West Chester University
Spring 2006 and Fall
West Chester University
Course Syllabi and Announcements
LIT 165 Syllabus
LIT 165 Announcements and Assignments
WRT 120 Syllabus
WRT 120 Announcements and Assignments
Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Spring 2008)
A Reading of THE TEMPEST
Notebook for Topics in Literature: Rites of Passage (Spring 2006)
Goals of the Course
Fundamental Questions about Literature
Critical Thinking and Reading Literature
Critical Approaches to Literature
Literature as ART
Approaching the Art of Fiction
Defining the Short Story
Evaluating Short Fiction
Craft of Fiction: PLOT
Craft of Fiction: CHARACTER
Small Group Exercise
ARABY by James Joyce
WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? by Joyce Carol Oates
Our RITES OF PASSAGE Theme
A note about GIRL
POE and the art of STORY OF A HOUR
THE YELLOW WALLPAPER
YOUNG MAN ON SIXTH AVENUE
Notes on Innovative Fiction
Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
Fiction and Ambiguity - Your Questions
Writing Workshop - Short Fiction
Poetry Journal Project Assignment Sheet
LITERARY SYNTHESIS PROJECT
The Craft of Poetry
Drama and Tragedy
Study Questions: DEATH OF A SALESMAN
Notebook for Effective Writing I (Spring 2006)
Paper #4 Assignment Sheet
Critical Thinking and Commentary
Casebook: Evaluating Sources Worksheet
CASEBOOK PROJECT Assignment Sheet
Approaching Persuasive Writing
Topic Development - Profile Essay
Generating Ideas for the Profile Essay
Paper #2 Assignment Sheet
Analyzing THE FIVE BEDROOM, SIX FIGURE ROOTLESS LIFE
Objective Writing: Selected Readings
Writing Workshop: Paper #1
Expressive Writing in the NYTimes
Writing Effective Introductions and Conclusions
Paper #1: IDENTITY
Open Letter Exercise and Examples
EMERSON on Individuality vs. Conformity
Literature related to IDENTITY
Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
Weblog for WRT 120
Writing Assistance on the Web
Blackboard at WCU
WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library
Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Fall 2005)
One Last Look at Imaginary Worlds
Franz Kafka's BEFORE THE LAW
Analyzing WAITING FOR GODOT
Approaching WAITING FOR GODOT
Paper #3: Assignment Sheet
Paper #4: Independent Project
The Problem of Stability in BRAVE NEW WORLD
Analyzing Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
Embarking on Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
A Reading of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST
From today's news (11/3/05)
Assignment Sheet for Paper #2
Goodbye to Dante's Imaginary World
Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 10-34
Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 1-10
INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 32-34
INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 18-31
INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 12-17
INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 1-5
INFERNO: Analyzing Canto 1
Relating to Dante's Inferno
Approaching Dante's DIVINE COMEDY
A Little Help with Dante's INFERNO
Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
Notes on LEAF BY NIGGLE
Responses to LEAF BY NIGGLE
ON FAIRY STORIES: An Essay by Tolkien
Notes on Axolotl
Reading Ovid's Tales
From Myth to Literature: Approaching Ovid's Tales
Notes on THE EYE OF THE GIANT
Functions of the Genesis Tales
Analyzing Mythic Tales
Filtering the Introduction to FANTASTIC WORLDS
Commentary on LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI by Keats
Commentary on DARKNESS by Byron
Handout: Imagination Poems Set
What is Imagination?
Our Course Theme: Imaginary Worlds
LIT 165 Assignments: Fall 2005
LIT 165 Announcements: Fall 2005
Imaginary Worlds: Course Syllabus
Notebook for Effective Writing I (Fall 2005)
Paper #4: Independent Thinking/Reading/Writing
Casebook Preparation Checklist
Casebook Assignment Schedule
Evaluating Sources for the Casebook
Casebook Project Assignment Sheet
Notes on Rational Argument
Assignment Sheet: Objective Writing
Reviewing Elements of the Profile Essay
Writing the Profile Essay
Readings: Objective Writing
Assignment Sheet: Expressive Writing
Rubric for Evaluation of Writing
About SKIN DEEP
Emerson on Individuality vs. Conformity
Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
WRT 120 Course Syllabus for Fall 2005
ENG Q20: Basic Writing
Weblog for WRT 120
Writing Assistance on the Web
Blackboard at WCU
WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library
Questions for Analysis
Cantos 1 -5
The Dark Wood
What's the significance of Dante "waking up" HALFWAY through
the course of his life? He says he was so "full of sleep" that he can't
even tell when he began to lose his way….why does he wake up HALFWAY
through? [see Introducing Canto
Let's stay with this image of waking up in a strange, dark,
savage, tangled, rough place-a place you don't entirely recognize and
which you can't remember getting to. It sounds like someone on a
bender, doesn't it? A kind of hangover from drunkenness? What's that
feeling, and why is there at the beginning of the Inferno? When you
imagine yourself in those shoes, what state do you realize Dante is in
as the poem opens? [see Introducing Canto I]
Why can't Dante leave the wood? What's the significance that
"three beasts" block his way? What do you think these beasts signify?
