In 1800, almost nobody in the United States had heard of Dante Alighieri, one of the most influential and famous poets in European history.
By the 1850s, nearly every culturally aware person in the United States had not only heard of Dante but had read him and used him in creative works. That includes now-famous names: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman.
How did this knowledge and interest in Dante happen so quickly? Why would American Protestants, culturally if not theologically, care to read a late-medieval, Italian, Roman Catholic poet? For what reasons did Americans in the mid-19th-century read Dante? What translations did they use, and how did those translations interpret Dante for English-only readers?
My academic scholarship seeks to help answer these questions. Below are the peer-reviewed, published works that deal with them.
- “The Divine Comedy as a Civil War Epic“, J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists I (Fall 2013).
- “The American Alighieri: Receptions of Dante in the United States, 1818-1867” (dissertation, 2012)
- “Walt Whitman’s Vision of the Inferno, or Dante in Drum-Taps,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 32 (Summer/Fall 2014)
Would you like to know the scholarship on Dante’s influence in America? Here’s my master list of works about this subject. I’d like to think that the list below includes everything published to date, but it’s possible that I’ve missed something, so please contact me with anything’s missing from this list.
Anybody looking to write and research on this subject has to start with these texts.
18th- and 19th-Century Dante Translations in English
Alighieri, Dante. Dante’s Divine Comedy: The Inferno. trans. John A.Carlyle. London: Chapman and Hall, 1849.
—. Dante’s Divine Comedy. trans. John Aitken Carlyle. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1849.
—. Dante’s Divine Comedy: The Vision of Hell. trans. C.B. Cayley. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1851.
—. Seventeen Cantos of the Inferno of Dante Alighieri. trans. Thomas W. Parsons. Boston: John Wilson and Son, 1865.
—. The Divine Comedy. trans. Frederick Pollock. London: Chapman and Hall, 1854.
—.The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri.Volumes I-III. trans. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
—. The Divine Comedy of Dante Allighieri [sic]. trans. William Michael Rossetti. London and Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1865.
—. The First Canticle, Inferno, of the Divine Comedyof Dante Alighieri. trans. Thomas William Parsons. New York: G.P. Putnam and Son, 1867.
—. The First Ten Cantos of the Inferno of Dante Alighieri.trans. Thomas W. Parsons. Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1843.
—. A Translation of Dante’s Eleven Letters.trans. Charles Sterrett Latham. ed. George Rice Carpenter. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1891.
—. The Vision, or Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise of Dante Alighieri.trans. Henry Francis Cary. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1847.237
—. The Vision, or Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise of Dante Alighieri.trans. Henry Francis Cary. London: John Taylor, 1831.
—. The Vision, or Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise of Dante Alighieri. trans. Henry Francis Cary. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1814.
—. The Vision, or Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise of Dante Alighieri. trans. Henry Francis Cary. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1819.
—. The Vision; or Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise of Dante Alighieri.trans. Henry Francis Cary. Volumes VI and VII in The Works of British Poets, with Lives of the Authors. Philadelphia: Samuel F. Bradford, 1822.
—. The Vision; or the Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise of Dante Alighieri. trans.Henry Francis Cary.Philadelphia: Appleton, 1845.
Secondary Works on Dante and Italy in the United States (before 1865)
Adkins, Nelson F. “Longfellow and the Italian Risorgimento.” PMLA 48 (March 1933): 311.
Audah, Aida and Nick Havely, eds. Dante in the Long Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Berthold, Dennis. American Risorgimento: Herman Melville and the Cultural Politics of Italy.Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio State University Press, 2009.
Botta, Vincenzo. Dante as Philosopher, Patriot, and Poet. New York: Charles Scribner & Co., 1865.
—. A Discourse on the Life, Character, and Policy of Count Cavour. New York: G.P. Putnam, 1862.
Caesar, Michael, ed. Dante: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 1989.
Cambon, Glauco. “Dante’s Presence in American Literature.” Dante Studies 118 (2000): 217-242.
“The Career of Garibaldi.” Gleeson’s Pictorial Drawing—Room Companion(May 27, 1854), 334.
“The Character of Dante.” Christian Examiner 80 (July 1866), 37.
Cooke, Philip Pendleton. “Dante.” The Southern and Western Literary Messenger and Review12 (September 1846), 545-552.
