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watch online > Dante Out of the Book: From African-American Writers to Theater in US Jails

Among the many celebrations for the seventh centenary of Dante’s death, the Italian Cultural Institute and the Consulate General of Italy in San Francisco are organizing a webinar, moderated by Valerio Cappozzo, focusing on the inspiration Dante Alighieri has given to modern readers to address their social condition and express their desire for equality and freedom. Dennis Looney, Ron Jenkins and Nicole Pagano will discuss African-American writers’ responses to The Divine Comedy in the 19th and 20th centuries, and various theatrical interpretations of Dante’s poem workshopped and presented in the American prison system.



Valerio Cappozzo is Associate Professor and Director of the Italian Program at the University of Mississippi, co-Editor-in-Chief of Annali d’Italianistica, member of the MLA Forum Executive Committee (LLC Medieval and Renaissance Italian), member of the Executive Committee of the Comitato Nazionale Leonardo Sciascia, member of the Scientific Committee of the Fondazione Giorgio Bassani, and Vice-president of the American Boccaccio Association. With a specialization in literary criticism and material philology, he works primarily on the manuscript transmission of manuals for the interpretation of dreams during the Middle Ages, with particular reference to Dante and early Italian literature. His monograph, Dizionario dei sogni nel Medioevo. Il Somniale Danielis in manoscritti letterari has been published in 2018 by Leo S. Olschki in Florence.

Ron Jenkins, a recipient of Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, has facilitated theater workshops inspired by Dante in prisons in Italy, Indonesia, and the United States. An honorary fellow of the Dante Society of America, Jenkins has written for the The Yale ISM Review, The Jakarta Post, Quaderni di Teatro Carcere, and the New York Times, among other publications. His most recent book is Resurrezione dei Santi: Tragicommedia Sacra a Venafro (Bulzoni: Rome 2019). His writing on prison issues was supported by a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. Jenkins is professor of Theater at Wesleyan University and a frequent visiting Professor of Literature and Religion at the Yale Divinity School’s Institute of Sacred Music.

Dennis Looney, since 2014, has served as director of the Office of Programs and director of the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages at the Modern Language Association. From 1986 to 2013, he taught Italian at the University of Pittsburgh. Publications include Compromising the Classics: Romance Epic Narrative in the Italian Renaissance (1996), and Freedom Readers: The African American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy (2011), which received the American Association of Italian Studies Book Prize in 2011. More recently, he edited and translated Ludovico Ariosto’s Latin Poetry (2018).

Nicole Pagano has led classes on the Divine Comedy in various adult settings, including the San Francisco County Jail, Incarnation Monastery, and the School for Applied Theology. A native of the Washington, DC area, she was a valedictorian at Georgetown University and earned a master’s degree from the Graduate Theological Union in Art and Religion. There she designed her coursework to focus exclusively on Dante’s works and the philosophy and theology of his time. Ms. Pagano lives and works in Berkeley, CA, where she currently serves as Chief of Staff to Nobel Laureate Saul Perlmutter at the University of California.

  • Organizzato da: Italian Cultural Institute SF
  • In collaborazione con: Consulate General of Italy in SF