Look It Up

Ask any freshman lit major about Dante, and you'll likely get an answer about the Divine Comedy. In his time, however, Dante was actually better known for a long-running column which was syndicated in several local periodicals. The column, "Alighieri d'Angolo" (or "Alighieri's Corner"), put a fresh spin to the issues of the day and gave Dante a place to vent whatever was going on in his head. Loosely translated, some of the article titles:

  • "New Aqueduct Plan Sounds Fishy"
  • "Time for the Florentines to Fess Up"
  • "That's It, I'm Sick of the Pox"
  • "Ten Things That Won't Happen in 1311"
  • "Boniface VIII: Right Pope, Right Time"
  • "Why Are We Letting the French Name the Renaissance?"

Dante's brash, vox populi appeal made him hugely popular, and he was among the first columnists to print readers' letters. Each Thursday he would answer questions on anything from politics to winemaking. Which is surprising, because it was 14th century Italy and only about 11 people could read.