Deborah Parker

Deborah Parker

Robert Lehman Visiting Professor
Dante in the World
Deborah Parker


Deborah Parker is Professor of Italian at the University of Virginia. Her field of expertise is Italian visual and print cultures in the medieval and early modern eras. She is the author of numerous monographs, articles, and collaborative projects in print and digital platforms. She is known for her exploration of interrelations between art and literature, writings on race, higher education, and sycophancy. Her work has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, I Tatti, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and John F. Kennedy Library.

Project Summary

The Divine Comedy is one of the most adapted works in the world. Over the last seven centuries the poet’s admirers have transformed his works in remarkable ways. Dante in the World, a book-length project, explores what makes the figure of Dante and his works so adaptable. It explores appropriations of the poem by a wide range of figures, among them Bronzino, Gustave Dorė, Federico Zuccari, John F. Kennedy, Somali writer Nuruddin Farah, and Japanese manga artist Fuyumi Soryo. Their bold and unusual use of Dante differs notably from traditional incorporations in which a later writer reworks an image, character, or theme. Bronzino reimagines Dante’s appearance, Dorè the gender and bodies of the damned, Kennedy the notion of neutrality, Farah civic division, and Soryo communal responsibility. Their appropriations prompt a rethinking of the dynamics of reinvention and how readers from different professional spheres and diverse cultures transform various Dantesque conceptions. Dante’s influence has never been more expansive. Some of these adaptations lead to new readings of the Divine Comedy. Others, by virtue of their foreignness, inspire new ways of conducting research. Looking at Dante from these diverse perspectives allows us to take the full measure of the poet’s influence in the world and the dynamics of global impact.