Dante and Thirteenth-Century Latin Education: A Study in Medieval Christian Humanism


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Medieval Institute


In late thirteenth-century Italy, literacy had become accessible to a significant portion of the lay population. It thus became a crucial means to the middle class’s cultural and political empowerment, and to the secularization of learning. This project investigates how minor Latin authors that were read in thirteenth-century schools shaped Dante’s hermeneutic posture toward classical, pagan literature. As this study shows, these school authors offered a particular type of classical reception that provided a Christianizing access to the ancient authors and had a major impact on Dante’s poetics. The study analyzes six Latin school texts—the Latin Aesop, the Disticha Catonis, the Ecloga Theoduli, Henry of Settimello’s Elegia, Statius’s Achilleid, and Claudian’s De raptu Proserpinae—and integrates a paleographical analysis of selected medieval school books, their commentaries, and glosses to reconstruct these texts’ medieval readership.