Crisafulli, Edoardo. The Vision of Dante: Cary’s Translation of the Divine Comedy. Market Harborough, England: Troubador Publishing, 2003.C.W.H.
Dal Lago, Enrico. Agrarian Elites: American Slaveholders and Southern Italian Landowners, 1815-1861.Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.
—. “Radicalism and Nationalism: Northern ‘Liberators’ and Southern Labourers in the USA and in Italy: 1830-1860.” The American South and the Italian Mezzogiorno: Essays in Comparative History.eds. Enrico Dal Lago and Rick Halpern. New York: Palgrave, 2002.
Dante Album. Inferno. Philadelphia: F. Leypoldt, 1863.
“Dante as Philosopher, Patriot, and Poet.” The Universalist Quarterly and General Review3 (January 1866), 98-101.
Davis, Charles Till. “Dante and Italian Nationalism.” A Dante Symposium in Commemoration of the 700thAnniversary of the Poet’s Birth (1265-1965). ed. William de Sua and Gino Rizzo. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1965. 199-213.
—. Dante and the Idea of Rome. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957.
—. Dante’s Italy, and Other Essays. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984.239
Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. ed. Thomas H. Johnson. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1960. [search this for “Dante.]
“A Discourse on the Life, Character, and Policy of Count Cavour.” North American Review 96 (January 1863), 72.
“The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri.” North American Review 105 (July 1867): 124-148.
Ferrante, Joan M. The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy.Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.
Friederich, Werner P. Dante’s Fame Abroad, 1350-1850.Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1950.
Fuller Ossoli, Margaret. Life Without and Life Within. ed. A.B. Fuller. Boston, 1860.240
“Garibaldi Foretold by Dante.” The Albion, a Journal of News, Politics, and Literature(June 22, 1861), 292.
“Garibaldi the Patriot Soldier.” Flag of Our Union, (July 9, 1859), 221.
“Gustave Dore’s Dante.” Saturday Evening Post(January 7, 1863), 3.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The French and Italian Notebooks.ed. Thomas Woodson. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State UP, 1980.
(also see Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun; The Scarlet Letter; the Blithedale Romance; and a host of his short stories, especially “Rappacini’s Daughter.”)
Irmscher, Christoph. Longfellow Redux. University of Illinois Press, 2006.—. Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009. 241
“Italian Exiles.” The Independent(October 26, 1854), 1.
“Italian Literature.” The New-York Mirror: a Weekly Gazette of Literature and the Fine Arts (March 26, 1831), 300.
Jarves, James Jackson. “Art and Poesy in Italy—Walt Whitman Held Up as a Model to Italian Poets.” The New York Times(October 24, 1881).Web. <http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F50C11FE3A581B7A93C6AB178BD95F458884F9>.
Kaser, David. Books and Libraries in Camp and Battle: The Civil War Experience.Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1984.
Koch, Theodore W. Dante in America: A Historical and Bibliographical Study.Boston: Ginn and Company, 1896.
“La Divina Commedia di Dante Alighieri.” The North American Review and Miscellaneous Journal 8:23 (1819), 322-346.
La Piana, Angelina. Dante’s American Pilgrimage: A Historical Survey of Dante Studies in the United States, 1800-1944.New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1948.
Looney, Dennis. Freedom Readers: The African American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 2011.
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems.Cambridge: John Owens, 1845.
—. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Papers (MS Am 1340). Volumes 106 and 108. Houghton Library, Harvard University.
—. Poems on Slavery. Cambridge: John Owen, 1842.
—. Tales of a Wayside Inn. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1863.
—. The Seaside and the Fireside.Boston: Ticknor, Reeds, and Fields, 1850.
—. “Three Cantos of Dante’s ‘Paradiso.’” The Atlantic Monthly 13 (January 1864): 47-55.242
—. The Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. ed. Samuel Longfellow. Volume I. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1886.
Longfellow, Samuel. Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with Extracts from His Journals and Correspondence, Volumes I-III. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1891.
Marraro, Howard. American Opinion of the Unification of Italy, 1846-1861. New York, AMS Press, 1969.
Mathews, J. Chelsey. “Bryant’s Knowledge of Dante.” Italica 16 (1939): 115-119.
