Dante + video games = the liberal arts Featured Core Course: Literature in a Global Context

What does reading Dante’s Divine Comedy have to do with getting a job in the technology sector or helping design a future iteration of the iPhone?

Potentially a lot, if you’re one of Professor Jennifer Holberg’s students in “Literature in a Global Context,” a course taken to fulfill one of Calvin’s core requirements.

Prof. Holberg has developed a way to help students from all majors dive into this important text in Western literature: they design final projects that explore The Divine Comedy through the lens of their own majors.

Dante and video games

Take for example, the project completed by Charles Larson ’15. This computer science major decided to create a Divine Comedy-themed game using his advanced coding skills and love for nostalgic video games from the ’80s and ’90s.

“I thought it would be cool if the art for Dante was built based on video games in the ’90s and art for Virgil to be built on video games in the ’80s because Dante considers Virgil his teacher, just like video game makers over the years consider those who went before them to be their teachers,” he said.

Charles, now working at Hub Group in Chicago, is living out the liberal arts ideal that Steve Jobs talked about when asked whether the studies in the arts and the humanities mattered when the best-paying jobs were in the tech sector: 

It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing. —Steve Jobs

Dante and music

Little makes our hearts sing like well-crafted music, something another student in Prof. Holberg’s “Literature in a Global Context” course knows a lot about. Andrew Banning ’16 created a musical composition for his final project on The Divine Comedy.

“My music is Dante before he goes into hell, wandering into the woods, and as he goes into hell starting his journey there,” he said.

Andrew is a music composition major who wasn’t excited about the heavy reading a lit course entails. The final project changed everything.

“This class has definitely been one of my favorite core classes. There is a lot of reading for the class, but the project made it much more interesting. The more I read, the more ideas I got.”

Needless to say, Andrew’s musical composition made the grade. This is what Prof. Holberg had to say about it:

“Andrew’s composition is so gorgeous,” she said. “His project was like discovering a whole new edition of the poem.”

VERGE: fall 2015

First-Year Experience