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Dante and Memory.

I’m an obsessive person.  I’m not a stalker-type obsessive;  but I do go through phases of being hung up on specific ideas and thoughts. A couple of years ago, my obsessive thoughts centred on the notion of memories: specifically, what are they?? and where and how do we store them? I’m not a stupid person; I understand that memories are recollections of past events and that they’re stored in our brains, but I was worried that brains might be like hard-drives, with a limited amount of data storage, and I started to worry that if I remembered really banal things from my childhood then there might not be enough space in my brain to remember important things like my PIN number or my dog’s name.

In order to quell these anxieties, I started reading about memory (since reading is  the best way to process any difficult thoughts). Reading was helpful, in that I got to grips with basic memory techniques and I started remembering even more banal facts, but it was also quite a hindrance. A hindrance because, all the while I had been voraciously consuming book after book about memory processes and brain synapses, I had been neglecting my MA. I was supposed to be in the Middle Ages, but instead I was forever on Amazon, spending money I didn’t have on books I *desperately* needed. Luckily, my supervisors were understanding people and suggested that I channel this crazy obsessive energy into my essays by looking at medieval memory work. I was pretty stunned by this idea, since I evidently thought memories were a 21st-century invention. But when I started looking into it in more detail, I found that memory was a pretty huge thing in the Middle Ages, probably because people had to actually REMEMBER things, instead of their iPhones giving them seventeen reminders a day.

Anyway, so I wrote a good essay and got a good mark. The end. That was the gist of my story.

But what this post is *really* about is that this Friday, Dr. Anna Pegoretti is hosting her final seminar in her series ‘Mendicant Orders and Literature in Italy’. Among the guest speakers this week is Lina Bolzoni (Pisa), who is giving a paper entitled ‘The “Divine Comedy” and the Art of Memory’. If you’ve never read anything about memory before, or even if you have, I implore you to attend this seminar. It is one of the most fascinating subjects ever. I know that probably doesn’t carry much weight coming from a girl who has just openly declared on the Internet that she put her life on hold for a couple of weeks to read everything and anything ever written about memory, just so she wouldn’t forget her dog’s name (Alfie, if you’re interested), but just give it a try, yeah?


26th October 2012, 5pm, Parkinson Building Council Chamber:

– Nicolò Maldina (University of Leeds): ‘Preaching and Dante’
– Lina Bolzoni (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa): ‘The “Divine Comedy” and the Art of Memory’.



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Launch of Seminar Series: Thursday 19th April, 5pm.

Dr. Anna Pegoretti, Newton International Fellow in the Leeds Centre for Dante Studies, is organising a series of seminars over the course of 2012. Anna will be introducing her seminar series  THIS THURSDAY (19th April) at 5pm in Room 3 of the Leeds Humanities Research Institute.

The first session, “The Franciscan Order and the Origins of Italian Literature” will take place on April 26th and will include papers from Matteo Leonardi (independent scholar) and Giuseppe Mazzotta (Yale). Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Professor Mazzotta will be appearing via a live videoconference stream. Clever.

Anna’s seminar series on early Italian literature is closely linked to the ‘Dante and Medieval Florence’ project which has recently been awarded funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and promises to be absolutely brilliant.

The seminars are open to anyone, and there is no need to register beforehand. You can contact Anna on for further information on the series.

The University press release on the project can be found by clicking HERE.

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Living Legend in Leeds.

Whilst looking for inspirational quotes this morning to kick-start my writing binge (and by “looking for inspirational quotes” I mean looking at my brother’s holiday photos on Facebook), I came across a piece of quite exciting information, thanks to the Leeds Centre for Dante Studies Facebook page.

