various rationales behind dante ’ W r i t i n g

various rationales behind dante ’ W r i t i n g

The second essay assignment focuses on Dante’s Inferno. There are a variety of topics to choose from:

  1. At the beginning of Canto One, Dante speaks of himself as beginning “Midway in the journey of our life” (I.1), suggesting by his use of the plural pronoun (“our”) that he and his journey represent, in some sense, all of humanity. At the beginning of Canto Two, he speaks of himself as preparing to embark “I, alone” (II.3), emphasizing through repetition of the singular pronoun his individuality and aloneness. To what extent does Dante’s journey represent the journey of all humanity? To what extent is his journey that of a unique individual? In exploring this question, anchor your observations in specific reference to the text (as opposed to general considerations of a descent into the underworld, for example), and focus on just one aspect (either his individuality or his representative nature).
  2. Does Dante’s Hell need updating? In the seven hundred or so years since Dante conceived of his scheme for punishing the wicked much has changed—and much has remained the same. Can Dante’s vision of Hell still encompass all the sins of humanity or are there new sins to be incorporated, and if so, where in Dante’s scheme might they fit? What punishments would they merit? Are there elements of Dante’s scheme that need to be rearranged for the twenty-first century? As you consider these questions, keep in mind the various rationales behind Dante’s scheme and justify your modifications. You may place various sinners into your new scheme, but don’t let this aspect of the paper take over.
  3. Dante’s Inferno contains both men and women, though many more men than women. Where do the women end up? What kinds of sins do women commit, according to Dante’s scheme? Which circle of Hell contains the most women? Is there any circle of Hell that holds predominantly women? Do we hear any women speak, and how does Dante react to them?
  4. Imagine you are producing a scene from Dante’s Inferno for stage or film (or any other medium you like). How would you direct it? Consider casting and production details (issues of blocking, lighting, pacing, enunciation, costume, set design, etc.), as well as specifically how you will direct the actors (facial expression, body movement, delivery—how you would have them read certain lines). You can make some changes, but you must justify any decisions you make. Be specific about what you want to do and why you want to do it that way and use the text as the basis of your explanation.