Discussion Prompt for Week 7: Poetic Justice in Dante’s Inferno
The sinners that populate Dante’s vision of Hell are all met with poetic justice. That is, their punishment often reflects their crime. For example, Dante explains that suicides (guilty of violence against self) are punished by being transformed into the trees from which they hung themselves. Flatterers, in turn, are bathed in literal excrement as punishment for the figurative excrement that they spouted when they were alive (they talked bullsh*t so now they get to bathe in it).In Canto XX, men who claimed to be able to see the future now have their heads twisted around behind them and must therefore walk backwards. In Canto XXI, “sticky-fingered” grafters who stole or took bribes now spend eternity in sticky, boiling tar.
For your discussion post on Sept 15, I asked you to write about a villain from one of your favorite TV shows, books, movies, or games. For this post, I would like to revisit that character. Imagine that this character were to be placed in Dante’s inferno. Create a poetically appropriate punishment for this character’s sins, vices, or crimes. How would this character be punished? Why is this punishment appropriate? What level of Dante’s Hell would this character occupy? Your response should 100 words.
Discussion Prompt for Week 6: Beowulf
In line 258 of Beowulf, as Beowulf begins to speak for the first time, the narrator tells us that “the leader of the troop unlocked his word-hoard.” Throughout the poem there are suggested parallels between the poem’s richness of golden treasures and its richness of vocabulary.
Some words in the poem gain importance because they are repeated dozens of times, while other words seem important because they only appear once. What, in your opinion, is the most important word in Beowulf? Why?
Discussion Prompt for Week 4: St. Augustine and the Problem of Evil
This week we will be talking about evil, a topic that will come up throughout our course. For this discussion, I would like you to think of your favorite story (whether a book, a TV show, a movie, a video game, etc.). Is there a villain in this story? What makes this character evil? Does the character have any redeeming qualities? If so, what are they? What human traits does this character have? What inhuman traits?
Your answer should be 190 words long.
Discussion Prompt for Week 3: The Odyssey; Plato and Aristotle
On pages 69 – 71 of The Passion of the Western Mind, a section entitled “The Dual Legacy,” Richard Tarnas summarizes the thought of Plato and Aristotle in 10 bullet points. For your discussion entry, you should select ONE of these points. Tell me how the Odyssey demonstrates and/or contradicts this point. Does the Odyssey serve as an example of this, or a counter-example? How? Your response should be 185 words.
Discussion prompt for Week 2: The Odyssey, Books 9 & 10
What does it mean to be human in the world of the Odyssey? What is the human experience like? How is the figure of Odysseus a celebration of the human? How is he an indictment or criticism of human flaws? How might the understanding of what it means to be human in Homer’s Greece differ from our own?
Please post a response of 150 words. You should address at least one of these questions, but you don’t need to answer all of them.
The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas ISBN 9780345368096
The Odyssey by Homer (Robert Fagles translation) ISBN 978-0140268867 [Purchase optional; edition available online]
The Inferno by Dante Alighieri (Allen Mandelbaum translation) ISBN 978-0553213393
Beowulf (Seamus Heaney translation) ISBN 978-0393320978
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