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Dante Process

Dante Process

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Published by Dave Cloud

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Published by: Dave Cloud on Jun 12, 2007
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05/31/2014

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First Year Seminar, P. FilkinsPaper 4 – Process NotesI decided the original topic I had picked for my paper would be far toocomplicated and scary to do, and I wasn’t even sure exactly what I was trying to writeabout (it was a big shebang thing comparing the nature of sin and free will and the likeamongst Abrahamic religions, and then I would have ended up doing something onnumerology). I decided that, since you had put positive feedback on that journal I did onfemale representation in Dante, I would work on that. It was a topic that I could focus on,and it had the added benefit of making my advisor happy. Not entirely wishing to give up the cross-religion focus on Dante, I researched alittle on women in Judaism and Islam. I wasn’t entirely sure how I could use it, but Ifigured it would probably be good to keep in the back of my mind if I did find some placewhere I could relate it.
Which I didn’t really. Oh well. It was fun.
I thought about what I was trying to say with this paper. One of the key elements,I decided, was the role that Beatrice played. She is, in many aspects, Dante’s own personal savior, setting him up with Virgil and all, and leading him through Paradise(though that’s another book). Then there were Saint Lucia and Rachel—who, along withBeatrice, are somewhat reminiscent of the Holy Trinity—who also added to this view of the female as the savior through pure love.While I do not include this in the paper, it is interesting to note that the daughter-in-law of Rabbi Akiba (a well-noted Jewish theologian of the 1
st
and 2
nd
centuries, whowas a main contributor to the Jewish oral tradition) was required by her marriage contract
 
to teach her husband the Torah.The women of the realm of the lustful (Dido, Helen, Cleopatra, and Francesca)represent a perversion of this ideal of the female as a divine creature, a guide to heaven.They focused on the body, rather than mind and soul, and thus got swept up in the sin of lust. I do not include Semiramis because I feel that her sin is not so much one of her ownlust, but of using the lust of others. I suppose in that respect I disagree with Dante’s placement of Semiramis, which I will probably talk about in the Realm of the Seducers.
Upon further research (i.e., beyond John Ciardi’s notes) I understand Dante’s sentencing,though I think a case can be made for placing Semiramis with the Wrathful.
This stuff gets complicated, as are, I suspect, these notes.I also wanted to devote a passage to the feminine demons of hell. I hesitate to callthem female, as God and the angels seem to possess a space that is somewhat gender neutral. However, many of the demons in Dante’s Hell are traditionally represented as being female, such as the Furies and Medusa, and the Harpies. These creatures are someof Hell’s cruelest denizens, and their perversion of the divine female makes them notablefigures.My last subject of concentration was the Eighth Circle of Hell. This circle isnotable for two reasons: 1) It contains the last named female sinner, and 2) It contains theseducers and the panderers. I find the latter very interesting, as in Dante’s time, womenwere thought to be the more libidinous sex, and were therefore blamed for any seductionsthat may have occurred. Also, prostitution, especially in Italy, was fairly common, andactually quite widely accepted. Most prostitutes were not forced into the trade by some pimp (or brother, as the case may be), but rather began procuring of their own accord.

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