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20091001-930 Inferno, cantos 1-8 (Group 3)

Page history last edited by Maddie 11 years, 2 months ago


      Today's lecture was the first concerning Dante's Divine Comedy, an epic poem.  To understand the Comedy, we first looked at what characteristics compose a comedy.   We discussed that a comedy is a work that, unlike a tragedy, starts out poorly for the main character, and then ends with them in a better place.  A comedy also concentrates on people of all walks of life, incorporates many styles of language, and is more concerned with the private, inward lives of characters.  We also discussed why the poem is considered "Divine," and noted its perfect organization and its focus on divinity, God, and man's relationship with God.

        We also talked about the figures that Dante idolizes.  Although Dante imitates Homer's writing style, he looks to Virgil, the author of the Aeneid, the founding story of Rome, even more since he's his guide through Hell and brought Rome from its pagan past to it's Christian present. 

       We then deduced that Dante's epic involves many of the epic conventions, including epithets, magic, obstacles, adventures, and magic.  This epic also follows a similar format to other epics by starting in medias res and is meant to be a teaching text like the Odyssey. We also looked at what makes Dante heroic noting he is an everyman; he's a representative of us all, normal and modest.

         Dante breaks from epic tradition by writing in the vernacular which is Italian, making his work more accessible to all and not just the privileged.  His purpose for writing Inferno was to teach people to about the afterlife and to have a fear of hell. Dante also strives to show the reader the justice in the punishments people receive.


Word Count: 279


Key Terms

XP- or "Chi Rho"- Greek letters for the first two letters of Christ's name.  XP is commonly used to abbreviate Christ's name.

Tragedy-A work that: 1) starts out good and ends bad for the main character

                                2) is about a person in a high position

                                3) has a highly elevated style of language

                                4) follows historically important events.

Comedy-A work that: 1) starts out bad and ends well for the main character

                                2) involves people of differing paths of life

                                3) incorporates many styles of language, from elevated to farcical

                                4) focuses on the private, inward lives of the character.

Virgil- Poet of the Aeneid in which the hero, Aeneas is a survivor of Troy and founds Rome.

Everyman- a character who exhibits qualities innate in the normal, ordinary person.

Vernacular- the language that an average person speaks.


Passage on epic conventions

pg 1214

"Just as a swimmer, still with panting breath,

now safe upon the shore, out of the deep,

might turn for one last look at the dangerous waters,

so I, although my mind was turned to flee,

turned round to gaze once more upon the pass

that never let a living soul escape."


The use of the swimmer simile here aids in showing that the Divine Comedy is an epic poem.  Just as Homer made use of similes to distract the reader from the story at hand and then bring them back to it with the use of "so," so does Dante.  Other notable epic conventions used are that the story: makes use of the supernatural in the ghosts and shades, has an invocation of the muse, as on page 1217, is in medias res, in the middle of Dante's life, and has things of legend in it in bringing up people of the recent and later past.


Passage on Dante's respect for Virgil

pg 1220

"And you, all kindness, in obeying quick

those words of truth she brought with her for you-

you and the words you spoke have moved my heart

with such desire to continue onward

that now I have returned to my first purpose.

Let us star, for both our wills, joined now, are one.

You are my guide, you are my lord and teacher."


Dante is giving a great deal of respect here to Virgil, an honorable poet of Rome.  This is suprising because Dante is from Florence, and during this age these two "city-states" were in a competition of sorts.  However, Dante's respect comes from the fact that Virgil is the author of the Aeneid, the founding story of Rome.  Dante believed that Rome's stability allowed for Christ's ability to come to Earth.  Thus, though Dante looks up to Homer and other Roman poets, he holds Virgil as his "lord and teacher."


Passage on Dante as a hero

pg 1222

"And when I looked beyond this crowd I saw

a throng upon the shore of a wide river,

which made me ask, 'Master, I would like to know:

who are these people, and what law is this

that makes those souls so eager for the crossing-

as I can see, even in this dim light?'

And he: 'All this will be made plain to you

as soon as we shall come to stop awhile

upon the sorrowful shore of Acheron.'

And I, with eyes cast down in shame, for fear

that I perhaps had spoken out of turn,

said nothing more until we reached the river."


Dante's hastiness to learn the truth concerning the "wretches who had never truly lived" exhibits his everyman character.  He is not only ashamed of his impulsive questioning, but also scared as he travels deeper into the depths of Hell.  Dante's reactions reflect the Christian views that are valued in his culture than the stalwart hero of ancient Greek times.  Odysseus, on the other hand, would seemingly trudge on through the fiery depths with unparalleled bravery. 


Comments (5)

dsorens@... said

at 12:19 pm on Oct 1, 2009

(I have an idea to use the following passages: Dante's admiration for Virgil as on pg 1220, Dante's hastiness and shame on pg 1222 that shows his everymanness, and the use of the swimmer simile on pg 1214 which shows one of the characteristics of the poem that make it epic)-ideas on this?

Emily Weichel said

at 9:50 pm on Oct 1, 2009

those sound like good passages to use we talked about those things a lot in class.

Justin Miller said

at 11:12 pm on Oct 1, 2009

so we got docked last time for organization. I think we should take a look at our summary. Though I think that it is a good idea to separate new ideas with a new paragraph, I don't think that it makes sense to have several one-sentenced paragraphs. I feel like our ideas for the summary are somewhat scattered.

Justin Miller said

at 9:26 am on Oct 6, 2009

wow i think we did a really good job guys

Brian Croxall said

at 10:36 pm on Oct 6, 2009

Your notes for the first day of the Inferno are really quite good. You've condensed a lot of material on a lot of topics into a very readable set of notes. I especially appreciate that you're using the comments to converse with one another as you're assembling the final version of things.

Where I think you could still improve would be in focusing still more on some points. For example, you cover the definitions of a comedy in both the summary and the definitions. So you could have trimmed that back a bit in the summary so that you could have a little bit more time for talking about what the poem is teaching us or the fact that Dante is a Christian hero. I'll readily grant that getting this balance perfect is hard and that my concept of the perfect notes is linked to what I know is most important. But trying to cover as much as possible as in-depth as possible is a worth thing to strive for.

Under passages, you should also remember the description of the neutrals in Canto III that we looked at in class. It's perhaps a better passage than the relationship between Dante and Virgil.

Still, I'm very pleased with your work.

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