Everyone thought I was completely off my rocker for teaching Dante's Inferno to 10th graders. What can I say? I was a rebel when it came to teaching World Literature. For those not familiar, Inferno is the story of the main character's (also named Dante) trip through hell on his way to purgatory and heaven. He
had to take the long way 'round. While some of the teachers thought it was a crazy-hard task, I saw nothing but opportunity. It had the three main elements that I found my students responded to:
1) Grossness (characters eating each other, lost souls writing on the shore of a river, lovers caught in an eternal whirlwind, murder, starvation)
2) Lots of symbolism. They loved symbolism. Of course, I had to explain a lot
of it, but they liked it and it made that little lightbulb come on over their heads.
3) History. Shocked the crapola out of me. I never would've thought they'd like learning history stuff about Italy and the Christianity included in the story, but they loved it...and remembered it.
Where is all this going? When I taught Inferno, it was the first time I'd read it myself. I immediately fell in love with it because I enjoyed all the same things
my students did, and I'm sure part of their enjoyment came from my overwhelming enthusiasm. In addition to the meat of Inferno's plot, I fell in love with John Ciardi's translation. It was beautiful, it was smooth, it was tantalizing, and, from what I've read, it's very true to Dante's vision.
I stumbled upon an article about John Ciardi's life this morning as
I browsed some of my favorite lit. sites. I've not read any of his other poetry,
I'm not familiar with his body of work, but I spent a good deal of time admiring his translation, and somewhere along the way he slipped through the cracks. I always meant to look for more of him, but he got lost in the turmoil. Now, I have fresh incentive to seek out Ciardi and I might even read Inferno again.
The very interesting article...even if you're not a bookworm:
Click here for the article.