“Students Enjoy the Nine Circles of Hell” at Knox College

“With screams emanating from the Q&A House and a long line waiting for their turn, 99 students traveled through the nine circles of hell on Saturday night.

Groups of up to three students traveled through the transformed living room, kitchen and basement, being scared by 12 student actors playing roles or helping behind the scenes in the Dante’s Inferno themed house.

‘The interesting thing from this year is usually you have a guide, a very creepy guide, that takes you through the haunted house. And this time you have the narrator telling you which circle you’re in, and it’s usually through a wall, and you have to follow a laid out path,’ senior Melissa Sher said.

Despite the cold weather, students waited for over an hour at times on Saturday, and in total almost 140 students traveled through the 10-15 minute haunted house on Saturday and Sunday, beating the previous year’s total.

‘[This year was] just as creepy,’ senior Katie Haynes said, ‘They hold themselves to a pretty high standard and doing this is just wonderful.’

While some students found parts scary, others enjoyed the house and even spurted out some laughs.”    –John Williams, The Knox Student, November 2, 2011

“7 Circles of Library Hell” at Northwestern University

“Periodicals: The most frigid and judgmental part of the library. If you even think of talking or breathing above a whisper, you will be violently shushed (and maybe shanked).”    –Caroline Brown, North by Northwestern, February 22, 2016

The Leeds Dante Podcast

The [Leeds] Centre for Dante Studies runs a podcast, which can be subscribed to freely from anywhere in the world. The podcast is designed both to enrich undergraduates’ study of Dante, and to be of interest to a broader audience.

“The Leeds Dante podcast offers regular short items on three major areas:

  • Key Moments in the Commedia: a series of brief commentaries on short passages selected from the Commedia;
  • Interviews with scholars about their recent work on Dante;
  • Reviews of recent publications of interest in Dante studies.

“Individual talks and lectures held in Leeds are also made available for download.

“The podcast is available in MP3 format, and is freely available to listen to on your PC or portable device. You can also subscribe using iTunes.”   — Leeds Dante Podcast Homepage

Episodes can also be downloaded directly from the homepage here.

Dante Today readers will be especially interested in the “Conversations on Dante” series, which features discussions with scholars doing original research on Dante’s reception beyond the Middle Ages, and especially in contemporary culture. Kudos to our colleague Matthew Treherne (Univ. of Leeds) for his wonderful interviews and insightful discussions!

Edward Smyth Jones, “Harvard Square” (1910)

“I would like to submit one last example of a writer of color who turns to Dante in a moment of personal crisis. Consider the case of Edward Smythe Jones, who ‘in his over-mastering desire to drink at the Harvard fountain of learning tramped out of the Southland up to Cambridge. Arriving travel-worn, friendless, moneyless, hungry, he was preparing to bivouac on the Harvard campus his first night in the University city, when, being misunderstood, and not believed, he was apprehended as a vagabond and thrown into jail. A poem, however, the poem which tells this story, delivered him. The judge was convinced by it… and set him free to return to the academic shades’ (Kerlin 163-64). The poem called ‘Harvard Square’ ends on this note: ‘Cell No. 40, East Cambridge Jail, Cambridge, Massachusetts, July 26, 1910.’ But the familiar scenario of a black man harassed by the police and thrown in jail for no discernible reason is transformed into a magical encounter with the muse. The divine goddess of inspiration comes to the poet’s aid with a brief lesson in literary history in which she compares his fate to Dante’s — ‘I placed great Dante in exile’ — suggesting that she has now done the same to Jones. Dante’s actual banishment from Florence sheds light on the figurative exile of Jones: the Negro in the white man’s world; the southerner in the North; the backwoodsman in the ‘University city’; the autodidact amidst the hypereducated; and the would-be Dante at the very center of Dante’s American home.”   — Dennis Looney, Freedom Readers: The African-American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2011), pp. 201-202

An excerpt of the poem “Harvard Square” is printed below. You can access the full poem, in Jones’s collection The Sylvan Cabin, on Project Gutenberg, as well as the volume by Kerlin cited above.

“Weep not, my son, thy way is hard,
Thy weary journey long—
But thus I choose my favorite bard
To sing my sweetest song.
I’ll strike the key-note of my art
And guide with tend’rest care,
And breathe a song into thy heart
To honor Harvard Square.

“I called old Homer long ago,
And made him beg his bread
Through seven cities, ye all know,
His body fought for, dead.
Spurn not oppression’s blighting sting,
Nor scorn thy lowly fare;
By them I’ll teach thy soul to sing
The songs of Harvard Square.

