Despite my grand plans of last week, as I spent the weekend travelling for and attending a wedding, I do not have a close reading of Dante for this week. (It may come later in the week, or perhaps next week.) I thought I’d write instead about how I got into the Comedy in the first place.
I first read the Inferno in grade 12 English class. We did a unit on world literature, and had to do some sort of project based on our choice of books from a list. I saw Dante on there, chose it, and did a not-to-scale model of the pit of Hell out of cardboard and copper wire. I painted images for each of the circles, including all the inner pouches of the Malbowges of the Eighth Circle of Fraud, and affixed them (with some difficulty; I am not particularly handy with this sort of thing) to a spiral frame I believe was made out of coat hangers. I still have all the pieces, though the model itself came apart for a move.
At that time, I thought it was a cool story, and I was glad to finally read something so famous. I was writing at the time and I think it sparked a desire to re-write my story. And indeed I did; that draft was up to four hundred and twenty pages, single spaced and typed. I cut out the first four hundred pages and started again. Which just goes to show the importance of reading good literature.
My real acquaintance with the whole Commedia came in undergrad. We read it at the culmination of my second year, taught with great drama and interest by one of my favourite professors. He darkened the room for Hell and gradually raised the lights little by little over the weeks, until finally at the vision of God he threw open the curtains on a blindingly beautiful day. Our class was held in the mornings, 8:30-10:00am, and it was perfect.
Really, I just like it. There’s something wonderful about a work that you can just keep looking into, leaning on it as one of my colleagues says, that is simply that good. Its artistry is marvellous. I’ve always wanted to work through it line by line, so although I’m going to have increase my pace a little (for at three lines not-quite-a-week it will be many years before I finish even the Inferno), I’m looking forward to the exploration. I’ve mined other areas for my dissertation, looked at larger pictures, delved into some passages more closely than others. But you can go through each canto, exploring things worth exploring.