Teaching Dante’s Divine Comedy last semester, I hoped to cruise through the Purgatorio to make sure we completed the Paradiso by semester’s end. But my students wouldn’t let me skip canto 25—they stopped there, awestruck. I think we spent longer in the seventh cornice on the mount of purgatory than Dante did.

There Statius explains to Dante the generation of the embryo, and how the embryo passes through various stages before it can be considered a rational human.

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