May 6, 2016

Dante Turns 750: His Medieval Masterpiece and our Modern Search for Meaning

by Tom Gourlay

Many of you would fondly remember the Paideia Lecture series we ran in 2014 with Associate Professor John Kinder. Kinder’s lectures were recently published as an article at the Australian eJournal of Theology. The eJournal is open access and, as such, you’re able to read it for yourself – and we would encourage you to do so!


Last year marked the 750th anniversary of the birth of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), the Florentine poet. As our culture becomes more distant from the coherent, religiously informed world view that produced it, interest in Dante’s Divine Comedy continues to grow, especially in the English-speaking world. This essay argues that the source of this interest is not just awe at Dante’s remarkable summa of medieval culture, but the fact that his Comedy touches something peculiar to the modern condition. The adjective “Divina”, added after Dante’s death, might suggest an unearthly meditation on the other world. In fact, Dante is most interested in the human condition. The essay explores the notion of “religious sense”, coined by Pope Paul VI, developed by Luigi Giussani and a leitmotiv in papal writing up to the present, as the key to the relevance of this medieval masterpiece to our modern search for meaning.


Recordings of the 7 lectures which comprise the series can be found on our website here.