Dante's Inferno Close Reading short passage essay

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Develop your own argument and ideas about the passages you choose. (rubric and close reading elements attached in screenshot PLEASE READ)

 These two essays should each be 400-500 words long, for a total of 3 pages minimum, 4 pages maximum (double spaced), or 800-1000 words; include your total word count before submitting 

Close reading passages (select 2) 

  1. Canto 4, lines 1-24 [“Breaking the deep sleep…..girding the abyss”
  2. Canto 5, lines 115-138 [“Then I turned back to them….a dead body falls”]
  3. Canto 9, lines 64-90 [“And already, over across the turbid waves….for nothing held it”]
  4. Canto 15, lines 100-124 [“Nonetheless…not the one who loses”]
  5. Canto 25, lines 103-135 [“They answered each other….the smoke stops”]
  6. Canto 32, lines 19-51 [“I heard one say to me….such anger overcame them”]
  7. Canto 34, lines 1-27 [“Vexilla….deprived of both”]

Each essay must respond to the following questions. If you are unsure how to structure these essays, each number below can correspond to a paragraph— but it doesn’t have to.  Unlike a traditional essay, you do not need to write an introductory paragraph, or a conclusion. But you do need respond to the points below, and to include a title for each of your mini-essays: be creative!

  1. What is the context of the passage you have chosen? (10 points x2) This should notbe merely a summary. Imagine you are relating this moment in Inferno to someone who knows the text but maybe hasn’t read it closely. What seems most significant to include about the passage you’ve chosen?  What textual detail/s matter? What is happening in the passage, not in terms of plot but in terms of meaning?
  2. How is meaning produced in the text? (20 points x2) Please respond by using the close reading elements PDF as a guideActions. Focus on one or two elements that stand out for you. You will not have space to focus on more than that! Recall those moments when, upon a first reading, you were confused or surprised. What makes this passage difficult? Use textual evidence to illustrate your ideas.
  3. In the third and final paragraph, make a hypothesis about the passage. (10 points x2) How does it relate to the rest of Inferno? How does it relate to themes that have come up in lecture or discussion? Why does it matter, what does it add to an understanding of the text as a whole? You are welcome to cite other passages from Inferno here, with proper citation. Of the many possibilities for understanding this moment in the text, what seems the most important to highlight? Whatever claim you make here should follow from the prior two paragraphs, and you should spend time backing it up with further evidence from the text.

NOTE: you do not need to connect your two essays/passages, but if you are able you are most welcome to.

Essay Formatting & Technicalities (10 points x2)

Use MLA Style parenthetical citations. Dante, like Shakespeare, is an author who has a specific citation style in MLA. You should cite every direct quote with a parenthetical citation that includes Canticle, Canto and line number. For example, a citation for this quote from would look like this: “Rejoice, Florence, since you are so great/ that on sea and land you beat your wings, and your name/ spreads through Hell!” (Inf. 26.1-3) Note that parenthetical citations go at the end of the sentence that contains the direct quotation.

  • Block quotations are more than three lines of poetry:

Rejoice, Florence, since you are so great

that on sea and land you beat your wings, and your name

spreads through Hell!

Among the thieves I found five such citizens of

yours that I feel shame, and you do not rise to

honor them. (Inf. 26.1-7)

Since these are short essays, please use block quotes sparingly!  You do not need to type out/reproduce the passage you have selected in the body of your essays. 

  • Include a Works Cited page in MLA Style. You will likely only cite the Durling translation, but you still need to include a Works Cited page for this assignment. See a brief guide at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/ (Links to an external site.).
  • Submit 3 complete total pages minimum; 4 maximum. Be sure to submit three complete pages, but please refrain from going over four; Please include a final word count for both essays before submitting; it should be no more than 1000 words or 4 pages.
  • Double-space your paper and use 12-size font. Use Times New Roman or another professional and easily legible font.
  • Consulting outside sources: while you are writing this exam please do not consult outside sources other than the notes from the Durling translation of Inferno and the optional readings. There are endless interpretations of Dante’s Inferno online.  I am relying on the Academic Integrity Pledge and I trust that you will all take this part of the assignment (to not consult outside sources for this exam) seriously.  While you are NOT required to mention these secondary sources, if you wish you can refer to them.  Be sure to include proper citations for them in your Works Cited.

Tips for Writing Your Midterm Exam

  • Be sure to give your mini-essays each a creative, specific title. Please do not name your essay “Dante Paper 1” and “Dante Paper 2.”
  • Focus on analyzing one passage per mini-essay. You will have the option of writing about other moments in Inferno for future assignments.
  • Be careful not to argue that you definitely know what the writer intended to convey. Whatever Dante’s intentions, Inferno remains open to multiple, sometimes conflicting interpretations. In your essays, you should argue for your interpretation whenever possible, but be careful not to assume that you have successfully ‘read’ the writer’s mind.
  • Be sure that you include concrete, textual evidence. Keep in mind that carefully analyzing parts of the text/s (for example, language, patterns, scenes, details) is critical in this exam; it helps you demonstrate and explain your ideas to your readers.
  • Feel free to develop an idea that you shared in your synchronous discussion session or posted on our discussion boards. This exam can be the perfect place to work through a question or aspect of a text that you have been contemplating.
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