Guy P Raffa
Associate Professor — Ph.D., Indiana University
Dante Studies, medieval Italian literature and culture, digital humanities, history and philosophy of science, Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco
Guy Raffa has taught at the University of Texas at Austin since 1991. He holds a B.S. in mathematics and computer science from Duke University and a Ph.D. in Italian Literature from Indiana University. His primary scholarly field is medieval Italian literature--Dante above all--with a secondary interest in modern Italian authors, particularly Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco. In addition to articles, book-essays, and reviews, he has published three books: Divine Dialectic: Dante's Incarnational Poetry (Toronto, 2000), Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the "Inferno" (Chicago, 2007), and The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the "Divine Comedy" (Chicago, 2009). He won a gold award for innovative instructional technology with his Danteworlds Web site and has received a number of other awards and fellowships, including a President's Associates Teaching Excellence Award and a Raymond Dickson Centennial Endowed Teaching Fellowship. For work-in-progress on Dante's graveyard history, he won a Humanities Research Award from the University of Texas and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has been interviewed for articles in Investor's Business Daily, Slate, and The Atlantic, and has written for The Chronicle of Higher Education and PopMatters.
Welcome to Danteworlds: A multimedia journey--combining textual commentary, artistic images, and audio recordings--through the three realms (Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise) of Dante's Divine Comedy. This site contains, in addition to an abridged version of the original commentary in The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the Divine Comedy and Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the Inferno, Italian recordings of selected verses and a vast gallery of images depicting characters and scenes from the Divine Comedy. Like the books, the Danteworlds Web site is structured around a geographic representation of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise--the three worlds of Dante's Divine Comedy.
Danteworlds is "an invaluable resource for specialists and novices alike," writes E. S. Hierl (Harvard University) in Choice Reviews Online, "the sort of multimedia experience that those in the digital humanities strive for" (August, 2010). The subject of an interview on the home page of the University of Texas at Austin, Danteworlds was selected for inclusion on EDSITEment in 2008 as "one of the best online resources for education in the humanities," and was featured in the literary blogs of the New Yorker (Jan. 8, 2009) and the Los Angeles Times (Jan. 14, 2009).
The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the "Divine Comedy" (University of Chicago Press, 2009, second printing in 2011).
Seamlessly combining a major work of scholarship with extensive pedagogical features, this multi-purpose book is a valuable resource for researchers, teachers, students, and other ambitious readers of Dante's Divine Comedy. The poem's earliest commentators and Giovanni Boccaccio's public lectures on it in the fourteenth century inaugurated a tradition—interpreting and explicating the Comedy in piecemeal fashion (from individual verses to a single canto)—that has been carried on by Dante scholars down to the present. Based on original research and written in lively prose, The Complete Danteworlds contributes to this tradition with a new scholarly commentary that covers the entire Divine Comedy. It does so, moreover, in a highly innovative way: unique among Dante commentaries, the entries in this book are conceived and arranged according to the geography of Dante's afterlife: rather than line by line notes, the over 240 entries in The Complete Danteworlds follow the path traveled by Dante and his guides as they descend through the circles of Hell, climb the terraces of Mount Purgatory, and traverse the spheres of Paradise. This geographical organization, truer to Dante's visual imagination than a purely textual ordering, has born fruitful scholarly results by providing new information and critical insights on topics that received only partial or scattered treatment in earlier commentaries. Published by a top-tier university press and widely reviewed in academic journals, The Complete Danteworlds combines the best qualities of a monograph and a textbook by embodying the productive reciprocity of original research and innovative pedagogy.
In his superbly written and always engaging presentation of the three realms of the afterlife Guy Raffa displays the rare ability to see, as it were, both the forest and the trees, capturing the grand outlines and shape of Dante’s poem as well as identifying and providing incisive commentary on its myriad components—people, places, events, themes. Not only will first-time readers of the Comedy appreciate Raffa’s meticulous overview, but seasoned scholars will also profit from his many critical insights. Danteworlds will have a major impact on the ways we read, teach, and study the Comedy. - Christopher Kleinhenz (Carol Mason Kirk Professor Emeritus of Italian, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
The commentary and structure of the guide constitute a very impressive work of scholarship in that it admirably fulfills its goal of presenting Dante’s poem in all of its complexity without reductionism. - Peter Bondanella (Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, Film Studies, and Italian, Indiana University)
Dante Studies are in safe hands when such energy and creativity is brought to bear on the Comedy. . . . This book deserves a wide audience, both inside and outside the academy. - Notes and Queries
Under the author’s skillful guidance, the world of Dante’s creative output is lucidly explored and engagingly presented. - Forum Italicum
Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the Inferno (University of Chicago Press, 2007)
This is the first guide to Dante's Inferno to take readers on a geographic journey through the poet's underworld—not canto by canto but circle by circle, similar to how Dante and Virgil proceed in their infernal descent. The heart of Danteworlds is an original commentary arranged according to the physical layout of Dante's Hell. Each chapter (or "region") of the book, from the "Dark Wood" down to the ninth circle of Hell, begins with a summary of the action and contains detailed entries followed by significant verses and useful study questions. The entries, based on a close examination of the poet's sources (biblical, classical, and medieval) in addition to the most up-to-date scholarship, treat the characters and creatures encountered by Dante on his journey as well as a vast array of references to religion, philosophy, history, politics, and literature. For news of people and events from Dante's time and place, Danteworlds provides information and entertaining anecdotes drawn from the poem's earliest commentators. The book's critical methodology is grounded in the conviction that there is no substitute for revisiting and analyzing the primary sources (in the original languages) from the ancient world to the late Middle Ages that fired Dante's imagination and for examining closely how he fashioned this material into a literary masterpiece.
