Genealogies of Fiction: Women Warriors and the Dynastic Imagination in the Orlando Furioso

Genealogies of Fiction: Women Warriors and the Dynastic Imagination in the Orlando Furioso

Genealogies of Fiction: Women Warriors and the Dynastic Imagination in the Orlando Furioso

Genealogies of Fiction: Women Warriors and the Dynastic Imagination in the Orlando Furioso

Synopsis

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 betweenmedieval 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 womanis a symbolic center for the construction of legitimacy in the complex web of fears and expectations of the Northern Italian Renaissance court.

Excerpt

Delle idee, non ho paura; bensì, la dove si tratta di scienza, ho paura
di ciò che senza essere idea se ne dà l’aria; ho paura delle concezioni
subiettive; ho paura di quel fenomeno per cui nelle nubi ci accade di
veder draghi, giganti, eserciti, castelli, che, vissuti un momento nella
nostra fantasia, bentosto si trasformano e si dissolvono.

[Ideas I do not fear; rather, when it comes to science, I fear what
pretends to be an idea; I fear subjective conceptions; I fear the phe
nomenon that makes us see dragons, giants, armies, castles in the
clouds—all things that, having lived for a moment in our fantasy,
soon change and disappear.]

— PIO RAJNA

When Ludovico Ariosto wrote the Orlando 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’s Inamoramento de Orlando had 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 Alfonso d’Este to Lucrezia Borgia (1501)—were both a symptom and the cause of the rise of this small northern court on the political scene of Italy. These marriages also marked a new trend in the court’s history. For the first time, prestige and power were concentrated in the hands of the wives: women were acquiring a space within the dynastic structure of power.

These women relied on narratives of legitimation specifically tied to the culture of Ferrara in order to acquire and maintain . . .

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