Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Chivalric Epic in Medieval Italy

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Chivalric Epic in Medieval Italy

Article excerpt

Juliann Vitullo, The Chivalric Epic in Medieval Italy (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001). XVI + 168 pp. ISBN 0-8130-1815-3. $55.00.

As its title suggests, this volume aims to focus on the early history of the genre and to consider the changes and developments in subject matter and approach as it evolved prior to its flowering in the later fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The choice of focus is very welcome, since there remains a considerable amount of research to be done on the genre in this period, not least in setting the literary texts in their social and cultural contexts. This Juliann Vitullo seeks to do in each of the three sections of her monograph.

In the first section, 'The chivalric epic in communal Italy', she takes up from suggestions advanced previously, in particular by Henning Krauss, which see the changes of emphasis in the texts as intimately related to the social structures of the Italian communes and the emerging signorie. This is a complex field, raising many questions of definition and interpretation (of terms such as feudal, chivalry, knighthood). Vitullo seeks to advance the argument by surveying both previous discussions and some of the key texts, but there are important weaknesses, both literary and historical, in her analysis - in particular in the repeated assumption that the texts of V(Marciana) 13 are by a single author (not the same thing as by a single scribe). The second section, 'Cultural cross-dressing', contains in its three chapters some interesting ideas, especially on clan and gender issues. The analysis, however, is too vague on chronology and historical development, and needs to show more clearly how the social factors seen as influencing the texts are particular to Italy at this time. …

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