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206 BEATRICE CORRIGAN THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE AND ENGLISH LETTERS' Of the three books under review here dealing wholly or in part with Italian literature and its English offspring, only one, Dr. Brand's Torqtlato Tasso, is by an Italian specialist. The others are by members of departments of English who are also competent Italianists, a proof of the eagerness with which scholars, particularly in the United States, are now turning to comparative literature. According to Professor Durling's introduction and title, the subject of his book is the figure of the narrating poet in four Renaissance epics, by Boiardo, Ari05to, Tasso, and Spenser. It is obvious, however, that the work was not originally conceived in this form, and, indeed, part of the opening chapter, a study of Ovid and Horace, first appeared in the Classical Journal in 1958. The essays on Ariosto and Tasso have also been revised since their initial appearance in 1959 and 1963 respectively. Moreover, Petrarch is considered not as an epic but as a lyric poet: so, of course, are Ovid and Horace. What Professor Durling is concerned in establishing in these poets is a detachment from their material, an assumption that their knowledge of the situation they describe is superior to that of the characters involved in it. The poet is no longer, as in classical times, telling a story which is dictated to him by divine inspiration, but is consciously relating episodes which he himself has invented or read elsewhere. Thus a narrator is created who intervenes between the poet and the reader. The conception of the figure of the narrator is, of course, not new, but Professor Durling uses it with unusual freedom and sometimes brilliance. He is perhaps best in his treatment of the Latin poets, and of Petrarch, Boiardo, and Ariosto. His chapter on Petrarch has little to do, certainly, with the narrator, but he manages to say new and perceptive things about the structure of the Canzoniere and the theme of metamorphosis. An excellent essay on Boiardo presents him as an innovator who discusses within the poem his method of constructing it. This technique is perfected by Ariosto, often through the exordia, with a daring and sophistication in which he anticipates both Gide and Pirandello. How important it is for the narrator to win the sympathy of his readers is evident. Tasso unfortunately fails to do so with either Durling or Brand, perhaps because the critic likes to think of himself as superior to the poet, a fallacy which is contradicted by Tasso's lofty tone and nourished by Ariosto's urbane self-depreciation. Dr. Brand's book falls into three parts, not organized "'Robert M. Durling, The Figure of the Poet in Renaissance Epic. Boston, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 1965. Pp. viii, 280. $6.95. C. P. Brand, Torquato Tasso: A Study of the Poet and His Contribution to English Literature. London and New York: Cambridge University Press [Toronto: Macmillan of Canada]. 1965. Pp. xii, 344. $9.50. Louise George Clubb, Giambattista Della Porta: Dramatist. Princeton: Princeton University Press [Toronto: Saunders of Toronto]. 1965. Pp. xvi, 359. $8.50. THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE AND ENGLISH LETTERS 207 quite logically for, surely, the section on legends about Tasso should have been connected with the factual biography. The latter is marred by the author's startling antipathy to his subject. In a passage perhaps unique in twentieth-century criticism, Dr. Brand accuses Tasso of lacking (fcourage, patience, moral fibre, strength of will, shrewdness, Jove of his fellows, humility, dignity." Elsewhere he taxes him with "moral apathy." One is led to presume that a few terms at Rugby as a boy, under the unsparing supervision of Dr. Arnold, might have led to his regeneration. Brand admits that Tasso's letters are among the most delightful in Italian epistolary literature, but he fails to realize their occasional flashes of humour, and even takes seriously the poet's outrageous suggestion that he might turn Erminia into a nun to placate his censors. Neither Brand nor Durling gives any weight to the importance of Tasso's early religious training. One of the first European men of letters to have been taught by the Jesuits, the poet...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 206-208
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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