Standing at the threshold of this course and an exploration of the commonalities between both Morrison and Dante’s text, the first word that comes to mind would be conversations. How are we in conversation with each other, with our own thoughts, and among our individual interpretations? Additionally, how are the texts we read in conversation with each other? This is one question which I know based on the dynamic of our course already will certainly be answered by the firmament.
Where my background in Morrison’s work is limited, my understanding of Dante’s work supplements this and I feel that this understanding of Dante will assist me in making the connections between Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise. Based on even these first few classes, I began to see how these texts are in conversation with each other as we read Beloved and recognize the parallels in Inferno. I’m most curious about explorations into the inspiration Morrison found in the 14th century epic poem and how this influenced her writing.
One conversation which I feel has proved my peers and I some difficulty, which only leads to further discussion and exploration, would be how a 14th century text could relate to a novel from the 20th century. At first glance, it was challenging to relate the two based on not only their differences in times of publication but in the authors and the stories they’re telling further. From such different eras and perspectives, how to analyze the texts even to begin with is a vastly different approach. However, when it came time to read Beloved, with my experience reading Dante it seemed to click and make sense even without these connections and conversations being introduced within our class meeting period. When we did discuss these texts together rather than separately, these connections became more comprehensible.
One of the connections that has occupied my thoughts while reading and analyzing both works would be the significance of numbers and the role they play amongst the words of both Morrison and Dante. What is the relevance of Dante’s 33 cantos among three books, the division of the parts of hell, and that first line of Beloved, “124 was spiteful” with a lack of the number three- similar to the absence of Sethe’s third child? In particular, Morrison’s conversations of Sethe, Denver, and Beloved between pages 236 and 256 revolving around these characters and their relationship to Beloved I saw to highlight this importance of three- especially the ending lines of this excerpt repeated thrice, “You are mine, You are mine, You are mine” (256). Here is where I truly began to more closely examine Morrison’s craft and how the relationships of these characters are shaped by their experiences, both past and present, on their journey. I related this much to Dante’s journey through the three parts of Hell and how his pilgrimage also takes place at a point in his life where there is a notion of confusion and being lost at a midpoint in life.
The concept of the journey is one which I can both observe in our readings as well as have experienced in my own life, connecting back to the idea of the conversations that we can engage in with literature. Class discussions have led me to understand the journey that these characters choose, such as Denver being confined to 124 and all she’s known and her departure or Paul D and his return following his egress. The journeys of the characters of Beloved and how they seem to serve somewhat ironically can be mirrored within my own journey recently. As a childhood education major, the culmination of my undergraduate studies I’ve always anticipated as student teaching my final semester and finishing my degree in the classrooms that I will someday soon be teaching in. However, having completed student teaching prior to my final semester and returning to college classes to finish my concentration in English almost seemed backwards initially as I stood at the threshold of the semester. I’ve been preparing myself to teach and felt so comfortable in that position that I was anxious upon returning to the routine of college classes and once again becoming a student. Nonetheless, I’ve found that to be far from the case even only a few short weeks into the semester. I’ve regained my confidence in working with peers to examine the literature we read outside of class and what we can then bring to our class discussions to work through the language and our different interpretations. This current part of my journey is one which I was apprehensive of, and although initially I was anticipating teaching so much so it’s all I wanted to get right back into following my experience in the classroom this past semester, it’s one I’ve found easy to settle back into. I’ve even found that this part is exceedingly rewarding, much like teaching has been for me. I enjoy the time I’m able to sit down and read literature which I know I won’t be focusing on necessarily as I teach third graders how to multiply and divide or about precipitation cycles. Where I was anxious to return back to the classroom as a student rather than a teacher, I’m reminded that one of the highest beliefs I hold as a future educator myself is that learning and growth is never linear and definitely as a teacher I also hold the role of student simultaneously. This reminds me of the duality of Dante as both pilgrim and poet, and myself as both a teacher as well as a student, and how these roles must be considered both separately as well as together.
I feel the conversations which I have engaged with in this class have all the more increased my sense of belongingness, that despite being ready for this next chapter of my life I am fully anticipating as well as cherishing the threshold that we stand in not only at the beginning of a new term but also as many of us are preparing for careers, new paths that we may not have planned for, the semester in general, or any of the journeys we face throughout our lives. I’ve enjoyed the many different interpretations of Beloved and Inferno based on not only our experience or lack thereof with these texts but also how our connections to the text can be made with our lived experiences. I’ve appreciated hearing and coming to a better understanding of the individuals that make up our class as this is valuable awareness to have especially in a class where it’s our relationships we bring to the texts we read that make these conversations all the worthwhile.
All in all, while thinking of the conversations which we have already began to discuss along with the collaborative projects that will be done this semester, I feel that the comfortability with looping back in this course proves to our advantage and reinforces my thoughts on the journeys we are taking within the course and outside- and how these may be more related than it may appear initially. At this threshold, I am eager to challenge myself and my thinking through the connections and conversations that arise from both Morrison and Dante’s work and am anticipating my final semester of my journey here at Geneseo to be most influential and transformative!