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ENGL409: Dante

Unit 2: The Inferno   In this unit, we will start to work closely with Dante’s The Divine Comedy.  The text consists of three books, known as The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradisio, all of which were composed after his exile.  Here, we will begin by studying the first section of his three-part allegorical work, which depicts the poet-narrator’s journey around Hell.  We will first examine the political and religious context that inspired Dante’s thinly-veiled commentary on his world.  We will also work through the text section by section in order to fully partake in Dante’s creation of a world filled with flawed historical characters as well as enrich our understanding of Dante’s often complicated thematic implications.  

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit should take you 45 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 9 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 15 hours

☐    Subunit 2.3: 15 hours

☐    Subunit 2.4: 6 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Outline the general structure of Dante’s version of hell.
  • Explain the ways in which The Inferno is an allegory.
  • Describe the ways in which Dante borrows from Virgil in his texts.
  • Explain the use of the “poet as narrator” theme.
  • Identify the function of water and light symbolism in Dante’s hell.
  • Cite specific examples of mythical and biblical allusions in The Inferno, and explain the significance of these allusions.
  • Explain the reasons why critics classify The Inferno as both tragedy and comedy.
  • Explain why betrayal is classified as the worst sin in Dante’s The Inferno.

  • Reading: The World of Dante’s version of Dante’s The Inferno Link: The World of Dante’s version of Dante’s The Inferno (HTML)
     
    Also available in:
     
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    Kindle
     

    PDF
     
    Instructions: Please read Dante’s The Inferno in its entirety.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

2.1 Issues of Context: Classical Models and Biographical Criticism   2.1.1 The Text as Allegory   - Reading: Princeton Dante Project: Robert Hollander’s “Allegory in Dante” Link: Princeton Dante Project: Robert Hollander’s “Allegory in Dante” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of the short article linked here, which offers a basic review of Dante’s use of allegory.  The article provides an excellent introduction to The Divine Comedy as well as some background context concerning medieval allegory.
 
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2.1.2 Formal Structure of the Cantos   - Reading: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s version of The Cambridge Companion to Dante: Joan Ferrante’s “A Poetics of Chaos and Harmony” Link: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s version of The Cambridge Companion to Dante: Joan Ferrante’s “A Poetics of Chaos and Harmony” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the critical essay linked here, which discusses the structure of the three cantos in The Divine Comedy and provides an overview of the poetic devices in the text.  The essay also covers some basic information on the progression from one section of the text to another. 
 
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2.1.3 Dante’s Literary Models   - Reading: Project Gutenberg’s version of Virgil’s The Aeneid; Princeton Dante Project: Robert Hollander’s “Dante’s Virgil” Link: Project Gutenberg’s version of Virgil’s The Aeneid; (HTML) Princeton Dante Project: Robert Hollander’s “Dante’s Virgil” (HTML)
 
Virgil’s The Aeneid also available in:
 
ePub 
zip
 
Instructions: From The Aeneid, please read the entirety of Book VI, in which Aeneas travels to hell—a model for Dante’s own tour of hell.  From Princeton Dante Project, please read the short article linked here in its entirety.  The article provides a solid critical analysis of Dante’s inclusion of Virgil in the plot of The Divine Comedy, as well as some basic information about Dante’s use of ancient literary models.
 
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2.1.4 Italian Vernacular and Latin Literature   - Reading: California Polytechnic State University: Dr. Deborah Schwartz’s “The Inferno” Link: California Polytechnic State University: Dr. Deborah Schwartz’s “The Inferno” (HTML)
 
Instructions: From Dr. Schwartz’s review of The Inferno, please read the short analysis of the text linked here, which focuses on the use of Italian vernacular language.  Pay close attention to the discussion of Latin influences on the text.
 
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2.1.5 Intertextuality: Mythical and Biblical Allusions   - Reading: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s Teodolinda Barolini’s The Undivine Comedy: “Ulysses, Geryon and the Aeronautics of Narrative Transition” Link: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s version of Teodolinda Barolini’s The Undivine Comedy: “Ulysses, Geryon and the Aeronautics of Narrative Transition” (HTML)
 
Also available in:
 
Google Books
 
Instructions: Please read this critical article for a discussion of the intertextual relationship betweenThe Divine Comedy and numerous mythical pieces of literature.  Note the article’s analysis of the structure of The Inferno as a reincarnation of earlier mythical versions of hell
 
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2.2 The Nine Circles   - Web Media: The World of Dante’s “Inferno Chart” Link: The World of Dante’s “Inferno Chart” (HTML)
 
Instructions: You may want to refer to this chart for a visual illustration of the circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno.
 
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2.2.1 The Vestibule of Hell, the Beginning of the Journey, and the Representation of Florence   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Dark Wood, Cantos 1-2” and “Gate of Hell, Canto 3” Link: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Dark Wood, Cantos 1-2” (PDF) and “Gate of Hell, Canto 3” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read both sections of the overview of The Inferno, which trace the major themes and symbols in the first chapter. 
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here}(HTML) and {here}(HTML) respectively.

2.2.2 First Circle: Limbo   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 1, Canto 4” Link: University of Texas at Austin Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle One, Canto 4” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the information linked here, which provides a short overview of the most important topics in the first circle.  In particular, pay close attention to the definition of limbo developed here.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here}(HTML).

2.2.3 Second Circle: Lust   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 2, Canto 5” Link: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 2, Canto 5” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of this section, which discusses the second circle.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here}(HTML).

