Prof. Alfie Speaks on Dante for Humanities Week

Friday, October 19, 2012 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm

As part of Humanities Week, Prof. Fabian Alfie will speak about Dante's insulting lyric poetry, the topic of his latest book.  The title of his talk will be: "Dante's #&@%! Tenzone with Forese Donati."

At some time before 1296, Dante engaged in an exchange of poetry (a tenzone) with a distant in-law, Forese Donati.  They wrote six sonnets to each other that consist of insults of the basest nature.  In his poems, Dante depicts Forese's wife as suffering a cold because he keeps her poorly covered at night, he describes Forese as a terrible glutton, whose excesses cause him to rob passers-by on the streets, and he depicts the entire Donati family as thieves.  Forese takes none of this sitting down, of course, but accuses Dante, and the whole Alighieri clan, of behaving in ways unseemly to a medieval nobleman—cowardice, deception, and money-lending. 

Despite its topics, the tenzone between Dante and Forese is not without substance.  Rather, they repeatedly pose the same question for each other: in this time of changing socio-economic conditions, are you and your family really noble?  As I will show, it is a document of the debates about nobility in late medieval Italy. 

Prof. Alfie is the Head of the Department of French and Italian, and he has recently published a book on the topic: Dante's Tenzone with Forese Donati: The Reprehension of VIce (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011).