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Dante as an ecologist and poet in the world. “Divine” illustrations by Gustave Doré.

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Dante as an ecologist and poet in the world. “Divine” illustrations by Gustave Doré.
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Dante as an ecologist and poet in the world. “Divine” illustrations by Gustave Doré.

An open access multimedia project by Virginia Valzano Biliotti and Gabriella Sartor Zanzotto, in collaboration with Sonia Biliotti Zanzotto, Elisa Biliotti, Aurora Valzano Pinnetta, Alice D’Arpa Lucarella; animation of the “divine” illustrations: Elio Paiano; music: Andrea Gargiulo, Mauro Durante (CGS) and Daniele Durante; narrating voice: Antonio Della Rocca; English translation: Giovanna Gallo. Presentation: Massimo Bray. Coordination and Production: Virginia Valzano Biliotti.
Digital Editor: ClioEdu (Lecce), 2021, eISBN 979-1280503-12-1, Open Access Publication (CC-BY-NC-ND).

This multimedia work - as the authors Virginia Valzano Biliotti and Gabriella Sartor Zanzotto write - has the aim to contribute to revealing the presence of love for nature in Dante’s masterpiece. In the three Cantiche of the Divine Comedy, already from the incipit, “Midway upon the journey of our life, / I found myself within a forest dark”, emerges Dante’s interest in and respect for the environment, for nature in all its forms and manifestations, which he observes with great wonder and curiosity, with the eyes of a researcher, a naturalist.

The naturalistic descriptions, expressed through wonderful verses, are often provided by using subtle details that reveal his deep awareness of all the Medieval knowledge and, at the same time, his love and total respect for nature, observed with great originality, by highlighting the interactions and balance between living and non living beings and their environment, by speculating about what might improve its quality, by discouraging humankind from altering the balance existing between the various elements of the environment.

For this reason, we argue that Dante can be defined as an ecologist ante litteram.

The audio-video recording of the essay “Dante as an ecologist and poet in the world”, accompanied by an original background of music created ad hoc by the maestro Andrea Gargiulo from the association MusicaInGioco, has the aim to facilitate, through a pleasant listening, a greater understanding of Dante’s poetry and love for Nature that may be accessible to everyone. It is our hope that the governments, as well as the new generations, who are responsible for creating the future, may acquire an increasing awareness of the importance of an indispensable eco-sustainable development and act accordingly. Dante’s journey into the three unearthly worlds has always fascinated and inspired scientists, scholars, artists and illustrators, who have tried to interpret and express, through their different languages, the atmosphere and the environment where the characters are placed. The most popular illustrations, from the nineteenth century to the present, are the evocative engravings by Gustave Doré. We wished to bring these illustrations to life by animating the images, through the use of the latest  digital technologies and an original musical background, in order to bring up-to-date the scenes represented by Doré together with Dante’s powerful poetic and ecologic message, thus making them more appealing for the young generations.
The animations are accompanied by the music composed by Mauro Durante from Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino together with Daniele Durante, art director of the Foundation La Notte della Taranta, who prematurely passed away recently, to whom the whole project is dedicated.
La Notte della Taranta is the biggest popular music festival in Europe, dedicated to the revival of the ancient dance of Salento “Pizzica”, as well as to the fusion with other music styles. The Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, founded by the writer Rina Durante and the musician Daniele Durante, who later passed the leadership to his son Mauro, is the multi-award winning group at the top of the world folk music charts.

The project, which benefits from Antonio Della Rocca’s voice, was carried out by activating a wide partnership involving a great number of young people and Apulian as well as national research centres, cultural and environmental associations.
The result - as Massimo Bray (General Director of the Institute of the Italian Encyclopedia Treccani, former Minister of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism in the Italian Government) writes - is a multimedia product capable of combining the beauty of Dante’s work and Doré’s illustrations with the rich cultural heritage of Salento music within an accurate scientific framework: therefore, a product where literature, arts and music interact and are explored through new technologies, thus providing the users with a new way to enjoy the invaluable cultural legacy which the Divine Comedy represents for all the Italians as well as enthusiasts of the great Poet worldwide.

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