2.2.4 Third Circle: Gluttony   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 3, Canto 6” Link: University of Texas at Austin Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 3, Canto 6” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the entirety of this section on the third circle.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here}(HTML).

2.2.5 Fourth Circle: Avarice   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 4, Canto 7” Link: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s "Circle 4, Canto 7" (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read all the information linked here about the fourth circle.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here}(HTML).

2.2.6 Fifth Circle: Wrath   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 5, Cantos 7-9” Link: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 5, Cantos 7-9” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read all of the information on this section for an overview of the fifth circle.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here}(HTML).

2.2.7 Sixth Circle: Heresy   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 6, Canto 10” Link: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 6, Canto 10” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the section linked here in its entirety, which includes an overview of the important themes, people, and symbols in the heretic’s circle.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here}(HTML).

2.2.8 Seventh Circle: Violence   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 7, Cantos 12-17” Link: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s "Circle 7, Cantos 12-17" (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire section linked here for an overview of the seventh circle.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here}(HTML).

2.2.9 Eighth Circle: Fraud   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 8, Subcircles 7-10, Cantos 24-30” Link: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 8, Subcircles 7-10, Cantos 24-30” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the section linked here for more about fraud in this episode, as well as an analysis of the historical characters who appear in this portion of the text.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here}(HTML).

2.2.10 Ninth Circle: Betrayal   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 9, Cantos 31-34” Link: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Circle 9, Cantos 31-34” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read all the information linked here on the ninth circle.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here} (HTML).

2.3 Themes, Tropes, and Symbols   2.3.1 Hell as a Physical Place   - Reading: Dante Circle of Friends’ “Hell” Link: Dante Circle of Friends’ "Hell" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the short analysis of Dante’s text for more about the construction of hell as a physical place.
 
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2.3.2 Conflict between Narrator, Reader, and Protagonist   - Reading: Princeton Dante Project: Robert Hollander’s "The Moral Situation of the Reader of Inferno" Link: Princeton Dante Project: Robert Hollander’s "The Moral Situation of the Reader of Inferno" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the critical essay linked here for a discussion of possible approaches to The Inferno.  This reading also touches upon the somewhat problematic relationship between the narrator, the sinner, and reader in the text.
 
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2.3.3 References to the Christian Last Judgment   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Last Judgment” Link: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Last Judgment” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the short entry on the “last judgment” theme in The Inferno, which discusses how this theme fits into historical concepts of hell.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here} (HTML).

2.3.4 Human Wisdom and Morality   - Reading: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s version of Joan Ferrante’s The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy: “The Corrupt Society” Link: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s version of Joan Ferrante’s The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy: “The Corrupt Society” (HTML)
 
Instructions: From Ferrante’s The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy, please read the chapter linked here for a discussion of Dante’s concepts of human morality and wisdom, as well as society’s inability to meet these criteria.
 
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2.3.5 Hell as a Political Landscape   - Reading: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s version of Joan Ferrante’s The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy: “Church and State in the Comedy” Link: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s version of Joan Ferrante’s The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy: “Church and State in the Comedy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: From Ferrante’s The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy, please read the chapter linked here for a discussion of The Inferno as a representation of earth as a political hell
 
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2.3.6 Contrapasso: Divine Justice and Punishment   - Reading: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Contrapasso” Link: University of Texas at Austin: Guy P. Raffa’s “Contrapasso” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read this short definition of “contrapasso,” which is an important element of Dante’s concept of justice.
 
Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with permission for educational use by (Guy P. Raffa).  It can be viewed in its original form {here} (HTML).

2.3.7 Water, Ice, and Light Symbolism   - Reading: Montclair State University: Jean Alvares’s “Inferno: Hell” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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2.3.8 The Virtue of the Storytelling Experience   - Reading: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s Teodolinda Barolini’s The Undivine Comedy: “Infernal Incipits: The Poetics of the New” Link: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s version of Teodolinda Barolini’s The Undivine Comedy: “Infernal Incipits: The Poetics of the New” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of this critical article, which discusses the movement of time in the text, as well as the concept of the narration itself as a sort of pilgrimage. 
 
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2.4 Structural Questions   2.4.1 Questions of Tragedy and Comedy   - Lecture: Yale University: Dr. Giuseppe Mazzotta’s "Inferno XXX, XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV" Link: Yale University: Dr. Giuseppe Mazzotta’s "Inferno XXX, XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV" (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
 
ITunes U, HTML, MP3, Flash
 
Instructions: Please listen to the entire lecture for a discussion of Dante’s invocation of the tragic in his work.  As you read, please also consider the implications of using tragedy in a work titled a “comedy.”
 
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2.4.2 Structure, Epic, and Convention   - Reading: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s Teodolinda Barolini’s The Undivine Comedy: “Narrative and Style in Lower Hell” Link: Columbia University Digital Dante Project’s version of Teodolinda Barolini’s The Undivine Comedy: “Narrative and Style in Lower Hell” (HTML)
 
Instructions: From Barolini’s The Undivine Comedy, please read the chapter linked here for a discussion of the style of the text, as well as Dante’s use of unique poetic forms
 
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2.4.3 Circular Structure: Literal and Narrative   - Reading: Stony Brook Dante Project’s “Introduction to The Inferno” Link: Stony Brook Dante Project’s “Introduction to The Inferno (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the introduction to the text linked here, which comments on the circular movement of Dante throughout the text, as well as the repetition of themes in the narrative.
 
Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of (James Finn Cotter), and can be viewed in its original form here (HTML).  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.