Dante at Auschwitz: the role of poetry in our world

A public lecture by Lino Pertile, the Carl A. Pescosolido Professor of Romance Languages and Literature, Harvard University

LPertileIs there a degree of suffering and degradation beyond which a man or a woman ceases to be a human being? A point beyond which our spirit dies and only pure physiology survives?

And to what extent, if any, may poetry and literary culture be capable of preserving the integrity of our humanity?

These are some of the questions that this lecture considered with reference to two places where extreme suffering is inflicted - the fictional hell imagined by Dante in his Inferno, and the real hell experienced by Primo Levi at Auschwitz and described in If this Is a Man.

Professor Lino Pertile is Harvard College Professor and Carl A. Pescosolido Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures. Professor Pertile is a renowned scholar on Italian literature, with a particular focus on the medieval and Renaissance periods. He has also been Director of the Villa I Tatti, the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies (2010-15).

His extensive list of publications includes Dante in Context (CUP, 2015), The Cambridge History of Italian Literature (CUP, 1996 and 1999), and, The New Italian Novel (Edinburgh University Press, 1993).

Professor Pertile visited UWA as a 2016 Institute of Advanced Studies Short Stay Visiting Fellow.