Dante Reflective Statement

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

During the interactive oral, we were presented information about the life of Dante Alighieri, Christian theology, other depictions of hell and numerology.  More precisely, we discussed how the aforementioned related to that which we had read in Dante’s Inferno.

Previously I had not given much thought to the background of Dante but after learning more about his past, I could see how it may have influenced his work.  We learned that, in the late 13th century, Dante was involved in the development of the ‘sweet new style’ of writing.  This type of writing was very poetic and full of self reflection.  While Inferno did not possess the same level of intricacy as the ‘sweet new style’ Dante was a part of, I still noticed a lot of self reflection – and now I knew how Dante came to write like so.

While discussing Christian theology’s role in Inferno I learned that not all Christian theologists agreed with Dante’s divisions of the sinners in Hell.  However, the differences in their views were minor and I thought they could be attributed to Dante’s insistence on incorporating the classical world with the Christian.  For example, we saw that in Christianity limbo typically has only original sinners while Dante also includes virtuous pagans.

When looking at earlier depictions of hell we saw that it was mostly full of the typical dark pit, flames and torture.  What most developed my understanding of the context of representations of hell was when we discussed examples of later depictions of hell such as the French play No Exit.  While this play was far more modern in setting, I felt that it’s representation of self-torture in hell to be very similar to the idea conveyed by Dante that the sinner is essentially torturing himself by committing said sin.  Therefore, earlier depictions of hell were more similar to Inferno in setting while later ones developed the moral implications of punishment in hell.  In this respect, I learned how, contextually, Dante was ahead of his time with his portrayal of morality in hell.

I think Dante’s Inferno was heavily tied to all of these cultural and contextual considerations and the discussion of them greatly enhanced my understanding and appreciation of the many nuances Dante weaved into his writing.

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