March 16, 2012

Call to ban Dante from Italian schools


Botticelli's Dante

According to a human rights group that advises the UN, Dante’s Divine Comedy should be banned from Italian schools because it is ‘offensive and discriminatory’. Speaking for the group Gherush92, its president Valentina Sereni said this week:

We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above criticism.

Presumably in an attempt to pre-empt criticisms of this ludicrous report, which makes no allowance whatsoever for historical context, the group went on to say that children and university students who study the work lack the filters to understand that context. The idea that critical faculties are developed by consideration of great works from a broad range of historical and geographic sources seems to have passed them by. According to this Telegraph report, Italian cultural associations and gay rights groups rushed to the poet’s defence, saying that to ban the work would be an ‘excess of political correctness’. Now there’s an understatement.


Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.