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  • Roidis and the Borrowed Muse: British Historiography, Fiction and Satire in Pope Joan by Foteini Lika
  • Alexander Grammatikos (bio)
Foteini Lika, Roidis and the Borrowed Muse: British Historiography, Fiction and Satire in Pope Joan. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019. Pp. xiii + 295. Cloth £47.99.

Drawing upon Gérard Genette's theory of architextuality, Foteini Lika provides the first monograph-length analysis of the wide range of sources—most notably, those of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British authors—which inspired Greek novelist Emmanouil Roidis's Pope Joan (Η Πάπισσα Ιωάννα), first published in 1866. [End Page 255]

In the Introduction to her book, Lika charts Pope Joan's controversial history and explains that various nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers, including Michail Damalas, Charilaos Meletopoulos, and Alkis Thrylos, criticized the novel for everything from its generic hybridity to its borrowing from other texts. According to Lika, "these evaluations found their official sanction" (4) in Konstantinos Th. Dimaras's highly influential History of Modern Greek Literature (1949). In the 1980s, however, Pope Joan underwent a dramatic reassessment: "for the first time, it was analyzed as a multi-layered rhetorical synthesis in terms of politics and ideology, intertextuality and reader-oriented criticism" (6). For example, Dimitris Tziovas has stressed "the importance of a comparative and reader-oriented examination of Pope Joan with other British texts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries" (7), while Athina Georganta has demonstrated the novel's European influences with a particular emphasis on Lord Byron. With these types of scholarly preoccupations established, Lika moves on to the heart of her study.

In Chapter One, Lika charts the novel's moments of marked intertextuality (both in the main body of the text and in the notes), as well as borrowings from texts that go unacknowledged by the author. According to Lika, Pope Joan's primary influence was Pierre Gustave Brunet's Curiosités Théologiques (1861), "a manual that comprises diverse paradoxes, mostly of theological interest, such as apocryphal narrations, legends, miracles, superstitions and peculiar ideas shared by ancient and modern peoples" (21). While Roidis claims in his notes to be citing authors such as l'abbé Migne or Michel Guérin, he is in fact copying Brunet's citations of these sources. Intriguingly, Lika suggests that Roidis uses references in ways that allows them to "retain some of their initial referential burden," while they are "at the same time … imbued with new meaning because of the different context that he had in mind" (46).

In Chapter Two, Lika explains that while Roidis, in writing his novel, openly acknowledges his dependence on Spyridon Zambelios's Byzantine Studies (1857)—a book that sought to secularize medieval Greek history—he was less open about his use of Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–1788). As Lika details, however, both Gibbon and Roidis emphasize the connection between ancient Greek pagan idolatry and Byzantine iconolatry (and hence ways in which Christian faith retains pagan cultural practices), though Roidis takes Gibbon's mocking of medieval Greeks a step further by "linking the Byzantines to the superstitious Greeks of the nineteenth century" (77). By adopting Gibbon's "dismissive and enlightened views" (88) of medieval Greek history, Roidis ends up following the British historian in orientalizing this period. This chapter also examines Roidis's admiration of [End Page 256] historian Thomas Babington Macaulay's ability to intertwine history and fiction in his writing. Lika, however, characterizes Macaulay's blending of history and fiction as straightforward and sincere, but defines Roidis's as "considerably more self-conscious, ironic and subversive" (107).

While Chapter Two gestures toward British novelist Sir Walter Scott's influence on Roidis, Chapter Three examines this literary engagement in greater depth. In particular, Lika discusses the historical framing apparatuses both authors use in their texts, including the prefaces, introductions, footnotes, and endnotes (i.e. their paratexts). Lika distinguishes Scott's willingness to use his imagination to create historical moments from Roidis's insistence upon the truthfulness of his account (i.e. his privileging of sources rather than fancy). In the second half of the chapter, Lika compares Scott's and Roidis's textual thematics; this section...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 255-258
Launched on MUSE
2020-04-28
Open Access
No
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