ON DEMAND • Celebrating Dante Alighieri as a Man

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Celebrating Dante Alighieri: The man, the era he lived in, and his impact on Western civilization
Presented by Prof. Louis Leonini

Homer, Dante and Shakespeare are considered giants of world literature. Of all three, however, Dante’s Divine Comedy is considered one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time.

In this lecture, Professor Louis Leonini will defend this critique as he takes you back in time to explore Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), his romantic poetry, his study of Italian dialects (De Vulgari), and Florentine Italian – which later became what is now called Standard Italian.

We can often judge a man and his work by his admirers. The professor will tell how Boccaccio and Michelangelo idolized Dante, and Petrarch, Chaucer, Milton, and Shelley were strongly influenced by him. Botticelli made drawings for the Divine Comedy, and William Blake (a 19th century English romantic poet) actually learned Italian so he could read Dante’s great work in the original.

This lecture will examine what motivated Dante’s great work, how it was written, and its impact even today, 700 years after his death.

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About the Speaker: Louis Leonini: Louis was the first of the Leonini children to go to college, receiving a B.A Degree from St. John’s University. He went on to receive a Master’s Degree at Fordham University, majoring in European history, with a specialty in Italian studies. Louis then completed his formal studies at New York University with 30 credits toward a PH.D. Professor Leonini began his teaching career by teaching history for the New York City Department of Education for 32 years. Upon retiring from the public school system, Louis taught Italian language at St. Joseph Hill Academy High School on Staten Island. Pursuing his love of the Italian language and culture, he went on to teach at Saint John’s University both at the Jamaica campus and on Staten Island.

Professor Leonini currently serves as the official historian for the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum and gives lectures on Italian history and culture while also teaching language classes there for adults. He regularly lectures at Casa Belvedere, The Italian Cultural Foundation on Staten Island. He has appeared on Italian television, radio, and American TV. He is available as a guest lecturer in the tri-state area, a job he has enjoyed doing for more than 20 years. Louis is a proud member of the Capodanno Lodge of the Order of sons of Italy in America. In 2016, he was honored by the New York State Commission for Social Justice for his contributions to Italian American heritage.

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