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David Birdsong, Chair 201 W 21ST STREET STOP B7600, HRH 2.114A, AUSTIN, TX 78712 • 512-471-5531

Spring 2009


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
36475 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
PAR 103

Course Description

This course examines a tradition extending from Plato's Timaeus and Cicero's Somnium Scipionis, through early medieval commentaries and Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, eventually flourishing in France in the twelfth century, and finally issuing, over a century later, in Dante's imagining of the afterlife in the Divina Commedia. Taking as points of departure Plato's creation myth and Cicero's dream-vision, we will study the interrelations of cosmogony, cosmology, theology, natural philosophy and ethics in the medieval imagination. Throughout the semester we will inform our discussion of the medieval Platonic tradition by drawing on seminal secondary works. Many of these books and essays, placed on reserve in the PCL, will prove essential for your research paper of substantial proportions (15-20 pp. with full documentation). In the final weeks of the semester, as you work on the paper, we will discuss theoretical and aesthetic intersections of medievalism and postmodernism in The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco's popular murder mystery set in the early fourteenth century. We will use the Danteworlds Web site (created here at UT) not only as a tool for studying Dante's Commedia but also as a model for bringing technology to bear on other aspects of research and teaching in medieval and literary studies.

This course is taught in English.

Grading Policy

The research paper will account for 60% of your grade, with the remaining 40% evenly divided between class participation and two short response essays. The response essays, treating primary and / or secondary readings, must be both descriptive and analytical. They will be used as points of departure for class discussion.


Primary Texts: Although the texts are available in translation, you are encouraged to consult and read one or more of the works in the original language. Plato. Timaeus and Critias. Macrobius. Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. Bernardus Silvestris. The Cosmographia. Alan of Lille. Anticlaudianus. Eileen Gardiner, ed. Visions of Heaven and Hell before Dante. Dante. Vita Nuova; The Divine Comedy. Umberto Eco. The Name of the Rose. Secondary Readings (on reserve in the PCL): Barolini (Undivine "Comedy"), Coletti (Naming the Rose: Eco, Medieval Signs, and Modern Theory), Cornford (Plato's Cosmology), De Bruyne (The Esthetics of the Middle Ages), Doob (The Idea of the Labyrinth from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages), Eco (Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages), Ferrante (Woman as Image in Medieval Literature), Gersh (Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism), Harrison (The Body of Beatrice), Klibansky (The Continuity of the Platonic Tradition during the Middle Ages), Mazzotta (Dante's Vision and the Circle of Knowledge), Raffa (Divine Dialectic), Stock (Myth and Science in the Twelfth Century), Wetherbee (Platonism and Poetry in the Twelfth Century). Danteworlds Web site:


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