. Known as the three crowns of Florence these authors wrote literary masterpieces deeply rooted in the society, politics, religion, and culture of their times. Using historical analysis, recent scholarship, and a variety of different sources, students will contextualize and unravel Dante’s vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, Boccaccio’s picture of Italian society with all its comedy and tragedy of love, lust, trickery, stupidity, and cruelty, and Petrarch’s grappling with pagan Antiquity, pride, and fame at the foundation of the Renaissance. Prominent themes for discussion include gender, sexuality, religion, sin, Hell, Purgatory, Heaven, political and church corruption and reform, Plague, popular culture and humor, magic, and the reception of Classical antiquity. Many of these same themes will also be explored in the life of Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). 

Tentative Evaluations:

Attendance and Participation: 25% 

2 Short Papers: 20%  

5 Multiple Choice Quizzes (OnQ): 25% 

Research Paper (8-10 pages): 30%

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.