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The Epics of Lepanto: Between Tradition and Innovation

Maxim Rigaux

University of Chicago

What can scholars of early modern epic gain by looking at classical epic and vice versa? In my paper I will tackle this question by examining two epics that were written in the wake of the battle of Lepanto (October 7, 1571) by Iberian authors. The first one is the Austrias Carmen of Juan Latino, a former black slave of the high-ranking Fernández de Córdoba family and professor of Latin at the University of Granada. This short Latin epic of two books is placed at the end of a volume of poetry that recalls the festivities in Granada, celebrating both the naval victory and the birth of Philip II's son don Fernando (December 4, 1571). While the allusions to Vergil's Aeneid appear to merely be epigonic in a reverential fashion, recent studies (Wright, Lemons) have shown that the poet's use of classical literature is much more sophisticated and functional. Latino's recurrent use of the apostrophe to his patron Deza in these passages is not only atypical of classical epic; it also urges us to reread the epic in a different manner. The apostrophic utterances incite the narratee to a reading with the inner eye of his/her mind. The second epic I will discuss is Pedro Manrique's La Victoria, a poem of twenty cantos in Castilian octaves and dedicated to John of Austria, hero of Lepanto and Philip's half-brother. The manuscript, which I discovered in the Mazarine Library, has gone unnoticed by previous scholars of Lepanto literature and offers interesting new insights, not only in the literary history of Hispanic epic poetry (the prologue is signed as early as April 20, 1573), but also in the poetics of Manrique. The latter, a soldier and eyewitness of the battle, heavily draws on the mythological apparatus to represent the victory in an allegorical way. Another voice of what Martínez recently coined the 'soldierly republic of letters,' Manrique identifies with this group and stresses the need of military experience to narrate technical details of naval warfare. Nevertheless, to corroborate his argument, he refers to the rhetorical treatise of Quintilian. In La Naval, the poet's rewriting of the epic (undated and without preliminary material), Manrique not only considerably increases the number of verses, but also omits direct intervention by classical gods. For my talk, I rely on studies dealing with intertextuality (e.g. Martindale, Hardie) and the text/image relationship (e.g. Plett).

Session/Panel Title

Classical and Early Modern Epic: Comparative Approahces and New Perspectives

Session/Paper Number

10.3

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