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Fortune and Romance: Boiardo in America.

Jo Ann Cavallo and Charles Ross, eds. Fortune and Romance: Boiardo in America.

(Medieval & Renaissance Texts and Studies, 183.) Tempe: MRTS, 1998. 15 pls. + 37lpp. $30. ISBN: 0-86698-225-6.

Matteo Maria Boiardo. Amorum libri tres.

Ed. Tiziano Zanato. Torino: Giulio Einaudi, 1998. lx + 593 pp. IL 90,000 ISBN: 88-06-14713-7.

The variety of the essays edited by Jo Ann Cavallo and Charles Ross, the majority of which stem from the American Boiardo Quincentennial Conference held at Columbia University in 1994, gives a good view of the major part of the current American scholarship on the subject and of the new as well as of the long-tested critical trends it employs. Aptly positioned at the opening of the section titled "Fortune" is David Quint's "On the Fortunes of Morgana," which traces a history of reception of Orlando Innamorato through the imitations of that episode, and shows how, in a period of great cultural and moral changes, the multiplicity and the open-endedness of Morgana's story became the emblem of the poem and its confidence in the outcome of the knights' struggles against Fortune. Centered on the correlation between fortuna and ventura is James Nohrnberg's "Orlando's Opportunity," a study of various manifestations of fortune and the means by which to dominate them. Michael Murrin's essay, "Trade and Fortune," consid ers the mercantilistic implications in the struggle between Morgana and Manodante, where traces of the classical myths of the Golden Fleece and of Theseus's adventures in the labyrinth are also present. With Jo Ann Cavallo's "Denying Closure: Ariosto's Rewriting of the Orlando Innamorato," the reader is brought back to the longer perspective of the chivalric tradition. Hers is a complex, at times elaborate, study of Ariosto's creative strategy, and of the possible thematic and structural reasons for suppressing the Laughing Stream episode and reworking the battle of Paris.

The following sections are dedicated to "Romance" and to "Humanism and Literacy." Werner Gundersheimer's "Ben comprendo la vergogna" traces the presence of the emotion of shame and effectively argues for its relevance to the sense of dignity and honor with which Boiardo endows his knights. Manuele Gragnolati's and John McMichaels's essays are intertextual investigations of Boiardo's conception of desire and reason, and of his views on true and false love, respectively. A feminist approach colors Charles Ross's essay, "Damsel in Distress? Ogirille's Subjectivity," where Origille's story is upgraded from example of misogyny to a model of personal development in response to a society hampering women's subjectivity. In "Bella Istoria, Vera Istoria, and Boiardo's Competent Reader" Richard F. Sorrentino competently analyses how Boiardo recaptures the meraviglia of the recited text by playing the knowledgeable expectations of the court audience against the naive public of the cantari. Less plausible I found Michel Sherberg's paper on Boiardo's promotion of literacy among his peers, for he establishes his argument for their prevailing illiteracy by applying to the Ferrarese court statistical data drawn from the entire Florentine population. Kathleen Crozier Egan gathers literary evidence to suggest that the figure of Orrilo, the self-mending monster who employs magic for evil purposes may be a satiric counter-version of Pico della Mirandola's idea of the supremacy of man's intellect and will. Finally, in the section given to "The Arts in Ferrara," Joseph Manca's very suggestive contribution points out many similarities and convergences between Boiardo's poem and the work of contemporary painters -- some of these similarities, incidentally, could be observed even in Dosso Dossi's paintings recently exhibited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Jody Cranston and Katherine A. McIver analyze the Este court portrayal and Giulio Boiardo's apartment at Scandiano respectively, as discourses on prestige, lineage and power, while Leeman L. Perkins's essay is a study of musical culture and patronage in late Quattrocento Ferrara. The volume closes with a small but interesting section on Boiardo's minor works: Robert J. Rodini traces the disintegration of the self, and its thematic and rhetorical fields, in Amorum libri tres, while Nancy Dersofi brings to light the many influences and resonances to be found in Boiardo's Timone.

The collection is rich, varied and often stimulating. But as interesting as the individual papers may be -- and many are indeed argued with a great deal of intertextual dexterity -- the volume as a whole leaves the reader with an impression of disconnectedness. This is not so much because some essays refer to their subheading in a different sense than the others in the same section, or because a few interpretations of the socio-cultural context are at odds with those implied by others. It is rather due to the fact that, being the allegorical readings mostly and plausibly applied to individual episodes, a connection between the analytical discourse and an idea of how the total working structure of the poem comes into being is often lacking. This lack is not remedied, it is indeed increased, by the introduction, notwithstanding the obvious good intentions. The editors have done away with the customary presentation of the essays and with the concomitant task of explaining how they engage contemporary critical d iscourse. The introductory pages are organized instead into a first part dedicated to Orlando Innamorato's critical misfortunes, which skips over the profitable last decades of scholarship, and a second part given to the teaching the Innamorato, which soon veers into suggesting a series of intertextual comparisons of plots and meanings for classroom use. For the benefit of teachers and students, for whom the editors here seem preponderantly to be writing, it would have been better to address the critical issues of today's scholarship directly, and place the essays collected in the volume in that context.

Tiziano Zanato's new edition of Amorum libri tres, which has appeared in a series directed by Cesare Segre, offers a wealth of varied information, which makes it a very valuable tool not only for the reader of the poems, but for the scholar of the Innamorato as well. The notes and the individual introductions to the lyrics provide a commentary on technical and rhetorical features, and, with a profusion of intertextual references, testify to the interdependence of Boiardo's poetry with a myriad other texts, from the Bible to Latin literature, classical and modern, and to the Italian lyric tradition, in which Petrarch's Canzoniere stands our as the poet's model and counter-model. Of all these aspects the general introduction gives a well-reasoned overview. Furthermore, it details the diegetic structure of the collection, the numerological organization of its components and their intratextual relations. It illustrates Boiardo's handling of time, his representation of the beloved and of the world around her; and , with pertinent exemplification, points out the erotic nature of Boiardo's love, and his essentially areligious and joyous philosophy of life. Zanato, who is also the author of a critical edition of Amorum libri, has indeed given an admirable commentary, and it is hoped that he will prepare others like this one in the future.
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 1999
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