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Course Information
  LIT 165 Syllabus
  LIT 165 Announcements
  LIT 165 Assignments
  WRT 120 Syllabus
  WRT 120 Announcements
  WRT 120 Assigmments

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Spring 2005)
  Adieu to Imaginary Worlds
  One Last Look at Imaginary Worlds
  ASSIGNMENT SHEET: Paper #3
  Notes on 'Before the Law'
  Samuel Beckett Links
  Notes on 'Waiting for Godot'
  Approaching 'Waiting for Godot'
  Notes on 'Axolotl' by Julio Cortazar
  Notes on 'EPICAC' by Kurt Vonnegut
  ASSIGNMENT SHEET: Paper #2
  DIRECTIONS: Independent Project
  Suggested Readings: Independent Project
  Utopia/Dystopia Links
  Character Analysis: Brave New World
  Analyzing the Brave New World
  Defining Utopia
  Embarking on the Brave New World
  A Critique of BRAVE NEW WORLD
  Dante Links
  Inferno: Final Destinations, Cantos XXXII-XXXIV
  Inferno: Malebolge, Cantos XVIII-XXXI
  Inferno: Questions/Analysis, Cantos XII - XVII
  Structure in the Inferno: Analysis, Cantos V - XI
  Inferno: Questions for Analysis, Cantos I - V
  Introducing Canto I
  Approaching the Divine Comedy
  Relating to Dante's Inferno
  Our Goals for Studying the Inferno
  Assignment Sheet: PAPER #1
  The Birthmark
  Leaf By Niggle
  Responses to Leaf By Niggle
  'On Fairy Stories' by J.R.R. Tolkien
  Notes on Ovid and 'Metamorphoses'
  Analyzing the Mythic Tales
  The Four Functions of Myth
  Myth and Metaphor
  Myth - Links
  Filtering the Introduction to 'Fantastic Worlds'
  Allegory
  'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' and 'The Zebra Storyteller
  Introducing the 'Imaginary Worlds' Theme
  Alice In Wonderland
  The Metamorphosis

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Spring 2004)
  Conference Schedule: 4/21 and 4/26
  Commentary: Following Up Your Response
  Critical Thinking and Commentary
  Casebook: Evaluating Sources
  What is Argument?
  Parts of an Argument
  Casebook Assignment Sheet
  Rubric for Evaluation of Writing
  Assignment Sheet: Essay#1
  Expressive Writing
  Short Stories About Identity
  Thoughts on Stories About Identity
  Poems About Identity
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
  Mind-map: Identity

ENG Q20: Basic Writing (Fall 2004)
  ENG Q20 Syllabus
  Frederick Douglass Excerpt
  Propaganda Analysis
  How to Detect Propaganda
  George Orwell's Politics and the English Language
  Propaganda Analysis Exercise

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library

 

~~ Beatrice ~~

These notes are very incomplete; I plan to add to them if time allows.



Literary critic Harold Bloom entreats us to remember that the exaltation of Beatrice from object of desire to heavenly angel in The Divine Comedy (we really only see her briefly in the Inferno) is completely outrageous, that she is the poem's "spectacular invention, triumphantly placed inside Dante's Christian machinery of salvation—the key figure that sets Dante's will in motion, providing impetus and strength. "What is Beatrice but Dante's symbol of divine grace, the essence of love, the force of love, the positive movement that love produces, the essence of salvation?"

To understand how Dante arrives at his creation of Beatrice, it helps to know a little bit about his background as a poet in the courtly love tradition, as well as a little bit about his relationship with the real Beatrice of Florence.

Dante had only a passing acquaintance for this great love of his. Apparently he saw her once when they were both nine years old, again when they were 18, and her occasional "hello" when they passed in the street was enough to sustain him his entire lifetime. If she made an indelible impression on him, it was one he absorbed from afar. They were only acquaintances and never lovers, and, in fact, Beatrice is said to have snuffed him once, possibly having caught wind of one of his "affairs." It was generally known that the love poems he circulated were addressed to her, though as convention demanded he disguised them, and she was probably a little disgusted with rumors of his behavior. Her disdain devastated Dante to the core. La Vita Nuova (The New Life) was a book of poems Dante wrote to and about Beatrice after her death—she died young, at the age of 25—and it was celebrated as a great work, earning him his reputation as a courtly love poet. When Beatrice died, he wrote in La Vita Nuova, he claims to have had a vision of her after her death that was too powerful to write about until he was "ready." We assume that vision is the Beatrice we meet in The Divine Comedy, the Beatrice who sits beside "Rachel of old," and is very high up in heaven, indeed.

In La Vita Nuova Dante celebrates Beatrice's beauty, which is unsurpassable, and not merely for its physical radiance but especially for its spiritual depth. Beatrice is "heavenly perfection." (Think back to—or forward to, actually—Alymer and Georgiana in "The Birthmark.) Beatrice's unsurpassed beauty is not her only supernatural quality:

  • The angels want her; heaven is incomplete without her
  • She's graciousness personified, she defines the meaning of graciousness
  • She cures/freezes evil by her goodness
  • Merely greeting her bestows heavenly grace
  • She is "something new"-the best that nature can provide; she defines beauty, beauty doesn't define her
  • Her gaze is a penetrating "shot of love" (to use Bob Dylan's phrase) that even Virgil can attest to

The courtly love tradition was a kind of poetry written by aristocratic men to aristocratic ladies, a very elite form with lots of rules and conventions. It was highly stylized, courteous, and proper. The spirit of it was the poet's attempt to experience earthly love that would be as close to heavenly love as possible. Earthly love was associated with lust, procreation, and the demands of the flesh, whereas heavenly love was associated with more purely spiritual matters. In Beatrice, Dante brings heavenly and earthly love together; she's an analog of the force of love, the power of love to convert and to save. When Virgil and Beatrice converse in Canto II, it's in the language of courtly love poetry, which is striking because Virgil is a pagan; but notice the tone of extreme courtesy and propriety. You can notice, too, that when Francesca tells her tale in Canto V, her language alludes to Dante's earlier love poetry, but this time in an ironic, almost mocking, self-critical way.

 

 

 

     

 


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