“I placed great Dante in exile,
And Byron had his turns;
Then Keats and Shelley smote the while,
And my immortal Burns!
But thee I’ll build a sacred shrine,
A store of all my ware;
By them I’ll teach thy soul to sing
A place in Harvard Square.”   — Edward Smyth Jones, “Harvard Square” (1910)

Alison Cornish and Stefano Albertini on Dantedì 2020

In recognition of the first annual Dantedì (March 25, 2020), the director of NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, Stefano Albertini, interviewed Alison Cornish, Chair of the Department of Italian Studies at NYU and Acting President of the Dante Society of America. They conducted the interview virtually, during shelter-at-home orders resulting from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on her experience teaching Purgatorio during the pandemic, Cornish comments that Purgatorio is “about community after traumatic separation” (7:34), a community that is recreated through shared cultural rites like liturgy and song, forms of virtual embrace, and collective suffering.

The interview is available to view on YouTube (last accessed April 10, 2020). The comments on Purgatorio can be heard at 6:00-15:34.

Staging Dante Today by Teatro delle Albe (2019)

“The Center for Italian Studies and the Italian Studies Section of the Department of Romance Languages are happy to announce a three-day residency (2/27 – 3/1) of distinguished actress and author Ermanna Montanari with dramaturg and director Marco Martinelli, founders of the experimental theatre company Teatro delle Albe in Ravenna! They will participate in classes and hold meetings with students and faculty.

“On Thu., 2/28, at 5:30, at the Annenberg Center Live (Montgomery Theatre), Montanari and Martinelli will present the show Staging Dante Today including ‘Cantiere Dante,’ sharing with the audience the experience of Inferno performed in 2017 in Ravenna with the participatory support of its citizens, first part of the project “Divine Comedy 2017-2021,” also featured at Matera 2019 (European Capital of Culture). This will be followed by ‘Il cielo sopra Kibera,’ a photographic report from a piece directed by Martinelli recently performed by 140 children and teenagers in one of Africa’s largest slums in Nairobi. In addition, Ermanna Montanari will read canto XXXIII from Dante’s Inferno as well as the poem ‘Ahi serva Italia,’ drawn from the Albe’s latest show fedeli d’Amore, for which she recently won the prestigious Award for Best Actress/Performer ‘Premio Ubu 2018’ of the Associazione Franco Quadri!” [. . .]    –Penn Arts & Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, 2019.

See more about Teatro della Albe’s show here.

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

The Tenth Circle: College Applications

“Not even one quarter through my life, I lost my way in a dark bedroom. The only illumination was the pale glow of the Common App website. This is a godless place. I switched from the Common App to Netflix and sulked.

“Distressed and lonely, I cried out, ‘SCREW COLLEGE! SOMEBODY HELP ME!’ and at that moment, a shade appeared in the doorway.

“’O hey dood,’ said the great poet Marsalis AdrianoHe still wore his backpack and his face sported a smarmy grin that was still somewhat inviting. Perhaps it was just the light from my monitor playing off his mochaccino skin, but I felt I could trust him.

“’Hey wanna go to hell dood? It’s right down there,’ he pointed towards the door, ‘might be cool to put on your college app.’

“As I had nothing better to do, I decided to oblige the great mystic in my bedroom, after all, Netflix only distracted me for so long.

“He led me out the door to a platform where, just beyond the edge, was a great black chasm. The jagged edges of the chasm were decorated with graduation caps with the tassels torn off and old forgotten football helmets of formerly glorious players. Marsalis looked to me and shrugged a quick shrug, pursed his lips, and raised his eyebrows skyward. He motioned me to the edge of the platform, where a seemingly endless flight of stairs led into the pit.” [. . .]    -Cole Murphy’s writing, posted by Elliot Quartz, The Current, January 21, 2015.

Continue reading Cole’s perilous journey applying to colleges at The Current, Malibu High School’s Student Newspaper.

You can read more posts by Elliot Quartz here.

Nine Circles of Columbia Hell

Artwork by Charlotte Voelkel/Head Spectrum Illustrator, Columbia Daily Spectator, March 30, 2016

Campus Circles of Hell (University of Chicago)

“Third Circle (Gluttony): The Coffee Station

You stare at the dispenser with reluctance, but the tiredness and headaches you’ll avoid by pouring yourself a cup demand that make you fill it. Oh, how you wish to sip coffee that’s, for lack of a better word, remotely palatable. Knowing that despite the bitterness, this coffee isn’t the strongest of brews, you get cup after cup . The make-you-have-to-pee effects of caffeine aren’t helped by the sheer amount of liquid you’re drinking or all the sugar you put in it (looking at you, frappucinos, as delicious as you may be) to make it bearable. palatable, Alas, and you do have to go to class at a certain point, so you jitter your way out of the dining hall.” [. . .]    –Nico Aldape and Teddy Zamborsky, Chicago Shady Dealer, May 14, 2016.

You can read the full list of the UChicago Circles of Hell on Chicago Shady Dealer.