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The primary focus of this course is Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the first canticle in his poetic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. After a close reading of this fundamental text, we will explore some more recent literary representations of hell, and consider the ways in which they echo Dante’s unique vision. Included in our discussion will be the way the journey to the underworld serves as a transformative experience for its hero. In addition to Inferno, texts will include Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, poetry by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and T.S. Eliot, Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.



Unit Essential Questions Content Skills and Processes Assessment Resources

What is Dante's definition of contrapasso?

How is Dante's text influenced by Florentine politics?

How does the journey to the underworld serve as a transformative experience?

Dante Alighieri, Inferno

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit

Selected poetry and criticism

  • Direct class discussion
  • Develop critical abilities as readers
  • Improve skills as writers of analytical prose
  • Prepare and present class meetings, both in collaborative groups and as individuals
  • Apply principles of unguided peer reviewing and metacritical self-review for both content and style
  • Use techniques of active reading, class note-taking, and test-taking
  • Three analytical essays are assessed for both content and style in individual conferences
  • Tests emphasize reading comprehension and synthesis
  • Peer reviews
  • Metacritical writing
  • Discussions about critical analysis and persuasive writing
  • Class presentations are assessed for both class plan and execution

Consultation of departmental handouts from grades 9-11