Dante's Inferno

Is it possible to write about and experience hell without a guide like Virgil, your own kind of hope, or some distance, comic or otherwise, on the hellish pain or torture? How much hell can anyone tolerate without hope, distance, comic relief, respite etc.?

Pretend you are an environmentalist reading Dante's Inferno. For many nature-lovers, the wilderness is heaven but for Dante, it is hell. How do the leopard, the lion and the she-wolf represent all the vices of mankind? Does the environmentalist think man is better or worse than the animals?

If all the poets, Virgil, Homer, Horace, Ovid, etc,, live in hell, might the Citadel of Human Reason be preferable to the long struggle through Purgatory to a nebulous heaven? Is there a danger in human reason that is not tempered by faith? Can someone be exceptionally brilliant and knowledgeable about science, philosophy etc. and still believe in Christianity? Is Dante himself guilty of the sin of hubris?

How does Dante's depiction of the after-life complement, enhance or contradict the Bible? Would Jesus Christ support the vicious retribution of this elaborate underworld? Find passages in the Bible that support your claims.

What does the Divine Comedy tell us about the socio-political and religious climate of Italy from 1215 to 1321 when he died? How do the vices and hypocrisy differ from today's crimes and misdemeanors?

According to Dante, as you sin, so shall you be punished. Does this philosophy work in our modern justice system? If not, will we be punished in the afterlife, another incarnation, or in this life, through same fateful turn of karmic justice? Or do you believe the universe is impersonal, and that God is either dead or suffering from Alzheimer's and not able to avenge evil? If there is no system of final justice, then what keeps a society together? Could humanity ever be educated in such a way so that rewards, punishments and rules are no longer necessary or would that require a higher species?

What metaphors, similes, parables and analogies does Dante use to create hell? Are your images of hell derived from the urban jungle of subways and crime-ridden ghettos, nature gone wild, a sterile technology, the putrid world of human excrement and waste products, the traditional fire and brimstone, the repressive actions of others (Sartre) or some new vocabulary of hellish sights, sounds, smells and tastes?
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