Beth Coggeshall received her PhD in Italian from Stanford in 2012, specializing in medieval literature, history, and culture. She is currently developing her dissertation into a book manuscript, tentatively titled Dante and the Theology of Friendship. In this project, she analyzes the centrality of friendship in the construction and maintenance of the communities of Dante’s afterlife. The project considers friendship in its historical specificity, reconstructing Dante’s definition of friendship according to his authorities on the subject – primarily Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine, and Aquinas. Beth’s book argues that the Divine Comedy theologizes classical friendship, reframing it as a preparatory model for the communion of souls in Paradise.
Beth’s love affair with Dante’s Comedy began in an introductory writing course during her freshman year at the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, she completed a BA in Medieval Studies and Italian, and she went on to receive her MA in Comparative Studies at the Ohio State University. In addition to her primary research project, Beth has researched and published on the role of hate in Dante’s vision of hell, the political landscape of 13th century Florence, and the representations of Muslims in the Divine Comedy.
Previous to joining the SLE team, Beth taught in the Thinking Matters program (Education as Self-Fashioning: Learning for a Public Life, Epic Journeys, and Networks: Ecological, Revolutionary, Digital), and in Stanford’s Italian department, where she taught a range of courses on everything from medieval poetry to an Italian soap opera. Among these courses, one of her favorites was Dante and the Modern Imagination, a literature course focusing on Dante’s influence on modern and contemporary literature, art, music, theater, and film. She and her students looked for Dante’s influence on modern writers such as Keats, Tennyson, Beckett, Borges, and Naylor. Thanks to the enthusiasm of her students, Beth is now the co-editor, with Arielle Saiber (Bowdoin College), of the website Dante Today, a digital archive of the “citings” and “sightings” of Dante in contemporary culture.
When she is not on campus, you will almost certainly find Beth in one of the many coffee shops near her home in San Francisco.