Original Papers

If Dante had known Phytoplankton. A comparison between literature and science through the didactics of metaphors.


This project, conducted with Classical High School students, was developed under the "Alternating School and Work Experience" program (Italian Law n. 107/2015) between the "G. Palmieri" High School of Lecce and the Environmental Protection Agency of Puglia (ARPA), Department of Lecce, in Italy. In particular, this paper describes the “HABs’ world” allegorically, in terms of one of the most famous examples of Italian literature, the Divine Comedy. Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae, simple photosynthetic organisms that live in the sea and freshwater, grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. Since HABs can be defined as “bad”, based on their negative characteristics, some of these were compared to the sinful souls that Dante and Virgil encountered along their journey into Hell. It is argued that such integration of literary and scientific contexts in terms of ecological indicators helps students understand the relationship between the sustainability of human and environmental trajectories.

Key words: Phytoplankton, Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs), The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri, ecological indicators

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13135/2384-8677/2932


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MIUR (2015) Legge 13 luglio 2015, n. 107. Riforma del sistema nazionale di istruzione e formazione e delega per il riordino delle disposizioni legislative vigenti. (15G00122) (GU Serie Generale n.162 del 15-07-2015).

The pictures of Posters 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 are taken from Paul Gustave Doré, Dante, Divina Commedia - Inferno (1861)

The picture of Poster 4 (Medusa) is taken from Caravaggio, Uffizi Gallery (1597)

The pictures of microalgae are taken from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov, www.inlandbays.org, www.researchgate.net.


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