Do they have symbolic meaning, do you think?
Light appears and disappears here at the beginning of the
book. What do you think the "light" and "dark" symbolize?
Not sure if he's "man or shade" Dante cries to Virgil for
help, and Virgil offers to lead him on a "timeless" path through an
"eternal realm." He seems to be offering Dante the chance to see things
he's never seen before, things he needs to see if he's going to climb
out of his "rut," his confusion and moral disorientation. When he
realizes his guide is Virgil, Dante seems to have all the confidence in
the world in him, because Virgil is one of his "heroes." Keep an eye on
Dante's relationship with Virgil as the book progresses; notice how it
changes and grows.
Dante sets out with confidence, but as we'll see at the very beginning
of Canto II, his mood quickly changes to doubt. Why the roller coaster
emotions, do you think?
Daylight is departing as the Canto begins. What mood does
that set? In what sense is he "alone"? What's the double struggle he
foreboding. For the rest of creation, the dark means rest, but for the
Pilgrim it means going to war.
He has to
struggle with the journey itself and the pity which this journey will
evoke in him; his battle against pity is one of his major struggles in
the Inferno. You'll notice he has a lot of it at the beginning, but
that he gradually learns, grows, and changes. See if you can observe
these changes in his level of pity.
Dante invokes the muses, not for inspiration exactly, but for
the power to set down what's in his memory. Why the emphasis on
Should we take
him literally? His insistence on "memory" rather than the traditional
"inspiration" makes the story he's telling seem more real, more
believable. If it's memory, then it's not an "inspired fiction."
remembering something he must have come through it all right. And he
must have learned something along the way that makes the narrator
telling the story now different than the character in the story, though
they are the same person. The Poet is wiser than the Pilgrim.
Why does Dante compare himself to Aeneas and Paul?
referring to Book VI in the Aeneid and a Gnostic gospel called "The
Vision of St. Paul," which was very a popular text and which describes
Paul's journey into the underworld, which is mentioned in the New
Testament, but not described there.
It might seem
like false modesty, but he really seems to be emphasizing his
self-doubt, his sense of personal unworthiness for this journey. Only
the "greats" have made this trip. How will he compare? Does he have it
in him? He seems to need Virgil's reassurance here. Virgil needs to
persuade him that he'll be okay. It's a very human reaction, to feel
unworthy, to feel foolish, to be filled with self-doubt.
comments on Dante's fear. He calls it "cowardice," and compares it to
the "trick of vision" that "startles a shying beast." Notice how
emotion, for Virgil, is linked to bestial behavior; you're not much
nobler than a beast when you allow your emotions to rule you this
way-that's the implication. What does Virgil do to "ease the burden of
fear"? Why does Dante trip all over himself to write "like one who
unchooses his own choice and thinking again undoes what he has
makes sure the emphasis is on "choice."
is seen as an inferior emotion. Reason is always superior. Yet,
Augustine taught (and Dante obviously believes, given the amount of
fear he emphasizes at the beginning of the work here and elsewhere)
that fear was a form of "grace" that was a kind of gift because it's a
kind of energy. Your fear can be the catalyst that sets you back on the
right path, as it does for Dante.
ease his burden of fear, Virgil tells Dante the story of how
Beatrice came to him in Limbo-where she came from, who sent her. Love
is the force that moves her to entreat Virgil, and love is what moves
Virgil to action as well. He concludes that with such help at his side,
how can he possibly remain cowardly? He should be bolder, freer. More
how Virgil questions Beatrice just as Dante questions him.
Virgil doesn't know everything.
is high up in heaven!! She's sitting around with "Rachel of
old"—who is Abraham's wife, if you know your Bible, and Abraham is one
of the major patriarchs of the Old Testament.
little about Beatrice here [see notes on "Beatrice"]
that Beatrice instructs Virgil to persuade Dante, knowing that
no one can "command" him; he has to make the choice himself. How does
Virgil persuade Dante to go on?
tells him the story of how Beatrice came to him. Dante learns that
he has three women in heaven "watching over him"-all the way up to the
Virgin Mary (although she's never named).
Love is a saving grace for Dante here. He's willing, literally, to be
led through the depths of Hell if Beatrice, his true love, requires it.
He is such a devout servant of love!
you think love can be a saving grace elsewhere in the world, in our
world today? In our lives? Is it naïve to think that love can
"save us," that "love is all you need" (as John Lennon put it). How
does this message square with your own experience?
