Dante’s Inferno (The Course)

by Jonathan Pageau and Richard Rohlin

The Symbolic World Goes to Hell

Pierce the Depths of Dante's Inferno with Richard Rohlin and Jonathan Pageau!

The Symbolic World will present the entirety of Dante’s Divine Comedy in three respective courses. Join us today at the start of our journey exploring the profound symbolism and timeless relevance of The Divine Comedy's first part, Inferno.

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Course Overview

5-Week Online Course: Lessons will be live-streamed on Wednesdays starting May 8th, 2-5 pm EST, or you can follow the class recordings at your own pace.

Presenters: Your guides through hell will be Richard Rohlin and Jonathan Pageau, the formidable duo behind the popular 3-year-running Universal History series and The Symbolic World’s acclaimed Beowulf course of 2023.

Exclusive Insights: Gain exclusive access to insights into the history, context, symbolism, and application of Dante's Inferno. This 15-hour course grants unique insights you won't find anywhere else on the internet.

A course for everyone: Whether you’ve never read The Comedy before, you’ve read it but wish you could appreciate it more deeply, or you’re a scholar and lover of the text – this course will have something to offer you. It will cover conventional perspectives on the text as well as the things you don’t hear from modern secular scholars.

An Enchanted Orthodox Perspective: Re-enchantment is back! Now is the best time to remind ourselves of the possible synergism of pagan imagery with Christian purpose and theology that Dante envisioned so magnificently in The Divine Comedy. Benefit from Richard Rohlin's philological acumen and Jonathan Pageau's profound symbolic insights, both rooted in an enchanted, symbolic, Orthodox Christian worldview.

A Treasure of Western Culture and Universal History: Discover why knowing and piercing our foundational stories is essential to navigating the meaning crisis. Dante covers everything! The Comedy is the apex of the whole universal history project of the Middle Ages because Dante leaves almost nothing on the table. He integrates something from everything that came before him. If you want to delve into the Universal History as well as classics that are the best our cultural heritage has to offer, The Comedy is the place to start.

Interactive Learning Experience: Join the Symbolic World online community platform where the course will be hosted. Here you can ask questions, engage in discussions, and gain insights from both the presenters and fellow students. Based on our previous courses on this platform we can guarantee your curiosity will be met with thoughtful responses, fostering a dynamic learning environment.

Course Details

Live Course Schedule

  • Lesson 1: Wednesday, May 8th, 2-5 pm EST
  • Lesson 2: Wednesday, May 15th, 2-5 pm EST
  • Lesson 3: Wednesday, May 22nd, 2-5 pm EST
  • Lesson 4: Wednesday, May 29th, 2-5 pm EST
  • No class on June 5th!
  • Lesson 5: Wednesday, June 12th, 2-5 pm EST

What you'll need

This edition of Dante’s Inferno (translation by John Ciardi)

All additional course materials will be provided.

Course Outline

Lesson 1: Lost in a Dark Wood - Cantos I-VIII (Wednesday, May 8th, 2-5 pm EST)
In the first week, we will spend a little time introducing Dante the poet, and Dante the character, before diving into the text of the poem itself. In these first few cantos, we will already see Dante's incisive and intricately developed way of thinking about sin, as he shows us the ways that the "least severe" sins–the animal passions–erode human personhood.

Lesson 2: Sin City - Cantos IX-XVII (Wednesday, May 15th, 2-5 pm EST)
This week's cantos will bring us as far as the City of Dis as we begin to ponder the effect of sin on our neighbors and ourselves. This is also where we begin to get our first real insights into the depth and depravity of the society of medieval Florence.

Lesson 3: Holy Saturday - Cantos XVIII-XXIII (Wednesday, May 22nd, 2-5 pm EST)
Descending upon the leathery wings of Geryon, we arrive in the lower parts of the City of Dis, where fraud is punished. Here we encounter the "image of the City in corruption: the progressive disintegration of every social relationship, personal and public. Sexuality, ecclesiastical and civil office, language, ownership, counsel, authority, psychic influence, and material interdependence – all the media of the community's interchange are perverted and falsified." It would almost be too much for us to bear if we were not, as Dante often reminds us, following the path that Christ made when He descended to harrow Hell.

Lesson 4: Centaurs & Serpents - Cantos XXIV-XXIX (Wednesday, May 29th, 2-5 pm EST)
In this penultimate week, we continue our descent through Malebolge, the pit of fraud, and consider the various forms that fraud takes and the way in which it corrupts the very fabric of human society.

Lesson 5 - Hell Freezes Over - Cantos XXX-XXXIV (Wednesday, June 12th, 2-5 pm EST)
Our own "harrowing" journey has finally come to an end as Dante, now showed the reality of sin, can begin to turn away from it, literally climbing down/up Satan's "backside" to reach the foot of Mt. Purgatory early on Easter morning. It will feel like a little resurrection of our own as we find ourselves now ready and eager to contemplate higher things, to "look once again upon the stars."


Richard Rohlin

Richard Rohlin is a software developer, Germanic philologist, and Orthodox Christian living in Texas with his wife and children. He speaks and publishes on Germanic poetry, the Inklings, and the Sacramental Imagination. He regularly contributes to Jonathan Pageau’s The Symbolic World YouTube channel through the Universal History series, which has recently launched a 6-week course studying the epic poem Beowulf.  

Richard co-hosts The Amon Sul Podcast, and has published several works of fiction and non-fiction. He’s currently working on a collection of essays called Finding the Golden Key: Essays Toward a Recovery of the Sacramental Imagination. His superhero pulp novel Guardians: The Eye of Horus is currently under development as a graphic novel. Richard is also a life-long tabletop gamer and wrapped up a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to produce Amboria: Roleplaying in the World Under Starlight, which is now in production and preparing to ship.

Jonathan Pageau

Jonathan Pageau is a renowned liturgical artist, writer, and public speaker. Through his popular YouTube channel The Symbolic World, he has become a sought-out interpreter of the deep patterns in stories. With his 2022 publication of God's'Dog: Monster, a graphic novel invented with his brother Matthieu Pageau and artist Cord Nielson, Jonathan proved himself a powerful storyteller in his own right. The project’s successful crowdfunding encouraged him to continue his efforts to reclaim the storytelling landscape by starting a publishing company called Symbolic World Press (SWP). 

SWP’s maiden publication is The Tale of Snow White and the Widow Queen, the first of an eight-book series of fairy tales in which Pageau explores a new way of telling fairy tales: one which is both aware of our cultural moment and simultaneously committed to honoring the deeply celebratory of the roots these stories have planted in our common imagination.  

Jonathan’s YouTube channel, The Symbolic World, now has nearly 200k subscribers, and the community that has developed around his listenership is an active, supportive, and talented collection of artists and thinkers from around the globe. He recently launched a new Symbolic World Website, where people can sign up to access exclusive content unavailable on the regular channel, and to engage in the Symbolic World Community for timely discussions around symbolism, literature, religion, art, and culture. The site has also begun hosting paid courses, where people can sign up for an interactive deep dive into specific works, such as Beowulf, C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy, and the rebirth of Christian Metaphysics.

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