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
Character Analysis: Brave New World
Analyzing the Brave New World
Embarking on the Brave New World
A Critique of BRAVE NEW WORLD
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
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'
'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' and 'The Zebra Storyteller
Introducing the 'Imaginary Worlds' Theme
Alice In Wonderland
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
Short Stories About Identity
Thoughts on Stories About Identity
Poems About Identity
Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
ENG Q20: Basic Writing (Fall 2004)
ENG Q20 Syllabus
Frederick Douglass Excerpt
How to Detect Propaganda
George Orwell's Politics and the English Language
Propaganda Analysis Exercise
Weblog for WRT 120
Writing Assistance on the Web
Blackboard at WCU
WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library
Structure in the Inferno ~~
An alert reading of these early cantos helps us identify an underlying
unity that turns out to be a unity for the work as a whole. There's a repeating
structure that guides what tends to happen in each circle the travelers pass
through. It's not a boring, repetitive structure; there's plenty
of variation, and along with the repeating elements, we encounter many unique
ones that keep the work fresh and surprising. By becoming attuned to this underlying
structure, we become more able to notice interesting, subtle changes or differences
within it, and it's these small (and big) variations which often help us identify
key developments in character and theme.
of the area
- Demon threatens/Virgil
of "sin" and "contrapasso" (from the Italian word for
- Transition to
the order of these elements will vary, but they comprise most of what happens
in each circle.
of the area
of the greatness of this amazing work is the vivid nature of Dante's descriptions
as we travel through the Inferno. The graphically rendered "sets"
seem real because Dante uses such powerful sensory language to evoke them. This
"other world" becomes a vivid world we recognize, not unlike our own.
We feel the misery of the atmosphere and the suffering of the sinners. We hear,
feel, see, smell, touch and even taste the foulness of the place. Other times,
Dante employs vivid figurative language to convey a mental image of his imaginary
world. The similes that pop up here and there are used sparingly but with great
effect to describe everything from the Pilgrim's emotional state to the uncanny
way souls flock to Charon on their way to their place in hell. Dante's descriptions
are always vivid and always make us feel that we're in a real place rather than
an imaginary one.
Many of the demons that the travelers encounter are half-human, half-beast,
creatures borrowed from Virgil, who borrowed them from classical Greek sources.
Either these creatures aren't quite human souls or they represent the most bestial
aspects of our nature and are therefore incapable of rising above the level
of the inferno.
The three beasts
in the dark woods are the first infernal creatures Dante meets, even though
he isn't actually in the inferno yet. Virgil saves him from the she-wolf, who
threatens to tear him apart. They leave the woods and eventually encounter Charon,
the ferryman who shuffles boatloads of the damned on their way into the inferno.
He is the first demon within the inferno who threatens the travelers. Virgil,
invoking the higher power, deflects him without much difficulty; the same is
true when they meet Minos outside the second circle. Minos' serpentine
tail whips in circles around his body as the victim stands waiting to see how
many loops it will make: where the tail stops determines the circle to which
the sinner will descend. In Greek myth Minos is the wise judge of Crete; Virgil
borrows him to perform as judge in Hades in the Aeneid. Dante transforms him
further, turning him into a monstrous kind of beaurocratic functionary, assigning
God's justice with a machine-like efficiency. Cerberus is another creature
from antiquity, guarding the third circle where the gluttonous are punished.
Virgil throws clods of earth into Cerberus' three mouths to placate him and
the travelers move on to their encounter with Ciacco, from Florence. Plutus
is yet another creature the travelers encounter as they enter the fourth circle,
where they find the hoarders and spenders; the canto begins with his half-meaningful,
evocative gibberish and ends with the indecipherable "gargle" of the
sullen, whose only speech are the silent bubbles that pock the surface of the
slimy muck under which they're completely submerged. Virgil silences the blabbering
Plutus with a powerful reminder that their journey "is no causeless trek.
It is willed from above, where Michael wreaked revenge on pride's rebellion."
We are treated to a vivid simile to describe the way Plutus shrivels to the
ground at Virgil's words ("Just as sails swollen with wind as soon as the
mast is snapped collapse and plunge"). It's a little ironic for Virgil
to evoke the angel Michael (who defeated the fallen angels), because in the
next canto the fallen angels are going to defeat him-also because of "pride."
