Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dante's il Accademia Recently Discovered Part the First

The recent discovery of the unknown fourth or perhaps what was to be the first volume of Dante’s La Divina Comedia shows how little has actually changed in academia since the founding of The University of Bologna in the eleventh century to today. The slim volume Dante left behind also brings to light some fascinating parallels between academia and attitudes toward students in his time and ours. The document, L’accademia , found in a box of medieval documents and relics in a seminary just outside of Florence, Italy is the shortest of the four volumes of the Comedia. In fact, there are some scholars who believe that L’accademia was not meant to be a separate book but a transitional piece between l ’Inferno and il Purgatorio.

There is some relevance to this position since it has been postulated that the four volumes together actually form a trilogy following the life of a scholar from the hell of teaching into purgatory, the tenure process, and finally through to paradise which is tenure.  In fact, Prof. S.O. Fortunato of the University of Mammon made this point quite vigorously at the recent colloquium held on the new found work hosted by Schtup University. The Prof pointed to the direct similarity between the opening line is the cantos in the prologue of L’Accademia and the lines of Canto III in the Inferno. Here are the lines from L’Accademia that seem eerily close to the well-known opening lines of the Inferno.

Enter a field once of unselfish tranquility,
Enter fields green of thought wanting little else
Enter Palazzos of Intellect, hope for a world Divine
Where professed lovers of learning, lovers of thought,
Lovers of knowledge imparted joyously toil
Seeking to best make men for a world divine
Enter the Academy, a place once of brilliant minds
Supping on knowledge, lusting for good, not goods.
Enter the Academy now, a horde of men self-focused
Of oft tortured ethics, lusting for research glory, a load reduced.

Approach ye the gates of the Academy to enter
To pass through to the Academy courtyard campus sanctum despiritus
A center from which all the Academy evolves
Approach ye the seven circles through these Academy gates.
Seven central rings the Academy enclosed
Approach ye the world of learning not of our world at all
The realm known by few and yet open to many who could pass
Approach ye the gates through which the pedants pose
Questions to solve with other’s ducats need they solution or no.
Approach and consider before ye enter the world academic.

Through me the way is to the college of the self-indulgent;
Through me the way is to potential eternal employ;
Through me the way to most students lost.
Research incited the Creator if there be one;
Generated to me divine tenure,
Claiming highest Wisdom and Time Released.
Before me be there no pedagogical things,
Only grants, and I to gain reputation most important.                                                                     
To students say we, mumble we clearly,
Much hope abandon, ye students who enter the Academy within
Look ye to the left; look you to the right
Few of you shall find success and delight.
    (Trans. Bella Mintza)

Prof. Fortunato sees the flow for the four volumes as follows. First one joins l’ accademia. That is followed by purgatorio (the tenure process). This is followed by moving into avere un impiego a tempo indetreminanto  (tenure) and then into paradise (senior professorship and release time so one does not have to teach but one or two classes). He also sees a similar pattern for students who first enter, then toil and either drop out or get asked to leave. This last action being a slightly more than a 50-50 proposition. Prof. LaPetomaine agreed but stated that that the volume may be a work meant to tie all the books together sort of as a shell for all the ideas since the heat of work for tenure may cool down significantly once tenure is achieved. He did make clear that he was not at all equating tenure to becoming frozen. Not at all. He sees it becoming more fixed, sort of at rest to contemplate somewhat like the philosopher Jeremy Bentham residing at the University of the City of London defines it in his most current work Stuffed with Life

Prof. S. Tiffany Swartzenberger, who holds the Chamber of Commercialism Chair at Schtup University is a well-respected feminist, new criticism, structural formalism scholar with trans-gender, post-colonialism considerations of pre-Marxist, post-structuralist, new historicism, street cred poetry.  Prof.  Swatrzenberger finds the poetry of the volume “quite Dantesque with overtones of the tropes of oral writing so common to the Bologna poets whose prose poetry conceits and rhymelessness  are still strong today. I for one am willing to agree that this is Dante at his most Dante prior to the Dante we know from his Dante-esque major works.”  

But our focus in this study is not literary as much as how the work speaks to our understanding of the university of today. And the volume speaks abundantly. 

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