Monday, May 26, 2008

What Do YOU Like about The Inferno?

I was thinking this morning, both based on my teaching of Dante's poem and my current attempt to retell it, about what elements would carry over to the retelling, and what elements people like or remember from when they read the original. So I thought I'd ask. Here are the main categories of images and characters in the original, and which would carry over:

The Punishments. The whole conceit on which the retelling is based is that Dante actually saw this shit happen in real life, so it's just a matter of how to depict the gruesome violence w/o the mythological and Christian trappings. "Deallegorizing" you might say, or "demythologizing," to hearken all the way back to my grad school days when I first read Bultmann.

The Guides. Dante's interaction with his guides (Virgil, Beatrice, and St. Bernard) and with one fellow traveller (Statius) carry a lot of the narrative, and especially for Virgil and Beatrice, it's where a lot of the heavy-duty theorizing comes in, as they have long talks about whatever scholastic topic Dante wants to address at that point. Dante will also have three fellow travellers in the retelling, and two of them roughly correspond to Virgil and Beatrice, so I'm mostly keeping this intact as well.

The Sinners. Dante talks to a representative sinner in each circle. This is where I'm having trouble seeing how or whether this will carry over, since the people suffering in the retelling are not necessarily sinners, but more often victims of what's going on around them. I'm thinking that's where the sin will come in - people are suffering in these particular ways because of what they or others have done (lust, violence, betrayal, deceit, etc.). I was also wondering how important it is that Dante interacts with famous people in the original (mythological, historical, or contemporary). Since most of these allusions are lost on modern readers anyway, I'm thinking it won't be a big lack in the retelling.


Blogger Curt Purcell said...

I actually prefer the landscape, and some of the difficulties it presents as they traverse it.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

The punishments and the representative sinners are definitely what pull in the crowds, imo. So many striking images--Tantalus, Sisyphus, the adulterers and betrayers, Lucifer trapped in ice with three mouths chewing the greatest sinners (one of which was Brutus, right? Wonder who they'd be if it was rewritten now?)--that kind of stuff sticks with you.

Or am I mixing my Dante and Ovid?

5:41 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

You started with Ovid and ended with Dante, which is a fine place to begin and a fine place to end.

5:59 PM  

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