The Dante Society of America has awarded its annual Dante Prize for the “best essay submitted by an undergraduate in any American or Canadian college or university” to William Porter, a junior English major at SUNY Geneseo and a participant in Geneseo’s Edgar Fellows program.
Porter’s winning essay, entitled “‘L’arco de lo essilio’: The Nexus of History, Pilgrimage, and Prophecy in the Heaven of Mars,” is, in Porter’s words, “about the nature and significance of exile” in the Divine Comedy — in particular, “how Dante’s own exile can be transformed into spiritual pilgrimage, shown through the prophecy of his great-great-grandfather Cacciaguida in Cantos 15-17 of Paradiso, or the Heaven of Mars.”
Porter is the second SUNY Geneseo student in the last five years to win the Dante Prize. In 2006, the prize was shared between Lisa Caruana, for her essay “The Dynamic Motion of Paradise,” and John Davies, a student at Harvard College, for his essay “Purgatorio Petroso : The Rime in the Purgatorio.” Prize winners in other years have submitted their essays from undergraduate programs at Princeton, Duke, Berkeley, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Northwestern, Bowdoin, Duke, and Brigham Young.
The Dante Prize is “meant as a sign of encouragement for those younger scholars on whose contributions the future of Dante studies in America will depend,” according to Vincent Pollina, Secretary-Treasurer of the Dante Society of America, who signed for the Prize Committee in his letter to Porter this fall.