English 24

Freshman Seminar: Through Hell?Reading Dante?s Inferno

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Spring 2006 Duncan, Ian
Duncan, Ian
W 2-3 301 Wheeler

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"""Divine Power, Supreme Wisdom and Primal Love made me,"" declares the scandalous inscription on the gate of Dante's Hell, the ""city of suffering,"" a place that resembles the totalitarian prison-states of our own political nightmares. Dante's journey to the center of the earth, guided by the prince of classical poets, Virgil, makes up the first part (of three) of a vast dream-vision of a pilgrimage through the medieval Christian cosmos. Intricately allegorical, harrowingly vivid, often outrageously funny, Dante's poem retains its power to move and shock. We will spend the semester reading the whole of the Inferno, in English translation, pondering the question (among others): What does it mean for divine love to have made such a place, and for Dante to have imagined it? We will be using the literal verse translation by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (Anchor Books) alongside a contemporary poetic version by Ciaran Carson (New York Review Books). "

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