The Ottoman Turks in the Literature and Thought of the Italian Renaissance, 1453-1571
Maria Pavlova holds a DPhil in Modern Languages from the University of Oxford, where she was a Joanna Randall MacIver Junior Research Fellow at St Hugh’s College from 2016 to 2018. Thereafter she joined the University of Warwick as an Early Career Leverhulme Fellow (2018-2021). Her research interests lie in Renaissance perceptions of the Islamic East, Italian chivalric and epic literature from Andrea da Barberino to Torquato Tasso, and Renaissance intellectual history. Her first monograph, Saracens and their World in Boiardo and Ariosto (2020), explores the figure of the religious and cultural Other in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italian chivalric texts with a special focus on the Inamoramento de Orlando and the Orlando furioso.
Following the conquest of the Byzantine capital by the forces of Mehmed II, the Ottoman Empire became a major player in the Mediterranean world and an integral part of Italian international politics. The Ottomans, who were variously seen as enemies of Christianity, a dangerous neighbor, a threat to the territorial integrity of European and Italian states, or a powerful and useful ally, exerted a strong pull on the Italian imagination. The aim of this project is to trace the evolution of the multi-faceted image of the Turk across different genres and cultural and political contexts in the long century between the Fall of Constantinople (1453) and the Battle of Lepanto (1571), showing that this image cannot be reduced to a set of Orientalist clichés. The main focus is on vernacular texts, including, but not limited to, novellas, comedies, chivalric romances, treatises, biographies of Turkish sultans, travelogues and letters written by ambassadors, agents and merchants who visited territories controlled by the Turks. As well as bringing to light the bewildering diversity and complexity of Italian perceptions of the Ottomans, this project explores the applicability and limitations of Edward Said’s postcolonial theory when used as a tool to study the formation of early modern identities.