The Literary Underworld: Dante’s Inferno


I.  Dante Alighieri (1265-1321): Florentine Poet and Philosopher


A.                       Dante’s Originality

B.                       Late Medieval Florence

C.                      Guelphs and Ghibellines

D.                      Whites and Blacks

E.                       Other Works: La vita nuova

F.                               Life in Exile


II.  The World of La divina commedia

A.                       Three Books, Thirty-three Cantos, and Terza Rima

B.                       Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso

C.                      Divine Guides: Virgil and Beatrice

D.                      Divine Grace

E.                       Allegory, Symbol, and Allusion


III.  Cantos I-V: Entering Hell

A.                       Lost in the Wilderness

B.                       Virgil as Guide

C.                      Poets and Philosophers

D.                      Paolo and Francesca

E.                       Crossing the River


IV.  Cantos IX-XII: Hopelessness and Literature

A.                       Virgil’s Previous Descent

B.                       The Furies

C.                      The Veil

D.                      Strange Verses

E.                       The Angel


V.  Final Review, Part I

The Final

A.                       Short Answers from the Second Half

B.                       Essay from the Whole Course

C.                      Study With a Purpose

D.                      Study to Clarify

E.                       Study to Know Well


VI.  The Authors, Works, Times, and Places

·      Virgil, Aeneid, 70-19 BCE, Imperial Rome

·      New Testament, 100 CE, Roman Empire

·      Augustine, Confessions, 354-430 CE, The Late Roman Empire

·      Beowulf, c. 700-750 CE, Anglo-Saxon England and Scandinavia

·      Dante, Inferno, 1265-1321 CE, Florence and Tuscany


VII.  The Major Themes

A.                       Fate

B.                       Duty

C.                      Salvation

D.                      Codes of Honor

E.                       Divine Grace

F.                               Literature as Guide or Temptation

G.                      Exile


VIII. The Forms

A.                       Literary Epic

B.                       Wisdom Literature

C.                      Spiritual Autobiography

D.                      Germanic Oral Epic

E.                       Terza Rima

F.                               Beyond Formal Classification?