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The major highlights of this last Dante reading are Cantos XXVI
(our old friend Ulysses), XXXIII (Ugolino and Ruggieri), and
XXIV (Judecca--Lucifer--climbing out of Hell. By the way, try
to get a handle on the physics of this climb. Dante-pilgrim is obviously
confused [lines 103-105]; Dante-poet issues a challenge to the reader
to comprehend what has happened [lines 91-93]).
"Minor highlights" include Cantos XXVII (Guido da
Montefeltro), XXVIII (Mohammed), and XXX (Potiphar's
wife[<Genesis] and Sinon [<Aeneid] go mano-a-mano).
You should keep on reading in terms of the key ideas and structuring
devices we've already mentioned (the listings below have been updated
for Cantos XXIII-XXXIV, please read them carefully):
will: see esp. Canto XXVI , to which we will have
considerable recourse in class. Bearing in mind the role will
played in Confessions (and especially in Augustine's
conversion), what can you say about the role of will in Dante?
How would you characterize the relationship among reason, will
The "hate story" of Ugolino and Ruggieri (Canto XXXIII)
is often considered a counterpart to the love story of Paolo and
Francesca (Canto V). Compare the two (structure, themes, imagery,
characters, anxieties) as fully and fruitfully as you can. What
interesting parallels and contrasts can you uncover? What would
Dante have us learn from the comparison?
What other intertexts
are alluded to in this episode? How do these intertexts help us
to understand Dante's text?
Don't forget that God made Hell
out of Love (Canto III, line 6). What happens to Love as we descend
into the depths?
What is the proper object of disio? What are its dangers?
Which characters are associated with it? See especially Cantos XXVI
(l. 69, 97 [ardore]), XXX (l. 130, 148),
XXXI (l. 97).
What progression is observed in Dante-pilgrim's susceptibility to
pity? Why? What is Dante-poet's relationship to pity? --See (in
addition to Cantos II, V, XIX, XX) Cantos
XXXII (l. 75ff.), XXIII (ll. 40-42, 49, 69, 149-50).
mind: Think about Dante's concept of memory in relation
to Augustine's and to epic kleos. See esp. Cantos XXVI (ll.
1-3), XXVII (ll. 61-66), XXXIII (ll. 7-9).
What is the role of experience in Dante? What kinds of experience
are there (sensory, cognitive, narrative...?) and what are they
worth? See esp. Cantos XXVI (l. 98, 116), XXVIII (l. 48), XXIX (ll.
43-45), XXX (ll. 130ff.), XXXI (l. 97-99).
Dante seems to allude to Aeneid II:3 ("Sorrow too deep to tell,
your Majesty...") three times: once in the words of Dante-poet
at I.4 ("Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was"), once
in the words of Francesca (V:121-3), and once in the words of Ugolino
In addition to those specific
allusions, Dante continually inscribes the incommensurability
of language--that is, the uncloseable gap between language/telling
and life/experiencing in his narrative: see especially Cantos
XXIV (l. 76-78), XXVI (ll. 19-24, 72), XXVIII (ll. 1-3), XXXII (ll.
1-6). What are we to make of these "speechless" moments
in Dante's poetry? Is it paradoxical to write poetry about not being
able to write poetry?
Finally, in the same vein, we
need to consider the role of narrative itself in this text.
Francesca's story (Canto V) highlights the power of literature,
of story, to affect "real life"; what, acording to Dante,
is the proper role of/response to literature? What is the price
of imitating literature (acting out a story)? What is Dante himself
We will continue to examine the relationship between "literature"
(story) and "real life" as we move on into Boccaccio...and