English professor edits articles on teaching Dante

Combine a love of mediaeval literature—especially Dante—and a passion for studying texts from as many angles as possible and you might come up with nearly a dozen articles and a special cluster in an academic journal.


Katy Stavreva
Kirilka Stavreva, an English and creative writing professor at Cornell College.

Kirilka Stavreva, an English and creative writing professor at Cornell College, collected and edited a cluster of 11 articles—including one she wrote herself—about multidisciplinary approaches to teaching Dante for the Winter 2013 edition of the journal Pedagogy.

The articles focus on the different ways Dante’s “Commedia” can be explored, from a historical perspective, to examining philosophy, to a psychological perspective. One article looks at using Geographic Information Systems to look at the geography of Dante’s Florence and what that can tell readers, while another details a student-created wiki to explore characters and reference materials.

Dante’s “Commedia,” also known as “The Divine Comedy,” was written in the early 14th century and is widely considered one of the most influential literary works the world over.

In the introduction to the cluster, Christopher Kleinhenz, the Carol Mason Kirk Professor Emeritus of Italian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, noted that he learned from hosting a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on Dante that bringing different perspectives on the work enriches the way we experience it.

In her article, “The Triple Cord: Teaching Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ and Creativity,” Stavreva describes a pedagogical approach to the poem through a sustained artistic effort. Students craft small-book “reflectories” that combine analytical interpretation with art work and Dante-inspired poetry. “My ultimate goal in teaching the ‘Commedia’ was to incite students’ curiosity about the myriad discourses crisscrossing the poem and to build up their capacity for sustained analysis of what the poem does with these discourses,” she wrote.

Stavreva, who earned her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and her undergraduate degree in English literature from Sofia University in Bulgaria, has taught at Cornell since 2001. She plans to teach her Dante course in Italy in the fall. Because of Cornell’s One Course At A Time curriculum, she can teach a three-and-a-half-week course on Dante in Italy and then return to teach other blocks on campus.

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