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First Year Seminar, P.


Final Revision – Process Notes

So I was thinking about what I wanted to do for my final revision, and suddenly I

came about a brilliant idea. I decided I would place all of the protagonists of the books

we’ve read this semester into Dante’s Hell, and write a first person narrative in terza rima

for each of them. I figured tezra rima would make it more intellectually stimulating, and

also help me see things from the eyes of Dante the Poet. It would be fun, challenging, and

would incorporate all of the seminar books into one big shebang. Three of the characters

were already in Hell (Socrates, Dante, and Gilgamesh/Nimrod), so I only needed to figure

out where Oedipus belonged.

I absolutely adore Doctor Faustus, and I thought of this quote from

Mephistopheles. While none of them ever actually experienced Paradise in all its glory, I

think the main feeling in Hell is of one of regret; regret that they choose the wrong path,

that they abused God’s gift and ended on the wrong side. Perhaps this is an

oversimplification of Dante’s philosophy, but I like the quote, damn it. (Oh, the word


I decided to start with Socrates. I thought it would be kind of cool to go in

descending order, starting at Limbo with Socrates, and ending with Dante at the very pit.

I decided to read over that section in Phaedo where Socrates describes his vision of the

afterlife. I really tried to embody a sense of regret in Socrates. He spends all of his life

being all like, “Philosophy!! Prepare for Death!” and then he ends in limbo. I kind of

cheated and used “path” as a quasi-rhyme for “breath” and “death”, but Dante had a
language that had lots of rhymes. Pretty much the only other option I could think of was

“meth”. In fact, I cheated quite a bit. That was just the first example.

After finishing Socrates I needed to figure out where to place Oedipus. I certainly

don’t think he belonged in Limbo. Besides that, I needed variety. Incest was certainly a

crime against nature, but, being done unconsciously/subconsciously (the latter being

more applicable in Jocasta’s case, methinks), I don’t think it was the essence of his sin.

Also causing difficulty was the fact that the Gods blessed his death place. Still, that could

be argued away by saying that, since Dante’s Hell was a Christian incarnation (though

heavily steeped in Greek mythology), Oedipus’s gods were irrelevant. One could place

him with the wrathful, but by the time on gets to Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus has lost

his youthful anger. I think one of his biggest pitfalls is his pride. That, however, is

something that we find in Purgatorio. After much pondering I decided I would place

Oedipus into the 9th Circle. Perhaps this is being a little too cruel to Oedipus, but

fiddlesticks. I suppose one could see his sin as treachery towards country, as he kind of

let his country go to shit (if you don’t mind me using the more vulgar vernacular, which

Dante doesn’t seem to have a problem with. Neither does John Ciardi, for that matter –

“ridiculously prudery”, anyone?), but I really saw his crime as being treachery to his

family. Not in the sense of “Dante killed his father and had sexual intercourse with his

mother”, but more on the account doing things like his rejection of Eteocles in Oedipus

at Colonus, or, in Oedipus Rex, his whole mental breakdown scene where he blinds

himself and entrusts his daughters to Creon.

This actually puts Gilgamesh/Nimrod in a circle higher than Oedipus’s. Being

such, I needed to discuss Gilgamesh first. I wasn’t quite clear on the whole connection
between the two figures (it’s been a while since Becky Fiske’s lecture), so I decided that I

wanted to research that a little. That I did, and I found that their main connection was in

their region and their period of time. They were both kings in the region, and descendents

of the man who survived the flood, and stuff. So I have him discuss this. I didn’t read

much on the whole language of the angels thing, so I took the interpretation that his sin

was that of the tower of Babel. I have taken some poetic license here in melding the two

stories together. I tried to emphasize how he tried to emphasize the Godlike part of

himself and ultimately failed.

My last poem was from the eyes of Dante the Pilgrim. I tried to invoke his

feelings as he was at the very pit of Hell.

So it was all good and happy.