Wesleyan University, Dante, and Me

Dante’s Hell, With Those Who Can Relate

An article in the New York Times, Sunday, December 26th, rocked me for the simplest of all reasons – I thought I was the only one.  Two Wesleyan professors teach Dante’s Inferno to inmates at prisons in New York and Connecticut, for a host of reasons best left to the article.  I wrote them this week:

I read Sunday’s article with particular interest – I am an attorney, I successfully sued my way out of a Connecticut prison in April after 4 and one half years in State and Federal prisons. As the product of a Dominican college, I was consistently reminded of Dante’s travels while I traversed 10 prisons in five state. I made constant reference to The Inferno, reread it thoroughly once, kept a copy around for reference for several months, know of at least four fellow inmates who got sick of my references and read it themselves – all were consistent in both their praise and the impact of the work on them.

 I wrote a novel in prison that takes place in the Civil War, I employed more than a few references to Dante (and Medieval travel tales) . . . so, all in all, the Time’s piece struck me hard. 

If you would like to hear the impression of someone ‘from the inside’, I would very much welcome the
opportunity to meet, anytime. In any event, I think what you are doing is remarkable and wish you all the best as you continue this program.

That says it all, I always have, and always will, put the experience somewhere below the flaming desert, like Dante, my circles are inhabited by former acquaintances, unlike Dante I am clinging, however tenuously, to my real Beatrice. 

I’ve been invited to meet with the professors when they return from sabbatical late summer – I will most certainly do so.


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