Tomorrow begins my yearly decent toward summer–YEA!! spring break is over, and teachers & students are supposed to be well-rested and on their way toward the end of the semester.

Why not stick a little Dante into the mix of happiness, just to bring us all back to reality??? haha!!

I love  teaching Dante’s Inferno; not because I understand all the allusions or literary concepts, but precisely because I don’t. Dante began a new style of writing back in Italy during the middle ages–he wrote in the vernacular, or the “people’s” language. this might not seem important to us today, but back then, it was BIG news! most writing was done in Latin or “professional” Italian (the dialect of the ruling class). but Dante saw the future (umm…i think that is on level 8!)–he wrote for the people in the language that they spoke (Florentine, i think). of course, all his work was for naught–he was banished from his country for his political beliefs–but that’s another post.

No, Dante is lovely because he expresses the fears of us all from the opening sentences:

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straight forward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.

See how hard he sees his life? he’s lost his way and is trying desparately to find it. but, like for most of us at one time or another, our way is blocked {in dante’s case, it’s blocked by a leopard (fraud), a lion (ambition), and a she-wolf (greed)–all “sins” he struggled with}. i like to think that dante knew his readers would come up with their own animals to represent their sins.

so what do i tell my students about my sins tomorrow? well, i took a “which level of hell should you be on” test earlier, and it put me on level 5 — wrath and sullenness. and guess what–it is TOTALLY correct. i am all about being mad and jealous about stupid stuff. just ask Jake—he tells me every day: “what doesn’t make you mad, mom?” EVERY DAY!! so, i have to deal with that, cuz i sure don’t want to be stuck on 5!

But Dante is relevant to high schoolers, too. They are on their way to becoming adults–a way that seems dark and foreboding. they will have to either battle their animal sins or retreat. but, like Dante, they need a guide (for him, it was the Greek poet, Virgil) and a goal (Dante missed his true love, Beatrice–he gets to see her in Paradise–Heaven). Although this tale is more than 400 years old, I haven’t really ever had a problem selling it to students. They can all relate to being at a crossroads in their lives or having a difficult decision to make. They have all needed someone older and wiser to help them through it. And they have all had a person who they didn’t want to dissapoint.

If they just didn’t get all upset over the poetry!!

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