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There is a MOOC about Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy by the The University of Naples Federico II, in which a certain professor named Raffaele Giglio starts a video (published in September 2017) in which he recites some verses from the work.

I already become very suspicious about any credibility of this professor when he immediately afterwards uses the following vague words: "the greatest Humanity poet".

(English subtitle track:)

They were written by our great poet, the greatest Humanity poet, Dante Allighieri,...

(Italian subtitle track, for reference:)

Li ha scritti il nostro grande poeta, anzi il poeta più grande dell'umanità, Dante Alighieri,...

But my question relates to whether or not there is a general consensus among scholars with regards to the following two claims:

(English subtitle track:)

...in his comedy, the book which, after the bible, has been translated into the most languages and dialects in the world, and is the top printed work of all time, after the Bible.

(Italian subtitle track, for reference:)

...nella sua commedia, l’opera che dopo la bibbia è più tradotta nelle lingue e dialetti del mondo ed è quella più stampata sempre dopo la bibbia.


NOTE: It seems to be fashionable for some professors to shout that a book of their interest is the second most translated book in the world. In April 2016 for example, Alfredo Moro, who lectured at the University of Cantabria, claimed this for Don Quixote.

  • Since the good professor doesn't say anything in English, I assume you translated his words? What were they in the original? – muru Jun 5 '18 at 0:41
  • What does MOOC stand for? – Rand al'Thor Jun 5 '18 at 0:58
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    @Randal'Thor MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. – Vincent Mia Edie Verheyen Jun 5 '18 at 2:08
  • @muru I have copied the English translation that comes along with the video link (cf. the youtube video in which the two subtitle tracks are provided). For your reference, I have now clarified this in the OP and added the Italian subtitles as well. – Vincent Mia Edie Verheyen Jun 5 '18 at 2:18
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    I assume the translation was done by a native speaker of Italian, not by a native speaker of English, since "il poeta più grande dell'umanità" means "humanity's / mankind's greatest poet". – IkWeetHetOokNiet Jun 5 '18 at 9:32
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One way to address this question is by quantifying the relative importance of Dante vis-a-vis other poets. MIT's Pantheon project is one resource for this (http://pantheon.media.mit.edu/methods). The link is to their webpage describing their methodology. Basically, Pantheon's project is an attempt at measuring Global Historical Popularity. Among the metrics they employ for selecting global popularity is the number of languages in Wikipedia into which an historical figure's work has been translated (minimum of 25 for inclusion into list). Among the limitations to their approach is the fact that the metrics are based solely on Wikipedia which is far from objective as it heavily weighted towards historically Western figures.

Without getting lost in the weeds of what Pantheon does and how they do it, Dante Aligheri ranks 3rd among Writers, a pre-determined Pantheon classification. First is Homer, then Shakespeare. Dante is followed by Virgil and Sophocles is fifth. The image below can be found on this webpage (http://pantheon.media.mit.edu/people/Dante%20Alighieri). Based on Pantheon and Wikipedia, Dante has been translated into 137 wiki language editions, Homer into 141 and Shakespeare into 163. Clearly the number of translations is not the only factor used in generating the results.

Dante was an indisputably great poet. That MIT's Pantheon ranks him 3rd is an almost arbitrary decision since any and all rankings can be reformulated to produce virtually any desired result, e.g., see Malcolm Gladwell's takedown of college rankings in this New Yorker article... https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/02/14/the-order-of-things or this infographic summarizing all of the factors Google uses in creating its Pagerank metric for keyword searches ... https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/google-ranking-algorithm-infographic.

enter image description here

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    It says Dante features in 137 language editions of Wikipedia, not that Dante's works have been translated to 137 languages. – muru Jun 5 '18 at 16:44
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    Eh? Looks like you still don't understand. The 137 is the count of pages like hi.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/दांते_एलीगियरी ja.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/ダンテ・アリギエーリ etc., which are distinct editions of Wikipedia. That number gives absolutely no information whatsoever about the actual number of languages info which Dante's works have been translated. – muru Jun 5 '18 at 20:10
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    You're misrepresenting both your source and the different editions of Wikipedia by claiming they're translations. It is not necessarily the case that the article on Dante in one language is the translation of the corresponding article in some other language, and neither does Pantheon claim so. – muru Jun 6 '18 at 0:28
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    @DJohnson that's precisely what OP's question isn't about. They quote those lines first, yes, but the go on to say, with emphasis, "But my question relates to whether or not there is a general consensus among scholars with regards to the following two claims" and the following claims are about the translations, not Dante's greatness. OP obviously knows, as would anyone familiar with SE customs, that a question asking about something so subjective as a poet being the greatest would be certainly offtopic. That's why they're not asking about it. – muru Jun 6 '18 at 11:54
  • @muru To reiterate...your position is that there is no relationship between wiki language editions and the number of languages into which an author's work has been translated. As noted in a deleted comment my hypothesis is that there is such a relationship and that the two are strongly positively correlated. This does not mean to imply a one-to-one correspondence but rather an association, approximate relationship or proxy for the one given the other. – DJohnson Jun 6 '18 at 21:28

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