In his course on Dante & the Christian Imagination, Frank Ambrosio (Philosophy) found it difficult to teach students to move beyond basic levels of interpretation and to relate Dante’s Divine Comedy to their own lives.
Inspired by medieval illuminated manuscripts, Frank Ambrosio envisioned a digital version of Dante’s Divine Comedy which would allow students to create personalized annotated versions of the poem. As Ambrosio puts it, his goal is to “introduce Dante to a whole new generation of readers, in a way that makes Dante at home in our world and us at home in his.” With the help of CNDLS’ Eddie Maloney and Bill Garr, Director and Assistant Director for Research & Development, this project, known as MyDante, became a reality.
MyDante teaches contemplative reading through a combination of digital tools and pedagogical resources. The site acts as a guide through the Divine Comedy, leading readers through a cohesive interpretation of the text through commentaries by Ambrosio and other materials. It enables collaboration among students by providing a structured virtual space for discussion. At the same time, it makes the reading experience profoundly personal by allowing readers to create their own annotations, images, and reflective journal entries.
MyDante builds on Ambrosio’s commitment to convincing students that the texts they read are significant to their own lives. In class, Ambrosio helps to make Dante’s poem meaningful by relating it to poetry by Pablo Neruda, sculptures by Michelangelo, and the film Dead Man Walking. Students enjoy and remember Amrbosio’s teaching. In an anonymous course survey, one student called the course “perhaps the most personally relevant of any I’ve taken at Georgetown thus far.” Ambrosio has been selected by students to receive both the Edward Bunn and Dorothy Brown teaching awards.
Ambrosio is currently at work on a public version of MyDante, which will allow students, teachers, and researchers across the world to join a diverse interdisciplinary community of Dante readers.