Research seminar May 22, 2024

Talks by Kristina M. Olson and Francesca Tomasi


Speaker: Kristina M. Olson, George Mason University (USA)

Title of the talk: From Text to History (to Text): The Women of Dante’s “Commedia” (slides)

Abstract: By casting “historical” women, both real and fictive individuals with their own literary pedigrees, as characters in his poem, Dante conveys that women and the female gender serve an essential function within his elaborate vision of politics and language itself. Yet, for an epic love poem written in honor of a woman who appears within it as guide, philosopher/theologian, and Christ-like figure, the critical reception of the Commedia has only sporadically examined Dante’s innovative approach in this regard. Just over the past three decades has the representation of women and the feminine received sustained attention from scholars. Instructors of Dante could benefit from reflecting upon this critical history as a way to approach the idea of how women and the female gender are represented in the poem in innovative ways.

Suggested readings:

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Notes Toward a Gendered History of Italian Literature, with a Discussion of Dante’s Beatrix Loquax.” In Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture New York: Fordham University Press, 2006. 360-78.

——. “Dante Alighieri.” In Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: An Encyclopedia, edited by Margaret Schaus. New York: Routledge, 2006. 190-92.

——. “Dante and Francesca da Rimini: Realpolitik, Romance, Gender.” Speculum 75 (2000): 1-28.

Ferrante, Joan. Dante’s Beatrice: Priest of an Androgynous God. CEMERS Occasional Papers, 2. Binghamton, NY: State University of New York Press, 1992.

——. Woman as Image in Medieval Literature from the Twelfth Century to Dante. New

York: Columbia University Press, 1975.

Harrison, Robert Pogue. The Body of Beatrice. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.

Jacoff, Rachel. “Transgression and Transcendence: Figures of Female Desire in Dante’s

Commedia.” Romanic Review 79 (1988): 129-42.

Kirkham, Victoria. “A Canon of Women in Dante’s Commedia.” Annali d’Italianistica 7 (1989): 16-41.

Olson, Kristina. “Conceptions of Women and Gender in the Comedy.” In Approaches to Teaching Dante’s Divine Comedy, eds. Christopher Kleinhenz and Kristina Olson. New York, NY: Modern Language Association, 2020, pp.110-119.

——. “The Language of Women as Written by Men: Dante, Boccaccio, and Gendered Histories of the Vernacular.” Heliotropia 8-9 (2011-12).

Psaki, F. Regina. “The Sexual Body in Dante’s Celestial Paradise.” In Imagining Heaven in the Middle Ages, edited by Jan. S Emerson and Hugh Feiss. New York: Garland, 2000. 47-61.

Shapiro, Marianne. Woman Earthly and Divine in the Comedy of Dante. Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 1975.

Williams, Charles. The Figure of Beatrice: A Study in Dante. New York: The Noonday Press, 1961.

Bio: Kristina Olson (PhD, Columbia University, 2006) is an Associate Professor of Italian in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at George Mason University, where she has taught Italian language, literature, and cinema since 2005. She is the author of Courtesy Lost: Dante, Boccaccio and the Literature of History (University of Toronto Press, 2014) and several articles on Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch. Her research explores the intersection of history and literature. She is the co-editor of three volumes: Open City: Seven Writers in Postwar Rome (Steerforth Press, 1997); Boccaccio 1313-2013 (Longo Editore, 2015); and Approaches to Teaching Dante’s Divine Comedy (second edition) with the Modern Language Association (2020). She is currently the Editor in Chief of Dante Studies, the journal of the Dante Society of America. She was the President of the American Boccaccio Association (2020-2023), for which she was also Vice President (2017-2020) and Treasurer of the Association (2014-17). She served as the Vice President of the Dante Society of America for two years (2016-18) and served as Councilor for three years (2015-18).


