Hannah Raisner: Dante in American, British, and Italian Politics

Hello! My name is Hannah Raisner, and I am a sophomore here at Florida State
University where I am double majoring in Political Science and Creative Writing. After
graduating I plan on attending law school. Before I began my freshman year at FSU, I knew I wanted to be involved in undergraduate research. I joined the UROP program, and then began to work with Dr. Elizabeth Coggeshall in the Department of Modern Languages on Dante Today, a website that archives references to the poet Dante Alighieri and his work. When I began to work on Dr. Coggeshall’s project and throughout much of the 2021-2022 academic year, I did not fully grasp the importance of Dante’s influence on our world.

This ignorance changed when I enrolled in Dr. Coggeshall course on Dante’s Inferno in
the Fall 2022 semester. Studying the poem itself allowed me to understand what references to it in culture truly meant for culture, and I became fascinated by its continued relevance. This interest was heightened when Dr. Coggeshall assigned a project in which my classmates and I were to select a theme, and seek out Dante artifacts relating to our selected theme. My chosen theme was contemporary American politics. While researching for the project, I realized it would be difficult to fully discuss and explore references to Dante in American politics in a 2,000 word assignment. Following the Fall 2022 semester, I presented a broader research project on the same topic at the 2023 Florida Undergraduate Research Conference.

This research ignited a new interest and curiosity in me–– I began to wonder how references to Dante and his works in American politics may differ from references to Dante and his works in the political discourse of other nations. For my IDEA Grant project, I have chosen to examine how these references to Dante and his works compare and contrast in the United States, England, and Italy. These countries have been chosen both for their intense and polarized political climates, but also for their most popular languages, which may affect how the Divine Comedy is translated. Italy, of course, references and uses the Divine Comedy and Dante’s other works in its original Italian. The nation is also Dante’s home country, and one would not be in its current state and understanding without the other. British references to Dante must translate the poem in English, as do most references to the poet and his work in the United States do.

However, England’s location in Europe places it in a unique position when it comes to interpreting and referencing Dante’s work. While the language and words themselves are translated similar to how the U.S. translates, the culture is much closer, both geographically and historically, to Dante’s work. Dante does not have much to do at all with my future career–– I am certainly not expecting him to pop up in law school. However, the study of references to such a prominent literary figure in the context of politics will no doubt be valuable in building and improving skills for graduate school and my future career. This summer my research will begin with a wide survey of references to Dante and his works in American, British, and Italian politics before I develop a hypothesis and argument. From there I’ll be able to write an abstract for submission to the South Atlantic Modern Language Association’s conference. Then, I’ll start to draft a 8,000-10,000 word paper. From that longer paper I will write a shorter, 3,000 to 4,000 word paper to be presented at the conference. There is lots of research to be done, and lots of writing to be done, and lots to learn!

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