by Katie Kenerly
On Thursday, November 14, 47 Sewanee souls, including students, faculty, alumni, and community members, gathered at the Paschall Italian House (with plenty of homemade Italian food, of course) to embark on an epic “pilgrimage,” to use Dante’s own words, through The Divine Comedy, reading all 100 cantos in just under 12 hours. Organized by the Italian Department, the “Comediathon” was a truly impressive undertaking.
Complete readings of the Comedy are extremely rare in Italy, and virtually unheard-of in the United States. Very few people endeavor to read all three canticles in one sitting, so everyone who participated in the Comediathon was a part of something extremely special and unique. Professor Fritz-Morkin of the Italian Department summed it up best: “It was an ‘epic’ experience in every sense of the word.”
The event kicked off at two in the afternoon, and over the course of the day many people stopped by both to listen and participate. In fact, at points during Inferno and Purgatorio, the house was so crowded that there was standing room only. The students who participated in the event were primarily those enrolled either in Dr. Macfie’s Representative Masterpieces course, or in an Italian language class taught by Professor Fritz-Morkin.
In addition to many students and several community members, Professors Fritz-Morkin, McDonough, Segrest, L. Richardson, Irvin, Miller, Macdonald, Cook, and Engel participated as well. Though many participants chose to read a translation of the text, there were several brave souls who instead read the original Italian, which was both beautiful and impressive.
For the final cantos of Paradiso, only five participants remained: Professor Fritz-Morkin, Dr. Engel, Norris Eppes (C’14), Jan DeLozier (C’16), and Ligon de Vogel (C’16). When Eppes finished the final canto at 1:56 am, the room “erupted in cheers,” both enthralled by what they had accomplished and, understandably, relieved to be done after 12 long hours.
All in all, the Comediathon was a resounding success. The fact that the Italian Department was able to orchestrate such an enormous event is truly impressive, and we should feel honored to have been able to be part of something so rare and significant.