The starters, class discussions, and blog postings have all been very connected for me. That seems like a very obvious thing to say (of course the starter topics set the tone for the class, and of course these thoughts are still at least somewhere in our minds as we’re writing the blogs), yet the way in which these three media start with something quite personal, move to a public discussion, then return to a more private, small-group setting really helps to process these ideas fully. In terms of the starters and blogs, there’s been a cycle throughout the term. We began the term writing on a very personal level about a time when we found ourselves in a dark wood, then moved into more theological/philosophical writing (in this group anyway), and now we’ve recently returned to the personal when talking and writing about our views of heaven.
This cycle of personal views and larger, more abstract ideas interestingly corresponds to the evolution of this group’s rapport. We began on friendly, if rather formal, terms, then became a bit frustrated with each other, and now we’re back on friendly ground with a good sense of familiarity and camaraderie. I don’t think these two cycles are coincidental. Not only do we naturally become more personal as friendships develop and get less so as they diminish, but also the movement of the Comedy has influenced all of us to react this way. Most of us have had an idea of or opinion about heaven and hell for the majority of our lives, so we are more comfortable articulating that. The workings of purgatory, however, are less familiar to many students and so we began discussing the big picture of it all in order to better process the idea.
I really enjoyed this process of immediate reaction thoughts, then class discussion, then more reflective writing. It’s enabled me to interrogate my long-held beliefs and compare them to other, sometimes similar and at times very different, views. The best thing about it all is that these religious and world views are often things we as students don’t discuss in such a large setting and for such an extended amount of time (probably because some ideas are contentious and there’s a fear of offending). It’s been refreshing to not only hear these views, but read the free-written thoughts and reflective blogs.
My blogs have usually run right along with the subjects of the starters, but they have diverged at times as well. Sometimes this divergence has been to follow an idea presented by another group member, and other times it has been because I really made a connection between Dante’s writing and pop culture, like when I wrote about A River Runs Through It. Overall, I have taken the subjects of the starters and expanded my initial thoughts by looking through the text, listening to the class discussion, and reading my group members’ posts.