From Dante to the New Space Race

Published: April 20, 2018

Catherine Illingworth, a doctoral student in UCLA’s Comparative Literature Department, recently gave a bold presentation to the Rotary Club of Los Angeles. Herself a scholar of Dante, Ms. Illingworth drew striking connections between “the sublime, the intellectual history of mapping the heavens, and today’s industrial space race.” Put differently, a direct line was drawn between medieval or divine concepts of distance and the challenges faced by contemporary science.

And so the paper, suitably enough, was titled: “The New Space Race. Small, Cheap, Reusable Commercial Rockets.” Audience members were introduced to the night’s proceedings as follows:

“You have heard of Elon Musk and SpaceEx. But did you know that several young small aerospace companies have sprouted in Southern California with an eye on the new race into space? Catherine Illingworth will join us to share news and insight into the promising new business of building inexpensive, reusable, rockets that are carrying cargo designed to transport us to new worlds.”

This is the innovative, inherently comparative, and professionally daring spirit we hope to foster in the Department––where the medieval and the modern inform one another.