Think about how Dante’s Inferno reflects Humanist ideas.

Posted: July 13th, 2022

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1. I’ve briefly discussed the rise of Humanism in the Italian Renaissance. During this time there was renewed interest in classical literature and philosophy and even knowledge in general versus the Medieval Period. Also, the central focus of Renaissance Humanism was, quite simply, human beings rather than the focus on the Church or God (as was the case in Medieval times). Humans were praised for their achievements — achievements attributed to human ingenuity and human effort rather than divine grace. Humans were regarded optimistically in terms of what they could do, not just in the arts and sciences but even morally. This new attitude helped pave the way for the Renaissance.
Think about how Dante’s Inferno reflects Humanist ideas.
I’ve discussed how Dante, in writing his epic poem, is setting himself up as a great poet, comparable to Homer and Virgil. He even goes so far as to have Virgil, the great Roman poet, serve as his guide to the underworld. However, while Virgil and Homer wrote their epics in third person about heroes of war (like Odysseus and Aeneas), Dante’s story is about himself. At the beginning of Canto 2, Dante states “I, myself, alone prepared to undergo the battle.” Here Dante is setting himself up as the hero of his own story. This is the first triple “I” or self-reference in western literature. Dante the pilgrim descends into hell so that Dante the poet can tell the story (and become famous, of course). He is going down for redemption. He is descending in humility, and yet now he talks as a poet, his poetic voice is one that elevates itself. There seems to be a kind of discrepancy between the two, that’s the great temptation of Dante.
How might this reflect new Humanist ideas? And what about other aspects of Dante’s Commedia? The language, the tone, the characters – does anything else strike you as humanist?
Now, think about Giotto and his style of painting. How does the art of Giotto reflect Humanist ideas?
The total word count for the response should be at least 300 words.
2. Petrarch’s Canzoniere and Boccaccio’s Decameron are very different types of literary works. However, one could argue that they both reflect Renaissance Humanism, much like Dante’s Inferno. For your response please discuss how these works reflect Humanist ideas and what they may tell us now in 2022 about the culture of Renaissance Florence.
The total word count for the response should be at least 300 words.

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