There are several things I loved about my first day of Dante’s Inferno class at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. One is that our enthused instructor, Eva, immediately had us distinguish in our minds the difference between Dante the poet and Dante the pilgrim. The artist vs. the journeyman, so to speak.

As we went through Cantos I and II line by line, I was increasingly fascinated by what was unfolding and becoming more curious about what intricacies were to come. As Dante the pilgrim begins his quest to God and Virgil becomes his guide, the workings of Dante the poet’s mind begin to emerge.

In the story, Dante the poet gives Beatrice, his real-life love who has died and gone to his version of heaven, an exalted place as his savior. How reverential is that? She intervenes on his behalf, coercing Virgil to guide Dante the pilgrim on his journey.

It feels like prayer from an artist to his deceased loved one — Please, love, send someone to intercede on my behalf. The saving of my soul depends on it.

Hard to say who appreciates that more — Nancy the writer or Nancy the pilgrim. Just breathtaking.