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THE POLITICS OF FEELING: LOCUS, PATHOS, AND EMPIRE IN GUTIERRE DE CETINA’S “SI DE ROMA EL ARDOR” Javier Lorenzo East Carolina University I s it inborn in us or produced by some trick that when we see the places in which we have heard that famous men performed great deeds, we are more moved than by hearing or reading their exploits?” [Naturane nobis hoc, inquit, datum dicam an errore quodam, ut, cum ea loca videamus, in quipus memoria dignos viros acceperimus multum esse versatos, magis moveamur, quam si quando forum ipsorum aut facta audiamus aut scriptum aliquod legamus?] (V.i.2). The question, posed by Marcus Piso to his friends as they stroll through theAthenian landscape of theAcademy in book V of Cicero’s De finibus, would acquire new relevance fourteen hundred years later during a visit that Petrarch made to Rome. As he walked through the ancient Forum (a wilderness of ruins covered by grazing sheep and overgrown vegetation), Petrarch felt so “overwhelmed by . . . the wonder of so many things and by the greatness of (his) astonishment” [miraculo rerum tantarum et stuporis mole obrutus] (Familiares II.14), that he could not find the words to describe what he saw in the old caput mundi to his friend Giovanni Colonna. A few years later, during a visit to Mantua, the birth place of his beloved Virgil, Petrarch would experience again the same site-induced transport he felt in Rome.1 The record of this visit is in a letter addressed to the Roman poet in which Petrarch searches through the Mantuan landscape for traces of the presence of Virgil: Hinc tibi composui quae perlegio, otia nactus Ruris amica tui; quonam vagus avia calle Fusca sequi, quibus in pratis errare soleres “ CALÍOPE Vol. 15, No. 2, 2009: pp. 33-46 34 Javier Lorenzo ! ! ! ! ! Assidue mecum volvens, quam fluminis oram Quae curvi secreta lacus, quas arboribus umbras, Quas nemorum latebras collisque sedilia parvi Ambieris, cuius fessus seu cespitis herbam Presseris accubitu, seu ripam fontis amoeni; Atque ea praesentem mihi te specula reddunt.2 (Familiares 24.11) [It is here (Mantua) I have composed what you are reading, and have enjoyed the friendly repose of your rural fields. I wonder by what path in your wanderings you sought the unfrequented glades, through what meadows you were wont to stroll, what river shore you pursued, what recess in the curving banks of the lake, what shady groves, what forest strongholds. And I wonder too what hilly turf you sought where in your weariness you pressed your elbow upon the grass or upon the bank of a charming spring. Such sights bring you vividly to my eyes]. (341) There is much here of that “historical solitude” or sense of abandonment that, according to Thomas Greene, was the result of early humanism’s awareness of the unavailability of the classical past, but there is also an attempt to minimize that awareness by tuning into the pathos or emotional energy that emanates from the surroundings.3 Walking around Mantua, Petrarch feels as stirred as he felt in Rome, using the paths, fields, and streams that crisscross the landscape of the northern Italian city to conjure up a vivid mental picture of Virgil. That picture may be simply the result of wishful thinking or selfdeception (an errore, as Marcus Piso put it to his friends in Cicero’s De finibus), but its ability to make the past come to life highlights to what extent the humanist project of cultural renewal hinged upon the interplay between locus and pathos, geography and emotion. For later generations of humanists, writing in an age of budding nation-states and emerging empires, the emotional appeal that men like Petrarch attached to places served purposes more political than cultural. More than a vehicle to resurrect the ancient past and reconnect with classical civilization, the pathetic value of geography that early humanism had discovered through the work of writers, travelers, archaeologists, and collectors became an effective tool to legitimize the founding myths of modern nations and the imperialist policies 35 GUTIERRE DE CETINA’S “SI DE ROMA EL ARDOR” ! ! ! ! ! espoused by their ruling elites.4 This more obvious politicization of the humanist interest...


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