ONLINE CLASS: Dante's Paradiso (2420)

Six Thursdays: March 28, and April 4, 11, 18, 25 and May 2, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

$170.00 Per Person (10% off for members)

Lecture and Q&A. This live class will be recorded and available for later viewing.

"Turn back if you would see your shores again. Do not set forth upon the deep, for, losing sight of me, you would be lost." Paradiso, Canto II, lines 4-6

This year marks the seventh Centenary of both the completion of Dante Aligheri's masterpiece and the death of the poet. Throughout Italy, across America, and around the world public readings of the Divine Comedy, commemorative lectures and events, art exhibitions and theatrical performances pay homage to the legacy of "il Sommo Poeta." 

Almost everyone agrees that the poetry of the Paradiso is sublime. Sublimity, however, is a highly rarefied and strenuously acquired taste. This is why Dante himself warns us in the second canto of the Paradiso that unless we have become used to eat the “bread of Angels,” we should turn back and not attempt to follow him on this final leg of his journey, and we as modern-day readers might well be tempted here to turn back as the Pilgrim himself was tempted in the second canto of the Inferno. But to paraphrase Virgil’s response then, which both encouraged and challenged, “Why be so afraid to reach for what your heart most hopes for; where else do you have to turn?”

Joy is the business of Paradiso, that much is clear; but could there be a more mysterious word in the whole realm of human imagination than “Joy?” Happiness is illusive enough a goal to seek, but is Dante suggesting that there is in fact even more to be hoped for than happiness in living? Can there be any realistic credibility to a journey across the space/time matrix of the whole universe in search of something more? “Joy” boggles the human imagination because it asks us to follow the vector of hope to its maximal extension and intention, until it arrives at that point which Dante locates “nel mezzo,” at the very center of everything, at that point where every centripetal and centrifugal force of both the physical universe of energy and the symbolic universe of creative imagination and meaning first arise and finally return. The scriptural religions call that center of everything “God,” and at least in Christianity associate the hope of Joy in God with the Resurrection of Jesus. Dante’s journey across the Universe as he knew then in the company and under the guidance of Beatrice, is his attempt to give this “flight of Fancy” metaphorical substance and the authority of experience recounted as truth. Certainly, anyone who has followed Dante this far, through the terrors of Hell and the struggles of Purgatory owes it to him and to oneself to brave the risk of which Dante warns, or else admit candidly that their faith in the power of the Word has well-defined limits which must not be transgressed. The important thing, however, is to find out for yourself where you stand; how much hope you are willing and able to place in poetry.

It is certainly possible to read, understand and enjoy Paradiso without having read the Inferno and/or Purgatorio, but it is also true that familiarity with the earlier parts of the journey will increase both your understanding and your enjoyment of the final part. You might wish either to read the Inferno itself, or read something about it in anticipation of the start of this course in March. One helpful way to do that in to read R.W.B. Lewis’ short book Dante: A Life; also highly recommended, Helen Luke’s commentary overview of the entire poem Dark Wood to White Rose. 

Six Thursdays: March 28, and April 4, 11, 18, 25 and May 2, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Required Reading: 

Paradiso by Dante, (Translated by) Robert and Jean Hollander (9781400031153)

Recommended: Dante: A Life, by R.W.B. Lewis (9780143116417)

Frank Ambrosio is Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. After studies in Italian language and literature in Florence, Italy, he completed his doctoral degree at Fordham University with a specialization in contemporary European Philosophy. He is the founding Director, with Edward Maloney, of the Georgetown University “My Dante Project” a web based platform for personal and collaborative study of Dante’s Commedia. In 2014, he acted as lead instructor for the launch of an ongoing web-based course (MOOC) on Dante offered by EDX ( which currently has been utilized by over 20,000 students. His most recent book is Dante and Derrida: Face to Face, (State University of New York Press) (Link)

He has received five separate awards from Georgetown University for excellence in teaching. He is the former Director of the Doctor of Liberal Studies Program, and in 2015, he received the Award for Faculty Achievement from the American Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs. In October 2009, The Teaching Company released his course, "Philosophy, Religion and the Meaning of Life," ( a series of 36 half-hour video lectures which he created for the "Great Courses" series. At Georgetown, he teaches courses on Existentialism, Postmodernism, Hermeneutics, and Dante.

In addition to his work at Georgetown, he co-directs The Renaissance Company with Deborah R. Warin, leading adult study programs focusing on Italian Renaissance culture and its contemporary heritage.

REFUND POLICY: Please note that we can issue class refunds up until seven (7) days before the first class session.

SKU: 9787000012806
Enter the name of the primary household member listed on the membership

Paradiso By Dante, Robert Hollander (Translated by), Jean Hollander (Translated by) Cover Image
By Dante, Robert Hollander (Translated by), Jean Hollander (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781400031153
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Anchor - September 9th, 2008

Dante: A Life (Penguin Lives) By R. W. B. Lewis Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143116417
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Books - November 24th, 2009