“Walking With Dante” – The Colin McEnroe Show

On a 2015 episode of Connecticut Public Radio’s The Colin McEnroe Show, Colin McEnroe, Chion Wolf, and guests Joseph Luzzi, Ron Jenkins, and Rod Dreher discuss the dark wood of the Inferno.

“The story of The Divine Comedy is an adventure story based on Dante’s real life in 14th century Italy. He was deeply wrapped up in the politics of his time. He was a city official, diplomatic negotiator, poet, and a man who dared to cross the pope. He was exiled from his city, never to return under threat of death. He left all behind, except his unrequited love for Beatrice.

“Nearly broken and in a ‘dark wood’ of grief in midlife, Dante wrote a masterpiece that is remarkably relevant today for all of us who have ever been in the dark wood of loss. This hour, we talk to three people who walked with Dante through the dark wood.” [. . .]    –Betsy Kaplan, Connecticut Public Radio, September 28, 2015.

You can listen to the episode and check out the associated links on the WNPR site.

Dante’s Treachery: Bass Library

“If you are ever wondering what the absolute bottom of hell is like, step no farther than (B)ass Library. This tri-level torture chamber has everything: sleep-deprived students, crying teens, those who have brought their entire desktop computers just to play Fortnite, some old people, the occasional free doughnut and self-centered students taking up an entire four-person table. Don’t pretend you’re not a little curious about all the sad, eye-bagged Yalies who look like they’d rather be literally set on fire than trudging down those steps into the dark abyss. Behold: a multilayer, cubicle-filled hell of self-inflicted punishment and internal damnation that you’re doomed to revisit even after you swear it’s too “scene-y” during your first semester of the year. Welcome to Bass.

“When you walk into the library, you’ll first find yourself in Bass Cafe. Consider this your purgatory. Here, you’ll find round tables with obnoxious clubs trying to harass you as you’re on your way to study and people sitting there solely looking to be seen “studying” with just a laptop out — they’re probably watching Netflix or copying down the most recent economics problem set. Once you enter the library, you’ll see the first layer of this hell. This level feels slightly less terrible than the other pits because it has the suggestion of sunlight. But don’t be fooled; before you hit the steps down into the lower levels, look to your right and you will see roughly six to 14 people completely knocked out in uncomfortable chairs, each in pretzel-like positions having tried but given up on ever making it back outside.” […]    –Lindsay Jost, Yale Daily News, October 25, 2018

Nine Circles of Finals Hell at UConn

“For those of you who blew off going to class a majority of the semester, than you will most definitely find yourself in one of the nine circles of finals hell: limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud, or treachery.

“First Circle: Limbo:
‘Ignorance is bliss’ as some might say. In the beginning stage of finals hell, we all like to tell ourselves that we’ll eventually get around to studying. But in reality, your studious friends are camped out in Laurel Hall, and you spend the two weeks leading up to finals taking all the naps you don’t deserve in those comfy chairs at the Benton.” — The Black Sheep Online Staff, The Black Sheep Online, December 11, 2017

Read the full article here.

Ron Jenkins, “To See the Stars” (2012)

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“Lynda Gardner, Saundra Duncan, and Deborah Ranger will give a reading of a new play at a Harvard University conference next week. A different kind of alma mater qualifies them for this appearance: York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Conn., a high-security state facility for female offenders.

“While behind bars at York, all three joined theater workshops with Wesleyan University professor Ron Jenkins and students from his Activism and Outreach Through Theater course. They got to know Shakespeare and Dante, and it changed their lives.

“‘I spent my first six months [in York] trying to figure out ways to kill myself, and the next four and a half years trying to see how much more I can live,’ says Gardner.

“Inspired by these three and other inmates he worked with, Jenkins wrote a play about their existence behind bars, ‘To See the Stars,’ which mingles inmates’ stories with bits of Dante’s epic 14th-century poem, Divine Comedy.

“The women have their own perspective on ‘Divine Comedy.’ They tend to say that they are still working on its third part (Paradise) but that they are well versed in the first two (Hell and Purgatory).

“‘I’ve been in a lot of the circles of hell,’ says Gardner, 63. ‘It really isn’t about hell; it is about hope. Climbing out of those circles.’

“The trio will perform ‘To See the Stars’ on March 3 in a lightly staged reading at a Harvard conference on race, class, and education called Disrupting the Discourse: Discussing the ‘Undiscussable,’ sponsored by the Graduate School of Education’s Alumni of Color. The Harvard performance is open to conference participants only, but the public can attend a free performance at Brown University’s Lyman Hall in Providence on March 2 at 3:30 p.m.”  — Joel Brown, Boston.com, February 12, 2012 (retrieved on July 9, 2012)

See also Rachel Apfel’s piece in the Harvard Ed. Magazine.

Occupy New Haven

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Contributed by Aisha Woodward (Bowdoin, ’08)

Dante Project, Wesleyan University – Prison Outreach

dante-project-wesleyan-university-prison-outreach“. . .Dr. Jenkins, who has taught in Wesleyan’s theater department for 11 years, introduced prison outreach into the curriculum in 2007, bringing students to the York Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in Niantic, to work with inmates on literary classics. In 2009 and 2010, they began concentrating on ‘Inferno’; this year, because of construction at York, the class took place at the men’s facility in Niantic, the J.B. Gates Correctional Institution. . .
The semester culminated with performances. The Gates inmates presented their work to their peers, and at Wesleyan, the students performed the writings of the inmates for the college community. In the classroom at Sing Sing, the inmates performed for the Wesleyan students, and then the students presented the Gates men’s words, for which they received a standing ovation from the inmates. All of the performances ended with the same line, the last of the poem: ‘E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.’ “And then we emerged to look again at the stars.” [. . .]    –Susan Hodara, The New York Times, December 24, 2010