Dante's reaction when he hears that his beloved Beatrice is involved in
uses a simile (and he only uses these when he really wants to
draw attention to something)-to describe how he "blooms" and he
emphasizes that he feels "set free."
again, the roller coaster emotional ride.
he sets out, he's blooming and full of confidence. This is quickly
shattered as he enters outer Hell in the very next Canto.
Canto III, Outer Hell
Hell has a "gate" (remember the Gate at the end of Genesis,
Chapter 3)-it will contain a "city"-though we won't reach the actual
city walls until Canto X, when Virgil and Dante get stopped at the Gate
of Dis. But the fact that it's preceded by a gate makes this entire
region seem like a specifically human place; it's the very opposite
image of the "Garden" of Eden, which was built for everything, all of
earth's creatures. A gated place, and especially a city, seems
specifically for humanity. What do you think is the significance of
making Hell into a city?
the evils of the city would be familiar to us? The fact that cities are
packed in with people?
But also that
Dante's Hell is inspired by his classical sources. His underworld
greatly resembles that of Virgil's (Book VI, Aeneid) and the underworld
described in "The Vision of St. Paul." A lot about the structure of
Hell is unique to Dante, however, which you would discover if you made
a point of comparing these works systematically. The inscription over
the Gate is all Dante, for example.
Read the inscription over the Gate very carefully. What does
it tell you about this place?
entering a "city of woes," of sorrow, a place of "eternal pain" where
"forsaken people" dwell. The city image evokes images of an urban,
social, human place, while the eternal sorrow suggests it is ruled by
animal emotion rather than reason, which is further emphasized by the
"forsaken" people who are forsaken because they've "lost the good of
intellect," as Virgil will explain.
is dispensed here. There's a causal relationship between your free will
and your responsibility. How well you meet your responsibilities
determines the nature of your punishment or reward.
Love, and Wisdom"-God plays an active role in setting up this place.
God has the Power to make it in the first place, so be assured about
that; God has the Wisdom to run it properly, so don't question it; God
created it out of Love-tough love, but love nevertheless.
emphasis on the eternal nature of this place takes us outside of time,
outside of our temporal reality; we are in an "other" world
HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE." What can be said there? This is not going to
be about rehabilitation. It is about punishment, pure and simple. Eye
for eye, tooth for tooth justice. Divine justice does not rehabilitate,
it punishes. How do we feel about that in 2005? Do we share this view?
this is a vision of an "afterlife," not actual life. Many people read
the Inferno as if it is a metaphorical picture of our real world, but
it also sharply contrasts with our "real" world. For instance, we still
have our intellect (we haven't forsaken it entirely yet), and we can
choose to use it; we can still choose not to forsake God/truth; we can
make right choices, take responsibility; we are still subject to time;
nothing is eternal in real life-real life is all about growth and
change, and we can always change for the better. So in other words, we
don't have to abandon all hope!
Dante asks Virgil to explain the inscription-notice the
nature of their "teacher/pupil" relationship. Why does Virgil instruct
Dante to leave his fear and his distrust behind?
emphasizing that he has to put his trust and faith in the divine love
and wisdom that set up this place, and that he'll be protected as he
goes through. This is a place of punishment; the sinners don't deserve
pity. Of course, Virgil can tell Dante this, but Dante still struggles
As Dante learns
to reign in his pity, he becomes what some readers consider a little
cruel. That leads us to question whether or not Dante is "justifying
torture." Some readers have been really put off by this book for that
reason. It's a sensitive question.
Notice how Dante
is reduced to weeping as soon as he passes the Gate? What is he
reacting to? What does his reaction tell you about him?
with pity and fear; you can see how sensitive and human he is. This
divine justice takes some getting used to!
are the Neutrals? (Read "The
Heirs of Canto III of Dante's Inferno" online)
does the light bulb turn on-when does Dante really understand who these
sinners are, and the meaning of what they've done to deserve their
the significance of the "dim" light? John Ciardi translates it as
"infected" light, which I think is an even more powerful figure of
speech than Pinsky's "dim" light.
won't Virgil answer Dante's question? Why does Dante feel abashed? Is
this a rift in their relationship?
offers an "anti-greeting" that's more like a curse. Notice how Virgil
rebukes him. Also, notice how this kind of exchange between Virgil and
the Inferno's demons develops over the next several Cantos, culminating
in a crisis in Canto IX.
closely at the spectacular simile Dante uses to describe the movement
of sinners towards Charon's ferry. He compares them to leaves falling
from a tree, but combines that image with the image of a falcon lured
by its master's call.
