Great Books II   Spring 2014



January 23

Introduction &

Cantos I-VI

  1. Why doesn't Dante simply climb the hill?

  2. What is Virgil's role in the poem?

  3. What is the result of reading the opening lines of Canto III aloud? Why does Hell need a gate?

  4. Identify all of the differences between the vestibule and limbo.

  5. How does Minos symbolize hell?

  6. Explicate the sin and punishment of Paolo & Francesca.

  7. How is the glutton contrapasso apropos?

  8. What is the connection between the objects of the sins of lust and gluttony?

  9. Are we to pity sinners?




 January 27



  1. What is at the core of the weight shared by the misers and prodigals?

  2. What is at the core of the common problem/issue shared by the wrathful and slothful?

  3. Why are these pairs adjacent to one another in the fourth circle?

  4. How are each of the following a "Medusa"?   9.11.01, pornography, money, anger, fear, incontinence, desire.

  5. Why is heresy between incontinence and violence? 

  6. Dante undergoes a major transition as he crosses each body of water or liquid. Trace these transitions in the work thus far.

  7. What is the root problem common to all of the sins of incontinence?

  8. Why are the beasts half and half in Canto XII?

  9. Explain the contrapasso of the wood of suicides. See the following image.





January 30

Cantos XIV-XX

  1. Bring your own 2-3 interpretive questions for discussion. 

  2. Be prepared to demonstrate that you are reading the text.


February 3


Bring your own questions. Be prepared to lead the discussion of the following Cantos:

XXI david & molly

XXII  joe v. & rachel

XXIII heather & joe w.

XXIV chase & mackenzie

XXV roberto & danielle

XXVI mark & jen

XXVII kaitlyn & justin & brian



 February 6


Be prepared to lead discussion for you part, as noted below:

Why is there a great barrier? - Joe W.

How and why does the entire Malabolgia represent "schism"? - Kaitlyn


XXIX - Rachel

XXX - Chase

XXXI - David

XXXII - Danielle

XXXIII - Molly

XXXIV - Justin

What constitutes a contrapasso? - Mark

What is Dante's working definition of sin? - Joe V.

Sketch a timeline of Dante's development from the top to bottom of hell. - Mackenzie

What is at the root of the sins of fraudulence? - Roberto

What ties the three forms of sin (incontinence, violence, fraud) together? - Brian

How are the sins in the lowest level present in all sins above them? - Heather