Hosted by the Dante Alighieri Society of Western Australia
Comm. Professor John Kinder FAHA
University of Western Australia
Dante saw ‘quattro stelle’ in the southern sky, though we know he could not have been referring to the Southern Cross.
In Australia today, Dante excites great interest among young generations. Nobel Prize poet Eugenio Montale was right:
“the further his world recedes from us, the greater is our desire to know him and to make him known”.
Dante challenges many of the building blocks of modernity. He embodies contradictions that are different from the ones we usually live with. His vision of reality is unified, holistic and integrated at all levels. He believes in ultimate truth, in good and bad, and in obeying authority. And yet, at the centre of the Comedy, and the centre of his world-view, is love, the force that moves the sun and the other stars. We experience love as desire and the dignity of the human person is our ability to respond to love and to direct our desires, in total freedom. This is a powerful challenge in a time that Pope Francis has described as
“not an epoch of change but a change of epoch”.
John Kinder first read Dante while studying Italian at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). His teaching and research in Italian Studies led him in 1988 to the University of Western Australia, where he is now Professor of Italian. He had published widely on the history of the Italian language and dialects, especially the role language has played in Italian history. He leads the Digital Humanities Research Cluster at UWA and is working to open up archives of letters and documents in Italian from the earliest times of European settlement in Australia. He is a Fellow of the Accademia della Crusca, the first Italianist from the southern hemisphere to be elected to Italy’s premier language academy.