Introducing Dr. Ronald Herzman, Medieval Fellow for 2015-2016

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Dr. Ron Herzman

The Center for Medieval Studies welcomes Ron Herzman, our current medieval fellow in residence. Dr. Herzman, State University of New York Distinguished Teaching Professor of English at the College at Geneseo, studies the relationship between Dante and the visual culture of Italy. He has published widely on Dante and the Middle Ages, with a special interest in the connections between Dante and Francis of Assisi. Dr. Herzman has also taught at Georgetown University, St. John’s College in Santa Fe, and Attica Correctional Facility, and has directed eighteen seminars for high school teachers for the National Endowment for the Humanities in Italy and the United States. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from his alma mater, Manhattan College, and was the recipient of the first CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching Medieval Studies from the Medieval Academy of America. He is currently the Director of Dante Outreach and Education for the Dante Society of America.

Dr. Herzman delivered the final lecture of the Fall 2015 Lecture Series, “Dante and the Frescoes of the Sancta Sanctorum” on Tuesday, December 2.

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The frescos at the Sancta Sanctorum, showing Pope Nicholas III presented to Christ by Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

In his engaging presentation, Dr. Herzman elucidated the connection between the visual program of the Sancta Sanctorum, a papal chapel in Rome, and the imagery used by Dante in his criticisms of Popes Nicholas III and Boniface VIII in Canto IXX of the Comedia. Dr. Herzman argues that the fresco cycle provided the material for Dante’s deconstruction of Pope Nicholas’ agenda in Canto IXX. The Sancta Sanctorum was decorated in the lavish style of royal chapels such as Louis IX’s Sainte-Chapelle, Justinian’s Hagia Sophia, and Charlemagne’s palace at Aachen, and was designed to publicly proclaim the legitimacy and holiness of the controversial Orsini Pope, Nicholas III, who was known for his excessive nepotism.

Dr. Herzman attracted a huge crowd that included many high school students and his own sophomore English teacher, Bill O’Malley, S.J., a longtime teacher at Fordham Prep. He even opened with a joke about simony that took the entire room by surprise, using this colorful moment to suggest the danger of the co-option of the spiritual by the material.

Dr. Herzman’s talent as a teacher shined through the combination of his commanding knowledge of Dante’s Italy and his acerbic wit. His lecture was a pleasure for all in attendance.

 

By Alexa Amore