—. “Dantean Influence in the Poems of T.W. Parsons.” Italica 42 (1965): 135-168.
—. “Did Poe Read Dante?” Studies in English 38 (1938): 123-136.
—. “Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and Dante.” Italica 34 (1957): 127-136.
—. “Echoes of Dante in Longfellow’s “Hyperion” and “Kavanagh.” Italica 28 (1951): 17-18.
—. “Echoes of Dante in Longfellow’s Poetry.” Italica 26 (1949): 242-259.
—. “Hawthorne’s Knowledge of Dante.” Studies in English 40 (1940): 157-165.
—. “James Russell Lowell’s Interest in Dante.” Italica 36 (1959): 77-100.
—. “Melville and Dante.” PMLA64 (1949): 1238.
—. “Mr. Longfellow’s Dante Club.” Dante Studies 86 (1958): 23-35.
—. “Richard Henry Wilde’s Knowledge of Dante.” Italica 45 (1968): 28-46.
—. “Thoreau’s Reading in Dante.” Italica 27 (1950): 77-81.
—. “Walt Whitman’s Reading of Dante.” Studies in English39 (1939): 172-179.
—. “Whittier’s Knowledge of Dante.” Italica 34 (1957), 234-238. 243
Mazzotta, Giuseppe. Dante, Poet of the Desert: History and Allegory in the Divine Comedy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1979.
—. Dante’s Vision and the Circle of Knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.
McCabe, W. Gordon. “Dante.” The Southern Literary Messenger (Feb/March 1862), 136-148.
McClain, Rea. “Walt Whitman in Italy.” Italica20 (March 1943): 4-16.
Melville, Herman. Published Poems: The Writings of Herman Melville, Volume XI. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2009.
Milbank, Alison. Dante and the Victorians.Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1998.
“New Translation of Dante.” The Massachusetts Quarterly Review 4 (September 1848):527.
“New Translations of the ‘Vita Nuova.’” Christian Examiner 73 (November 1862): 368.
Newman, Lea. “Melville’s Copy of Dante: Evidence of New Connections between the Commedia and Mardi.” Studies in the American Renaissance (1993): 305-348.
Norton, Charles Eliot. “The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri.” The North American Review102 (April 1866):509-531.
Pearl, Matthew. “‘Colossal Cipher’: Emerson as America’s Lost Dantean.” Dante Studies 117 (1999): 171-193.—. The Dante Club. New York: Ballantine, 2003.
P.S. “The Life and Genius of Dante Alighieri.” The American Review 2 (August 1848), 126.
Riall, Lucy. Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2007.
—. Risorgimento: The History of Italy from Napoleon to Nation-State.New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
“Richard Henry Wilde and Dante.” The International Monthly Magazine of Literature, Science, and Art(July 1, 1850), 2.
Roosevelt, Theodore. History as Literature and Other Essays. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913.
Sealts, Jr., Merton M. Melville’s Reading. Charleston, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.“A Season of Unreason,” Once a Week(November 1, 1862): 508.
“Sketches, General Garibaldi.” Zion’s Herald and Wesleyan Journal(September 11, 1850), 148.
Smith, Denis Mack, ed. Garibaldi.Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1969.
—. Modern Italy: A Political History.Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.
“Sonnet Sent to Carlo Botta on Reading His History of Italy.” Magnolia; or Southern Monthly(February, 1841), 95.
Van Egmond, Peter. “Bryn Mawr College Library Holdings of Whitman Books.” Walt Whitman Review 20:2 (1974): 40-45.
Verduin, Kathleen. “Dante in America: The First Hundred Years.” Reading Books: Essays on the Material Text and Literature in America.ed. Michele Moylan and Lanes Stiles. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996.
—. “Dante’s Inferno, Jonathan Edwards, and New England Calvinism.” Dante Studies 123 (2005): 133-161.
—. “Emerson, Dante and American Nationalism.” Dante in the Long Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
—. “The Inward Love of Life: Margaret Fuller and the Vita Nuova.” Dante Studies 1996.
“The Vision.” The North American Review 52 (April 1846): 323-351.
Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia. ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998.
W.D. “A Passage from DANTE’S INFERNO thrown in English heroic verse.” New York Magazine, or Literary Repository(May 1791), 297-298