Into the Dark Forest – Transreading Dante’s Divine Comedy

Into the Dark Forest – Transreading Dante’s Divine Comedy

Enter the dark forest to find inspiration in the mesmerising world of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.  


Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.  

– Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto I  

In this course we will create poetry inspired by the incredibly rich and complex world of Dante Alighieri’s medieval masterpiece. During the course, we will be reading key episodes from the Divine Comedy’s three sections – Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso – following Dante’s journey from the dark wood through the descending circles of Hell (Inferno) via the island mountain of Purgatory, to the threshold and spheres of Paradise. We will meet countless characters along the way, and like Dante, we will be guided in these complex, fascinating worlds by the poet Virgil and the love of Beatrice. 

Each session will focus on one or two key Cantos, taking them as starting points in our own individual creative process. Dante’s work has inspired generations of artists and writers, and we will look at the way different artworks were created in dialogue with the Divine Comedy. 

Finally, as the Divine Comedy is one of the defining masterpieces of the Italian language, each session will compare small sections of the original text with different translations. No previous knowledge of Italian is required, although if you know even a bit of Italian, you’d be surprised to see how much the Divine Comedy’s language is close to the Italian spoken today! The students will read a translation of their own choice and will be introduced to several translations during the course, including those of Seamus Heaney, Mary Jo Bang, Robert Pinsky, and W.S Merwin. 

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]. For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image credit: Zoya Loonohod

About Stav Poleg View Profile

Stav Poleg’s debut poetry collection, The City, is out from Carcanet in March 2022. Her poetry has appeared on both sides of the Atlantic, in The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Poetry London, Poetry Ireland Review, PN Review, and elsewhere. A selection of her work is featured in New Poetries VIII (Carcanet, 2021). Her graphic-novel installation, ‘Dear Penelope: Variations on an August Morning’, created with artist Laura Gressani, was acquired by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. She serves on the editorial board of Magma Poetry, and has recently facilitated collaborative work between poets and filmmakers for the magazine. Her theatre work was read at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh and the Shunt Vaults, London, and, most recently, at Kettle’s Yard gallery, Cambridge. 

'Increased my confidence, helped me to write on a wider range of subjects, and to take risks. Challenged and inspired me, and gave me so much to engage with, but allowed me to work from home in my own time.'

- Spring 2022 survey response

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