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The Augustinian Epic, Petrarch to Milton

J. Christopher Warner

Publication Year: 2005

The Augustinian Epic, Petrarch to Milton rewrites the history of the Renaissance Vergilian epic by incorporating the neo-Latin side of the story alongside the vernacular one, revealing how epics spoke to each other "across the language gap" and together comprised a single, "Augustinian tradition" of epic poetry. Beginning with Petrarch's Africa, Warner offers major new interpretations of Renaissance epics both famous and forgotten—from Milton's Paradise Lost to a Latin Christiad by his near-contemporary, Alexander Ross—thereby shedding new light on the development of the epic genre. For advanced undergraduate students, graduate students, and scholars in the fields of Italian, English, and Comparative literatures as well as the Classics and the history of religion and literature.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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p. xi

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Introduction: Petrarch’s Culpa and Augustine’s Counsel

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pp. 1-19

This book offers a history of Renaissance epic poetry that starts at the beginning. It therefore starts with Petrarch’s tormented soul, which—if we accept the most brazen of his self-publicity—was a soul so exquisitely tormented that it fueled the energies that wrought the achievements that marked the dawn of the Renaissance after ages of darkness. Also, this history...

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1. Petrarch’s Culpa and the Allegory of the Africa

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pp. 20-50

That Petrarch’s Africa would pose challenging and interesting interpretive problems might seem, on its ‹rst encounter, an unlikely proposition. Its account of Scipio’s victory over Hannibal follows Livy’s narrative closely, and most of the details of Scipio’s prophetic dream upon his landing in Africa come right out of the Somnium Scipionis fragment of...

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2. Renaissance Allegories of the Aeneid: The Doctrine of the Two Venuses and the Epic of the Two Cities

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pp. 51-73

In the fifth discourse, Speroni repeats his criticism of Aeneas’s mother with even more exasperation: “she had Dido fall in love with Aeneas, and consented with Juno that they would be wedded, to the harm of Venus and to the satisfaction of Juno. A ridiculous affair.”2...

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3. Petrarch’s Culpa in Gerusalemme liberata

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pp. 74-107

In the Folger Shakespeare Library is a copy of one of the first editions of Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata (Ferrara, 1581), replete with marginal notes and verses in Italian and English that were penned by various seventeenth- and eighteenth-century hands. Those that do not serve the purpose of elucidation are laudatory, but for one...

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4. The Epic Imitation of Christ: Marco Girolamo Vida’s Christiad

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pp. 108-134

With this chapter, I move from unveiling the “hidden truths” of the allegorical epics to conducting rhetorical analyses of the biblical epics—the Christiads by Marco Girolamo Vida and Alexander Ross and John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Despite the obvious “allegorical elements” in these poems, such as the personi‹cations of Sin and Death in Milton’s epic,...

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5. Vergil the Evangelist: The Christiad of Alexander Ross

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pp. 135-155

The Christiad that is the subject of this chapter represents nothing less than the ultimate Augustinian conversion of the epic form, and it is a truly stunning accomplishment. But even universal agreement on these points is unlikely to repair the legacy of its author, Alexander Ross (1590–1654). Born...

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6. Augustinian Epic in Paradise Lost

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pp. 156-182

Every Miltonist will have recognized in the preceding chapters that my analyses of the Christiads by Marco Girolamo Vida and Alexander Ross argue a “way of working” that anticipates the method of Paradise Lost as Stanley Fish interprets it in his landmark study Surprised by Sin. This...

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Afterword: Augustinian Epic in Romance Epic—Rejections on Spenser’s Faerie Queene

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pp. 183-194

For some readers, possibly, the rhetoric of my argument in chapter 6, especially the final section’s characterization of Milton’s answer to what could only be, for him, an unacceptable binary opposition in the Augustinian epic between being a prisoner to lust and living a life of contemplative...


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pp. 195-243


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pp. 245-264


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pp. 265-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780472026807
E-ISBN-10: 0472026801
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472115181
Print-ISBN-10: 0472115189

Page Count: 282
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 651663019
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Augustinian Epic, Petrarch to Milton

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Subject Headings

  • Epic poetry, European -- History and criticism.
  • Petrarca, Francesco, 1304-1374. Secretum.
  • European poetry -- Renaissance, 1450-1600 -- History and criticism.
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