Speaker: Francesca Tomasi, University of Bologna (IT)

Title of the talk: Modelling the Interpretation Act as Linked Open Data (slides)

Abstract: It was 10 years ago when we started reflecting on the formalization of the idea of “interpretation act” as the assertions made by different scholars when dealing with primary texts and documents. In 2014 we developped HiCO, an OWL 2 DL ontology aiming to outline relevant issues related to the workflow for stating, and formalizing, authoritative assertions about context information. The conceptual model want to outline requirements for defining an authoritative statement and focuses on how a description of context information can be carried out when data are extracted from full-text of documents (1).
We understood in fact that digital artefacts rarely address reusable structured information on the hermeneutical approach adopted by scholars when validating hypotheses. As a consequence, reproducibility and assessment of research results is hampered, and comparing online contradictory information is still a hard task. So we started reflecting on how to leverage Semantic Web technologies in a high-level, portable data model for representing hermeneutical aspects related to cross-disciplinary analysis of cultural sources (2), by proposing an enhancement of descriptive metadata in a Linked Open Data environment (3).
In general, the core issue is, we believe, a (doomed) search for objectivity of cultural heritage objects’ description, often caused by the fact that data models ignore the derivative and stratified nature of cultural objects, and allow only one point of view to be expressed. In turn this forces the publication of bowdlerized records and removes any venue for the expression of disagreement and different opinions. The adoption of contexts makes it possible to support multiplepoints of view inside the same dataset, not only allowing multiple scholars to provide their own possibly contrasting points of view, but also making it possible to incorporate additions, corrections and more complex kinds of commentaries from different final users without compromising the trustworthiness of the whole dataset (4).
Definitely, critical debate as well as uncertain or subjective claims are pivotal elements in scholarly analysis. Asserting such statements in RDF is hindered by the correct representation of uncertain or evolving aspects. We started recently to reflect on the need and usefulness of expressing without
asserting (EWA) arbitrary claims as RDF named graphs. We proposed a formal model, called conjectures, to express and retrieve statements whose truth value is not specified (5).

Suggested readings:

(1) M. Daquino and F. Tomasi, Historical Context (HiCo): a conceptual model for describing
context information of cultural heritage objects. «COMMUNICATIONS IN COMPUTER AND INFORMATION SCIENCE», vol. 544, Springer Verlag, Berlin 2015, pp. 424-436
(2) M. Daquino, V. Pasqual, F. Tomasi, Knowledge Representation of digital Hermeneutics of archival and literary Sources. «» 11(3), 2020.
(3) V. Pasqual, F. Tomasi, Linked open data per la valorizzazione di collezioni culturali: il dataset mythLOD, «AIB STUDI» 62, 2022, pp. 149 – 168.
(4) G. Barabucci, F. Tomasi, F. Vitali, Modeling data complexity in public history and cultural heritage, in: Handbook of Digital Public History, Oldenbourg, De Gruyter, 2022, pp. 459-474.
(5) M. Daquino, V. Pasqual, F. Tomasi, and F. Vitali, Expressing Without Asserting in the Arts, in: Proceedings of the 18th Italian Research Conference on Digital Libraries, IRCDL 2022, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, 3160, 2022.

Bio: Francesca Tomasi is associate professor in Archival Science, Bibliography and Librarianship at the University of Bologna (Italy). Her research is mostly devoted to digital humanities, with a special attention to documentary digital editions and knowledge organization methods in the Semantic
web environment.
She is the Director of the PhD in Cultural Heritage in the Digital Ecosystem (CHeDE) and the Head of the Digital Humanities Advanced Research Center (/DH.arc). She has been also President of the Library of the School of Humanities in the University of Bologna (BDU – Biblioteca di Discipline
Umanistiche), Director of the international second cycle degree in Digital Humanities and Digital Knowledge (DHDK), and President of the Italian Association of Digital Humanities (AIUCD – Associazione per l’Informatica Umanistica e la Cultura Digitale).
She is the scientific director of several digital scholarly projects at /DH.arc (e.g. Vespasiano da Bisticci, Lettere; Paolo Bufalini, Quaderno; MythLOD; Zeri&LODe; Aldo Moro digital scholarly edition; FICLIT (Semantic) Digital Library).
Among her last publications, the volume: Organizzare la conoscenza: Digital Humanities e Web Semantico, Editrice Bibliografica, 2022. A complete list of books, papers, chapters of volumes, datasets and digital projects at