After Plutus, the travelers encounter Phlegyas at the beginning of the
fifth circle. Virgil fends him off, saying only, "Phlegyas, Phlegyas, you
roar in vain this time
You'll have us in your boat only as long as it takes
to cross the fen." Notice Virgil invokes no higher power here. He seems
to be getting a little over-confident in his own power. And notice how Phlegyas
reacts; he feels cheated, like the "butt of gross deception." He lets
them board, but he's "bursting to complain." When Virgil meets the
terrifying fallen angels and the furies at the Gate to Dis, he
is suddenly powerless. Can you guess why? Is there a reason?
IN CANTO IX,
Virgil suddenly becomes unexpectedly powerless. Why?
- His overconfidence
has been growing; things are growing out of balance as a result. It's a crisis
that needs to be resolved; Virgil is "put in his place."
- A rift between
Virgil and Dante has been in evidence ever since they entered Limbo. It becomes
completely obvious at the beginning of Canto X, when Dante is horribly sarcastic
towards Virgil and Virgil accuses Dante of being secretive, then later pushes
him forcefully toward Farinata.
- You can observe
the development of this rift, this strain, going all the way back to Canto
III. Dante asks questions, Virgil answers. A familiar structure we see throughout
the book. But at times it's not that smooth.
- In III,
you see Dante asking a question and Virgil telling him to (in essence)
shut up and look for yourself, you'll find out when we get there. Why
this brusqueness? (p. 23). After Dante observes for himself, Virgil gladly
clarifies (p. 25).
- In IV, Virgil
seems a little peeved that Dante mistakes his pity for fear. Then he rebukes
him for not being curious enough, not asking enough questions! Is this
a contradiction of what he said earlier?
shows a lack of self-knowledge when he declares the only reason he's in
hell is that he was born before Christ. Actually, he's flawed in other
ways, too. He still has pity, first and foremost. And he's prone to a
asks Dante in V, "what are you thinking?"-but must be a little
miffed at Dante's answer that he has so much pity for the sinners. He's
been told not to.
- In VI,
when Virgil explains the Final Judgment, how souls will be made more perfect,
he upbraids Dante for not knowing his science. Sounds a little superior.
- In VII,
he's short with Dante, calling his reasoning a "dead end" (he
calls it "vain"-as in, in vain). He calls humans in general
(meaning Dante first and foremost it seems, "foolish creatures"
and haughtily entreats us to receive HIS teaching. His growing conceitedness
is a bit of a problem that erupts in the next canto, when he finds himself
powerless against the fallen angels. **
- In VIII,
Dante and Virgil are only barely civil to one another. When Dante poses
his customary question, Virgil's reply that begins "It should be
clear" (p. 61) is probably intended to mean, "You are a dolt,
but I'll answer anyway." And here is where Virgil decides he has
the power to deflect Phlegyas all alone, without invoking the higher power.
o Before he's defeated, however, Virgil praises Dante for his proper response
to Argenti. You're finally "getting it," Virgil seems to imply.
But then terror strikes and they are faced with the fallen angels. P.
67 is a bit of black comedy, or irony. When Dante entreats Virgil to never
leave him, Virgil promises not to, then immediately leaves him all alone.
- When Virgil
loses his confidence, he is still saying things like "I will conquer
this crew" (hubris).
- In the
battle with the fallen angels and furies, Dante is terrified; he's lost
confidence in Virgil, though he clings to him out of terror. Virgil does
protect him from the Gorgon (Medusa). When the heavenly help arrives in
its awesome tornado power, Dante sees it's not really Virgil's power that
is making it possible for them to pass. He is merely the "guide."
- The heavenly
angel blows past and restores balance and order. They return to their
customary question/answer, and notice that Virgil is not haughty anymore.
- At the
beginning of X, Dante is really sarcastic!! Virgil is equally upset. But
the interaction with Farinata seems to soothe their wounds, and they travel
on without bickering anymore.
**As Virgil is
losing his edge, Dante is gaining one. He's becoming stronger. By the end of
Canto VII, he's "gazing intently" at the sinners; he's not intimidated
anymore. He's curious, and he seems to be over his tendency to swoon and faint.
This seems to follow a familiar pattern. There are a few exceptions, however.
Notice that in Canto VIII, Virgil interacts with the sinner for the first time,
speaking directly to Argenti. And Virgil for the first time praises Dante for
his reaction to Argenti. This represents the first episode in which Dante expresses
no pity for the suffering he sees; in fact, he says, in effect, bring it on,
let me see it. I'll enjoy this one. How does change in Dante develop the "strife
of pity" theme we've been observing so far?