Seven months ago, Baylor’s Honors College embarked on a journey to create the world’s largest Dante reading group through 100 Days of Dante
. With the help of Biola University, Gonzaga University, Whitworth University, the University of Dallas, and Eastern University, the project led over 15,000 people from across the globe through the Divine Comedy
“The Divine Comedy is one of the priceless gems of Christian literary culture and making it accessible to a wide public has been a wonderful, mission-driven effort,” Honors College Dean Douglas Henry said. “I am grateful 100 Days of Dante helped bring the cultural, intellectual, and spiritual treasures found within this text to a broader audience.”
Long before 100 Days of Dante was reaching thousands each week, the initial idea for the project began while Dr. Matt Anderson, assistant research professor of ethics and religion, was teaching a Great Texts course.
“It all started in part because I was teaching the Divine Comedy,” Anderson said. “Students really connected with the text in a way that led to great conversations, and while that was happening, I started to think through ways in which it could be taught at a wider level.”
Anderson originally thought to write through the text over the course of 100 days in his personal newsletter for his own edification; however, after discovering the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death would fall in the upcoming year, he knew the project was meant for a larger audience.
“Matt contacted me in late 2020 with the idea for 100 Days of Dante,” Henry said. “I was captivated by his bold vision, and I thought the anniversary of Dante’s death was a perfect occasion to lift high this great masterpiece. In short order, I shared Matt’s vision and we rallied thousands from around the world.”
From the outset, the core aim of 100 Days of Dante was to create a resource for those who may not have prior familiarity with Dante Alighieri’s writing or his immediate cultural, spiritual, and literary context. After garnering support from the Honors College, Anderson looked to other institutions to invest their resources into the project to help achieve this goal.
“When Matt reached out to me, I knew this was something Biola should be a part of,” Dr. Fred Sanders, professor for the Torrey Honors College at Biola University said. “We give Dante a lot of time with our students, so our faculty have experience teaching Dante from a Christian perspective. It just made sense for us to collaborate on a project like this.”
With the support of the Honors College and collaborating institutions, 100 Days of Dante officially launched in September 2021. Almost immediately, those involved with the project discovered there was a tremendous appetite for public humanities initiatives that engage great works.
“My original hope was to see a community of readers develop,” Anderson said. “I wanted to see reading groups spring up and for families to read this text together, and that is exactly what happened. I would get online and go through the 100 Day of Dante Twitter responses and would be blown away by how many people were reading through this text with their friends or their church group. It has been incredible.”
Throughout the run of the project, 13,000 readers subscribed to the email campaign, alongside over 2,000 followers on the project’s YouTube channel. Readers participated from Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and all 50 states.
“I had no idea what to expect when I began participating in 100 Days of Dante,” reader Vida Clark said. “The experience became more than a literary journey, but an emotional and spiritual journey filled with reflection and transformation. I hope to start my own Dante reading club and will be using the resources this project has created.”
Now that the project has concluded, those involved are working to customize the website for individual use so that people can begin their journey through the text at any time and at their own pace. The website also serves as a ready-made curriculum for reading groups, churches, and high schools.
“This is a steady resource to point educators to,” Sanders said. “People can use the whole curriculum or prescribe a few videos pertaining to a specific portion of the text. I hope people continue using these videos to guide them through the journey Dante leads each of us on.”
If you would like to learn more about the project, visit 100daysofdante.com
For media inquiries, please contact Emily Clark, BA ’14
| (254) 710-8486.
ABOUT THE HONORS COLLEGE AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
The Honors College at Baylor University unites four innovative interdisciplinary programs – the Honors Program, University Scholars, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and Great Texts – with a shared commitment to providing undergraduate students the opportunity to pursue questions that often fall between the cracks of the specialized disciplines by investigating the writings of scientists along with the writings of poets, historians and philosophers. For more information, visit baylor.edu/honorscollege.