Among the most dynamic and influential literary texts of the European sixteenth century, Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (1532) emerged from a world whose horizons were rapidly changing. The poem is a prism through which to examine various links in the chain of interactions that characterized the Mediterranean region from late antiquity through the medieval period into early modernity and beyond. Ariosto and the Arabs takes as its point of departure Jorge Luis Borges’s celebrated short poem “Ariosto y los Arabes” (1960), wherein the Furioso acts as the hinge of a past and future literary culture circulating between Europe and the Middle East. The Muslim “Saracen”—protagonist of both historical conflict and cultural exchange—represents the essential “Other” in Ariosto’s work, but Orlando Furioso also engages with the wider network of linguistic, political, and faith communities that defined the Mediterranean basin of its time.
The sixteen contributions assembled here, produced by a diverse group of scholars who work on Europe, Africa, and Asia, encompass several intertwined areas of analysis—philology, religious and social history, cartography, material and figurative arts, and performance—to shed new light on the relational systems generated by and illustrative of Ariosto’s great poem.
This volume examines the Italian Renaissance revival as a Pan-European phenomenon of critique, commentary and re-shaping of a nineteenth-century present perceived a deeply problematic. Sweeping the humanistic disciplines—history, literature, music, art, architecture, collecting etc—This phenomenon located between historical nostalgia and critique of the contemporary world marked the oeuvre of as diverse a group of figures as Jean August Dominique Ingres and EM Forster, Heinrich Geymüller and Adolf von Hildebrand, Jules Michelet and Jacob Burckhardt, H.H. Richardson and Rainer Maria Rilke, Giosuè Carducci and Francesco de Sanctis. Though some perceived it as a “Golden Age”, a model for the present, some cast it as a negative example, contrasting the resurgence of the arts with the decadence of society and the loss of an ethical and political conscience thus revealing that the triumphalist model had its detractors and that the reaction to the Renaissance was more complex than it may at first appear. Through a series of essays by a group of international scholars the volume recovers some of the multi-dimensionality of the reaction to, transformation of and commentary on the Italian Renaissance and its ties to nineteenth-century modernity, as seen both from within (by Italians) and from without (by foreigners, expatriates, travellers, scholars etc). The essays seek out the connections between the Italian Renaissance and the nineteenth-century present, comparing different visions and interpretations and bringing out the characteristic features of the phenomenon: from the reformation of Italian history in popular culture to the interest in the strong personalities of literature, from artistic ambitions to recreate Renaissance architectural works to the fascination with Giotto and fifteenth-century Florence.
Lina Bolzoni is professor of Italian Literature at Scuola Normale Superiore. At the Scuola Normale Superiore she is a founding director of the Centre for Data Processing of Texts and Images in Literary Tradition.
Alina Payne is Alexander P. Misheff Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University and Paul E. Geier Director of Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence.