HUM-H390 — Saints, Sinners and Swords: Medieval European Literature — winter 2017–2018

This table shows what you should do for each classday; all work should be completed before the start of class on the date for which it’s listed. To put it another way, tests are listed on the day they will be given and assignments on the day they are due.

Week Eight
Monday, 29 January Read Cantos I – VIII [1–8] of The Inferno.
Think about these questions What reasons can you think of that make Virgil an appropriate figure to use as guide? How and why does the First Circle of Hell differ from the other regions described? Even though the Vestibule precedes the First Circle, its conditions are far worse; why do you think things are not laid out strictly in terms of increasing severity of torment? Are there any parts of the inscription over the gates of Hell (starting in line 1 of canto III) that you can recall seeing or hearing before, or that bring to mind other well-known phrases? How many different similes are at work in the passage starting on line 109 of canto III? Are there any specific passages in the cantos we read for today that strike you as especially poetic or key? If so, remember where they are so we can discuss them in class.
Assignment After reading just the First Canto, what film genre do you think The Inferno would best fit in to? By film genre, I mean Science Fiction, Action/Adventure, etc. Bring this written down, ready to turn in during class.
Tuesday, 30 January Read Cantos IX – XVII [9–17] of The Inferno.
Think about these questions We have seen plenty of Christian references so far in The Inferno. Have you spotted any references relating to other cosmologies, systems of belief, or cultural traditions? What elements or aspects of the text make it timeless and what elements date it? (Or: what could you understand without the footnotes and what would you need the notes to understand?) Thus far in the story are there any things that remind you of the way ghosts or spirits are conventionally depicted in movies and TV? Pay special attention to the section starting in line 97 of Canto XIV [14]; we will discuss it in class. And don’t miss the reference to civil engineers at line 11 of Canto XV [15].
Thursday, 1 February Read Cantos XVIII – XXV [18–25] of The Inferno.
Think about these questions As we progress deeper into Hell, what changes, if any, do you notice about actions of the condemned, of the demons, or of their interactions? The character Dante finds himself in a position of social privilege during his journey through Hell; how does this affect his interaction with those he observes? Where can we see criticism of certain aspects of practices of the Church in Dante’s time? Do you feel that the passage starting with verse 25 of Canto XXI [21] reveals anything about human psychology? Also, note the interesting names of demons starting in verse 119 of canto XXI [21].
Friday, 2 February Read Cantos XXVI – XXXIV [26–34] of The Inferno.
Think about these questions How do the horrors we see in canto XXVIII [28] and later compare to those seen earlier in Hell? Can you think of ways in which the passage beginning in verse 130 of canto XXX [30] could refer to the reader of The Inferno, in addition to Dante the character?
And Also We have seen a lot of figures more or less contemporary to Dante in Hell. We need footnotes to understand them, but a reader of Dante’s time would likely have not needed any such notes. If Dante were writing The Inferno today, can you think of one contemporary figure he might place in Hell? What would a fitting torment be for them? No, you may not do Hitler, because that’s the first one everybody thinks of. And you may not do me, either :) . I'm not making this an assignment for today, since we already have one, but remember what you think of because we will use it in small groups during class.
Assignment Having now read the entirety of The Inferno, what film genre do you think it would best fit into? Write a sentence or two explaining your reasoning. Bring this written down, ready to turn in during class.