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Genealogies of Fiction: Women Warriors and the Medieval Imagination in the "Orlando furioso"

Genealogies of Fiction: Women Warriors and the Medieval Imagination in the "Orlando furioso"

Eleonora Stoppino
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    Genealogies of Fiction: Women Warriors and the Medieval Imagination in the "Orlando furioso"
    Book Description:

    Genealogies of Fiction is a study of gender, dynastic politics, and intertextuality in medieval and Renaissance chivalric epic, focused on Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando furioso. Relying on the direct study of manuscripts and incunabula, this project challenges the fixed distinction between medieval and early modern texts and reclaims medieval popular epic as a key source for the Furioso. Tracing the formation of the character of the warrior woman, from the amazon to Bradamante, the book analyzes the process of gender construction in early modern Italy. By reading the tension between the representations of women as fighters, lovers, and mothers, this study shows how the warrior woman is a symbolic center for the construction of legitimacy in the complex web of fears and expectations of the Northern Italian Renaissance court.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4938-1
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction (pp. 1-17)

    When Ludovico Ariosto wrote theOrlando furioso, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the northern Italian court of Ferrara was a vital center of humanistic and chivalric culture, and its lords, the Este, were enjoying unprecedented political prestige. In the city that had nurtured learned humanists such as Guarino da Verona and Tito Vespasiano Strozzi, Matteo Maria Boiardo’sInamoramento de Orlandohad established a new point of reference for chivalric poetry. At the same time, three important marriages—that of Ercole d’Este to Eleonora d’Aragona (1473), of Isabella d’Este to the Marquis of Mantua Francesco Gonzaga (1490), and of...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Marriage by Duel: Genealogies of the Warrior Woman (pp. 18-57)

    When the warrior heroine Bradamante appears for the first time in canto I of theOrlando furiosoas an unknown white-armored knight, the effect may be lost on modern readers. The drama that her arrival achieves is not the same for us as for Ariosto’s contemporaries, becausewecan wonder who the knight is, even after we find out her name, whiletheywere already familiar with Bradamante. For them, this momentous appearance was the continuation of a story told many times before. The history of chivalric characters is by default multitextual. Their personalities and choices were determined not only...

  7. CHAPTER TWO An Amazonian Past: Female Rule and the Threat of Illegitimacy (pp. 58-87)

    Bradamante, Marfisa, and the other female warriors that populate the Renaissance chivalric tradition, like Rovenza, Ancroia, Trafata, and Fanarda, or Pulci’s Antea, are all free agents, individual warriors that happen to be women. Like the warrior Camilla of Virgilian memory, they are members of an army, albeit very visible ones. What is, then, the distinction between these figures and their classical ancestors, the Amazons? Ariosto offers a possible answer to this question with the tale of the “femine omicide,” the murderous women of cantos XIX and XX, introducing in his poem a state entirely composed of and ruled by female...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Paradox of Helen: Genealogies and Textual Hierarchies in Orlando furioso, Canto XXXIV (pp. 88-115)

    Historians of the Renaissance in Italy have observed a consistent process of crystallization of male roles within the familial and social structures, paralleled by a multiplication of female roles:

    The social interventionism of the early fifteenth-century state produced official definitions of the roles of men and women in society, fashioning a prescriptive gender structure that hardened the differences between husbands and fathers (and by silent exclusion highlighted the otherness of unmarried male adults), and gave official standing to the variations and nuances of womanhood by vocation, age, marital status and social class.¹

    The popular epic tradition, with its overabundance of...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Poem as a Prophecy: Gendered Gifts in the Orlando furioso (pp. 116-148)

    In the Western canon, genealogical prophecies are given to men, by men, and are about men. Dynastic knowledge is transmitted from fathers to sons, in a replication of the patrilineal nature of family trees. In theAeneid, when Aeneas descends to the Underworld and receives prophetic knowledge of his future lineage, a female intermediary, the ancient Sybil, guides him to his destination. Yet it is his father Anchises who conjures the images of the souls in front of his son’s eyes and interprets them for him. Book VI of theAeneid, which contains this foundational episode, is punctuated by references...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Externi Thalami: The Orlando furioso as a Nuptial Epic (pp. 149-174)

    Weddings between members of the ruling classes were crucial events in the life of a Renaissance city. Carefully planned and lavishly funded processions, festive rituals, and celebrations stretched over months in palaces, churches, and streets. Every aspect of the marriage, from the bride’s abandonment of the paternal house to the encounter of the newlyweds in the nuptial chamber, was represented and ritualized.¹ The centrality of these events is clear in the artistic productions that accompanied them: hundreds of epithalamia, orations, and celebratory poems took their place alongside the paintings, frescoes, and objects manufactured specifically for these occasions.² Along with the...

  11. CONCLUSION. Mixed Genealogies: The Orlando furioso as Hybrid Text (pp. 175-180)

    In the poem entitled “A Pio Rajna,” Eugenio Montale remembers his first and only meeting with the philologist (Montale 1977, 19). Rajna, “announced neither by the braying of oliphants nor by the clashing of Durendals,” appears to the poet as “one who made his nest among/ the interstices of the oldest sagas,/ almost a bird without wings known only/ to the paleornithologists/ or a model of whatHomo sapienswas/ before knowledge became sin.” Rajna’s nest in the trees of the old legends of the past becomes for Montale a privileged site for understanding the nonlinearity of time, its horizontal...

  12. NOTES (pp. 181-226)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 227-254)
  14. INDEX (pp. 255-268)