Apparently, living Dante-legend Zygmunt Baranski is coming to Leeds to undertake a visiting professorship starting next week, and is going to be teaching bits of the Vita Nuova and Paradiso. I was initially a bit (a lot) excited about this news, because Prof. Baranski is a little bit like a mythical creature to me: his name gets batted around so much in terms of Dante studies, plus approximately 70% of the entries of my entire MA dissertation bibliography were works written/edited by Zyg himself. When the initial excitement had passed, it suddenly dawned on me that I’m going to probably meet Z.B. in the coming weeks and months, which means that I’m going to have to talk about clever things, which means that I’m going to have to KNOW about clever things, which means that I should probably spend a lot less time looking at Facebook photos of drunken boys in Prague and more time reading about clever things. ARGH! You all might want to consider doing the same.


p.s. You can read the full article on the visiting prof-ship HERE

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Dear AHRC, thanks for realising that Dante is totally ace and worth investing in.

I have been bursting to blog about this news for WEEKS but have faithfully kept my mouth shut until it was all official. BUT NOW IT’S ALL OFFICIAL!!!

The Leeds Centre for Dante Studies has been awarded a mahooosive £974,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (thanks guys!) to fund a really exciting research project on Dante and Theology. The project will be a collaboration between Leeds, Warwick, and Notre Dame and kicks off next month.

The official story and all the details about the project are available on the University website, which you can access by clicking HERE, but I just wanted to give my reaction (none of what I say should ever be considered “official” by the way…) and say a huge great-big massive CONGRATULATIONS to Matthew and Claire for bagging the big-bucks!

The good news for all you Dante-enthusiasts out there is that the project will also be funding two postdoctoral positions AND will create two PhD scholarships, which, as I have learnt the hard way, are few and far between in the current economic climate.

EEEEEE! I can’t even begin to express how excited I am about all of this!!

S x

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Is Dante ever NOT relevant?

Who’d have thought that when Dante wrote his wonderful (and very long…) Comedy back in the early 1300s, we’d still be using it as a model of morality and behaviour over seven hundred years later? Well friends, it’s true.

I was madly reading the news this morning (adding fuel to the fire of my already-manic levels of anxiety about the state of the world), when I stumbled across an article about Greece. Now I don’t need to fill you in on what’s been occuring in Greece of late; we all know they’re in a pretty shoddy way. But what I was most shocked by (and quite amused, to be honest), was the author’s comment that “it is natural to interpret Greeks as modern versions of Gluttons, and see the troika – that is, economic advisers from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – as a modern version of Cerberus”. He (Costas Milas) is referring, of course, to the third circle of Dante’s Inferno, wherein “Cerberus, a mythical hound with three heads, prevents the Gluttons, the greedy eaters, from escaping”.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the comparisons between the current economic catastrophe and the Inferno; I especially love the imagery of the European Central Bank as a three-headed dog (made famous, of course, by ‘Fluffy’ in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), but isn’t it just a little bit far-fetched to argue that Dante wrote the Commedia with the Greek debt crisis in mind? Milas reckons not. I’m not going to argue with him because he’s a professor (of finance at Liverpool University’s Business School), but I’d like to know who’s playing the role of Dante in this economic farce. I’d be up for auditioning for the role of Beatrice for sure, but I find Inferno and Purgatorio just a little bit too scary to play the main man…

Sarah x

Costas Milas, ‘Can Greece Avoid a Descent into Hell?’, Public Service Europe, 07/11/11

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Heads up!

Ciao a tutti and HAPPY FRIDAY!

I’m sure you all know this anyway, but the 25th annual Leeds International Film Festival started yesterday. It runs until 20th November and, amongst some of the brilliant films on offer this year (I’m especially excited about the original 1925 version of the Phantom of the Opera that is showing for FREE in the town hall), is L’Enfer, which is a dark tale loosely based on Dante’s Inferno. It’s showing at the Vue cinema in The Light on Wednesday 9th and Saturday 12th November, and will be preceded by a short talk (from our very own Ruth Chester!) about how the film compares to Dante’s work. Tickets start from £5 and you can buy them by clicking HERE.

I don’t have any form of authority inasmuch as I can’t promise that you’ll get any extra marks on your essays for going to see the film, but it’ll definitely bank you a few Brownie points for sure! If anyone wants to officially review the film for the Dante Diaries then get in touch – you don’t have to be a film buff or a Dante expert, just be opinionated!

Sarah x

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