does Dante faint at the end of the Canto? What overwhelms him, in your
there any significance to the fact that Dante misreads Virgil's pity
for fear? Is Dante the Pilgrim being stupid, or is Dante the Poet
trying to emphasize something significant here? Does this change their
relationship at all?
does Virgil berate Dante for not asking questions? (Remember, he told
him not to ask questions earlier.) Is this confusing, or does this
inconsistency make some kind of sense?
does Virgil reveal about himself when he claims to have no fear and
still a lot of pity? (We can't answer this now, but we will be able to
soon—that's the style of the book...it makes great use of
"hindsight"—what you learn as you go on helps you understand where
you've been. The past is always being integrated into the present.)
is Dante so covert in his question to Virgil about anyone ever leaving
is accepted into the ring of great poets. No false modesty there. What
does this tell us about him, about this work we're reading?
lives in the Castle? We're learning, in a sly way, about hierarchies,
class systems, degrees of punishments. There's a very elaborate order
to this place. The lower level contains people of action, the upper
level the more contemplative thinkers. The Castle seems an elaborate
symbol for "higher learning"; it's a kind of ivory tower (wehre
"goodness hides behind its gates" to quote Bob Dylan every chance I
get). It also suggests a bibliography, in case any readers are
interested in reading up and getting smart like Dante.
Virgil and Dante walk on water, that's miraculous. It parallels another
character who walks on water later, in Canto IX. Is there any link?
the transition picks up the light/dark motif: they are peering into a
place "with no light in it."
Canto V, Paolo and Francesca
the funnel shape that's suggested at the beginning of Canto V.
another "gate," another entrance. Why are these entrances called
attention to throughout the work? They seem to signal significant
thresholds; they introduce rials the travelers must pass through. They
are portals, in a way. Or hurdles on the straight path.
the depiction of Minos. This is a character borrowed from Virgil, who
borrowed it from the ancient Greeks. In Greek myth, Minos was a great
judge. Virgil makes him the judge of the underworld, a judge of the
dead. But Dante transforms him further into what we see here: a
monster, a kind of demon, like Charon with his flaming eyes. Minos is a
kind of "machine"; he's flawless in his efficiency, a grotesque
"functionary." Throughout the Inferno you can observe Dante
borrowing characters from classical literature and history and
transforming them to his own artistic purposes.
like the other gatekeepers in the story are powerful reminders of where
we are; they help readers navigate through the Inferno memorably.
They are a kind of memory place holder, helping to distinguish one
circle from the next.
the "contrapasso." The souls of the lustful, the carnal sinners are
rent by hurricane-force winds that ravage, rend, and twist them like
they allowed themselves to be be swept away by their passions while
the bird imagery. Dante uses the images of three kinds of birds
throughout this Canto to make vivid the images of the souls in the air,
swept by the winds. Starlings are unattractive, dirty,
theiving...flying in big flocks. But the cranes, who were more admired,
are the souls of the higher-brow sinners, the literary and historical
legends who are more prominent, more individual. The dove (pidgeon)
imagery is reserved for Paolo and Francesca, the lustful lovers who
committed adultery and were murdered together.
observe Francesca's speech to Dante.
is the force that propells Paolo and Francesca towards Dante; his love
pulls them out of the wind (remember the theme: love is the primal
claims to speak for Dante's benefit, but her speech is completely
ironically quotes Dante's earlier love poetry; by putting his own
youthful words in Francesca's mouth, he shows he's willing to be
tells her story, but her telling is distorted in order to exaggerate
her own innocence. She doesn't accept an ounce of responsibility for
says, "Love, which absolves none who are loved from loving made my
heart burn..." Yet, if this were true, there'd be no souls in Hell!
(God's love, which would be that much more irresistable, would
save all.) Francesca is merely covering her tracks, abdicating
responsiblity for the seduction, blaming Paolo, the book, anything and
anyone but her own self and the choices she freely made.
readers find it romantic the way Francesca and Paolo are together even
in Hell, and they interpret this to mean that true love survives even
an inferno. Paolo still clings to Francesca.... Is it romantic,
or tragic? Romantic, or comic? It's essential to be aware of the way in
which Francesca is still trying to seduce. She's trying
to seduce the reader into believing she is innocent. Is she? Why
doesn't Paolo speak at all? He merely "weeps at her side"? What
happened to him? Why can't he speak? We must note that Dante, hearing
Francesca's tale, has enormous pity for the lovers. He hasn't quite
figured out that Francesca is talking about lust while he is thinking
about love. He bows his head in utter defeat, hearing this tale,
perhaps thinking of his own affairs, his own books. Are they
seductions? Virgil seems to recognize that there's something going on,
and he asks Dante to confide in him. Dante admits to pity, not to
guilt. Was Virgil picking up on something Dante isn't ready to admit to
himself, or does he actually have no guilt?