Guy Raffa provides lucid, concise information on all the major persons, deities, and creatures encountered in the course of his journey. - Deborah Parker (Professor of Italian, University of Virginia)
Throughout, Raffa finds ways to provide context and clues that encourage the reader to return to Dante's poem for a fresh look. The book, therefore, is not only useful for first-time readers, but also for those who regularly teach the Comedy to such readers. - The Medieval Review
. . . it does a remarkable job of conveying a great deal of information as well as a lively sense of the richness, interest, and relevance of the Inferno. - Speculum
Divine Dialectic: Dante's Incarnational Poetry (University of Toronto Press, 2000)
Divine Dialectic: Dante’s Incarnational Poetry offers a fresh reading of Dante’s major literary works—the Vita nuova and the Divine Comedy—by combining central tenets of incarnational theology and dialectical thought. Recognizing Dante as a poet who paradoxically embraces both opposition and reciprocity, this book shows how Dante challenges such conventional dichotomies as human desire and divine love, artistic fame and spiritual humility, sacrifice and triumph, and political action and philosophical contemplation. Divine Dialectic ultimately argues that Dante crosses textual and theological boundaries to promote the paradoxical union of contradiction and resolution as a way of reading his poem and, by extension, the world itself.
This book is commendable for being daring and Dantean in the truest sense of the word. - Renaissance Quarterly
Lucid, erudite, and thought provoking, this is an important contribution to Dante studies that will be obligatory reading for advanced students and scholars of the Commedia. - Choice
This is a book, though, not just for Dante Scholars. Anyone interested in medieval Christianity will find it informative and enriching. - Christianity and Literature
This impressive book, Guy Raffa's first, shows from the outset a genuinely remarkable degree of scope and ambition. . . . This is an important contribution to the field that will compel its readers to reconsider some of their most cherished preconceptions about the workings of Dante's mind and poetry. . . . He leaves his readers permanently indebted to him, both for a compelling general interpretation of Dante's major works and for countless illuminating observations of textual detail that enlarge our readerly understanding. - Symposium
The reviewer read every page of this book with keen interest and found it to be one of the most satisfying works of criticism on Dante that he knows. . . . It achieves a remarkable level of readability and grace, comprehensiveness and control, telescoping whole fields of scholarship in ways that focus their exact pertinence for specific points in Dante's text. It deserves to become a widely read and highly esteemed work of American Dante criticism. - Letteratura Italiana Antica
Articles and Essays
"Dante and Don: The Word Made Flesh and the Word Made Cash," PopMatters, Sept. 2, 2015.
"Dante's Hell and Its Afterlife." Signature Course Stories: Transforming Undergraduate Learning. Ed. Lori Holleran Steiker. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015. 43-45.
"What the Head of Hiring at Google Doesn't Understand About Skills." The Chronicle of Higher Education. "The Conversation." May 28, 2014. Reprinted in The Chronicle Review. June 20, 2014: B2.
"Calvino's Scientific Humanism," in Approaches to Teaching the Works of Italo Calvino, ed. Franco Ricci. New York: MLA, 2013. 37-41.
"A Beautiful Friendship: Dante and Vergil in the Commedia." MLN 127.1 (Supplement) (2012): 72-80.
"Eco's Scientific Imagination," in New Essays on Umberto Eco, ed. Peter Bondanella. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 34-49.
"'Io amo New York': Calvino's Creatively Chaotic City," in Science and Literature in Italian Culture from Dante to Calvino, ed. Pierpaolo Antonello and Simon A. Gilson. Oxford: Legenda, 2004. 276-91.
"Dante's Poetics of Exile," Annali d'italianistica 20 (2002): 73-87.
"Usury," "Greeks," and "Five Hundred Ten and Five." The Dante Encyclopedia. New York and London: Garland, 2000.
"Carlo Levi's Sacred Art of Medicine," Annali d'Italianistica 15 (1997): 203-20.
"Dante's Mocking Pastoral Muse," Dante Studies 114 (1996): 271-91.
"Eco and Calvino Reading Dante," Italica 73.3 (1996): 388-409.
"Dante's Beloved Yet Damned Virgil," in Dante's "Inferno": The Indiana Critical Edition, ed. Mark Musa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. 266-85.
"Enigmatic 56's: Cicero's Scipio and Dante's Cacciaguida," Dante Studies 110 (1992): 121-34.
"Love's Duplicity in the Vita Nuova," Italian Culture 10 (1992): 15-26.
"From Two's to Three's in Inferno II," Lectura Dantis 10 (1992): 91-108.
"La bestialità ne Il Decameron e due strutture contrapposte," The Rackham Journal of the Arts and Humanities (1991-92): 35-42.
Invited Lectures (Selected)
"Dantemania: Looking Back Today for a Better Tomorrow." University Lecture Series, Bass Concert Hall, University of Texas at Austin, September 29, 2014. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKCoLNCmBPw)
"Dante's Immortal Remains: From Florentine Martyr to Global Icon," Annual Dante Lecture, Center for Renaissance Studies, Newberry Library, Chicago, November 15, 2013.
"Dante and the Popular Imagination: A Historical Perspective," Annual Meeting of the Dante Society of America, MLA, Los Angeles, January 8, 2011.
"Romancing the Tomb: Dante's Bones and Italian History," Annual Dante Lecture, Yale University, October 20, 2010.