The lectura Dantis, defined as a detailed and unified interpretation of one canto in Dante's series of one-hundred in his The Divine Comedy, is a genre whose practice has long been limited to its native Italy. There exist several complete and many incomplete series by a host of scholars; Florence, Rome, Ravenna, Genova, among other cities, have sponsored such collections of lecturae; so did the Italian state itself in occasion of Dante anniversaries; so does currently the University of California. This latter enterprise reminds us, in fact, that the lectura Dantis long endemic to Italy has for some time crossed the Atlantic, and as the recent Dante in America bibliographies show, has become a flourishing form of critical exercise in American «Dantology».

      This first number of the periodical LECTURA DANTIS, published by the Italian Program at the University of Virginia, gathers six lectures on the Inferno, delivered, during 1986-87 at the University of Virginia, in Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda (one exception will be noted). For this occasion, the lecturers were selected with a view to reflect the host institution: the six authors are, each of them, «Virginians» in some sense, by residence or past or present affiliation with Mr. Jefferson's University. If we do not title the collection (as initially planned) «Lectura Dantis Virginiana», it is because in future issues of the periodical we intend to include lecturae, as well as essays, articles, and reviews, by Dante scholars from across the United States and Canada (and Europe).

      Authors were encouraged to maintain their texts identical or close to the version originally given on campus. As to form, the individual usages of the authors were respected in reproducing the texts: these differ somewhat in the matter of documentation, quotes, and translations.

      LECTURA DANTIS is an independent publication, sustained by subscription. It welcomes suggestions from its readers as to format, contents, and collaborators; it cordially solicits submissions of lecturae and papers, as well as book reviews (and books to review), both in English and Italian, by dantisti of all critical approaches.

      Thanks are due to the sponsors of this initial lecture series: to the Special Lectures Committee, the Comparative Literature Program, the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, and the Lectura Dantis fund maintained by the Faculty in Italian at the University of Virginia, as well as (for the one occasion noted) to the Department of Italian at Columbia University, New York. Special thanks are due to the authors of the issue, all of whom encouraged and welcomed the publication.

The Editor