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BU’s Life in Letters: An Infernal Life, A Divine Legacy

A five-part series about the year in books

Click on the player above to hear Peter Hawkins' thoughts on Dante.


Boston University’s authors are a prolific bunch, having published more than 100 books in 2006 alone. Some put their efforts into fiction and poetry, tackling topics ranging from the Holocaust to the collected letters of a turn-of-the-20th-century poet, while others looked at the social and cultural issues facing 21st-century America and the world.

This week, BU Today looks at the academic year in books. On July 2, Leslie Epstein talked about his latest novel, The Eighth Wonder of the World. Archie Burnett, a College of Arts and Sciences professor of English and codirector of the Editorial Institute at Boston University, discussed his recent edition of The Letters of A. E. Housman on July 3. Check back tomorrow for “Pray Tell: What Americans Don’t Know About Religion,” a conversation with Stephen Prothero, the chair of the CAS religion department.

An Infernal Life, A Divine Legacy
Peter Hawkins on the great and troubled Dante Alighieri

Slide show by Paul Heerlein. Text by Art Jahnke

Peter Hawkins is not good at containing his enthusiasm. And when it comes to his great love for the writing of Dante, Hawkins, a professor of religion in the College of Arts and Sciences and winner of a 2006 Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, is downright evangelical. And successfully so. Hawkins’ recently published Dante: A Brief History, is his third book about the creator of The Divine Comedy. In 1999, he published Dante’s Testaments: Essays on Scriptural Imagination, and in 2005 The Poets’ Dante: Twentieth Century Reflections. Hawkins, director of the Luce Program in Scripture and Literary Arts, says his latest work is intended to bring Dante to the generally educated reader. BU Today talked to the popular professor about what Dante can tell a 21st-century audience.

Paul Heerlein can be reached at heerlein@bu.edu. Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

This story originally appeared on BU Today on May 2, 2007.