Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Proclaiming a Classic

Proclaiming a Classic: The Canonization of Orlando Furioso

Daniel Javitch
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvz0v
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Proclaiming a Classic
    Book Description:

    Despite its immediate popularity and its acclaim as a modern equal of the ancient epics, Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (published in its final version in 1532) was for learned readers a perplexing work: it mixed romance, epic, and lyric poetry, poked fun at its marvelous and outmoded chivalric matter, contained many interrupted narrative threads, and included base and lowborn characters. In exploring the literary debates involved in elevating the Furioso to the rank of a classic, Daniel Javitch maintains that this was the first work of modern poetry to provoke widespread critical controversy, and that the contestation played an inaugural role in the formation of the European poetic canon. The Furioso was seen by its early publishers to embody the formal, thematic, and functional characteristics of the highly esteemed epics of antiquity. Some critics, however, found in this poem new forms and functions that seemed better suited to modern times; still others denied the work any form of legitimacy. Showing how the Furioso became a locus upon which various and conflicting ideologies could be projected, Javitch argues that such a development offers the best indication of a poem's having achieved canonicity.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6180-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-9)

    In the contemporary debate about the literary canon there are those who believe that canonicity is created by a culture for specific reasons. The canon, maintain some in this camp, is the institutionalization of those literary texts that appear best to convey and sustain the interests of the dominant social order. The “essentialists” in the opposing camp deny this by pointing to the internal qualities of canonical works, arguing that such qualities constitute the superiority of these works and earn them their canonical status. Those who maintain that canonicity is a cultural production challenge these claims of innate superiority by...

  5. Chapter One THE SUCCESS OF ORLANDO FURIOSO IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
    (pp. 10-20)

    It has been assumed thatOrlando Furiosobecame a best-seller only after it appeared in its final form in 1532. But the second version of the poem, first published in 1521, had already been reissued at least fifteen times and had, in the decade after it appeared, a significant impact on the development of Italian chivalric romance. The third and final version of the poem, originally published in 1532 (Ariosto died the following year) enjoyed an even greater success: it was republished sixteen times by 1540, and after that it began to be reprinted every year by several different publishers,...

  6. Chapter Two THE LEGITIMATION OF ORLANDO FURIOSO
    (pp. 21-47)

    Had the new Aristotelians not so persistently denied that theFuriosoequaled the greatest ancient heroic poems, the volume of discourse generated by the poem would have been significantly diminished. Such adversarial criticism clearly provoked the first extensive appraisals of theFuriosoproduced in the cinquecento.¹ We already saw that Simone Fornari’s 1549 “Apologia,” one of the earliest defenses of the poem, was written explicitly as an answer to the neo-Aristotelian attack he records. The same sort of opposition is described in a letter from G. B. Pigna to Giovambattista Giraldi supposedly written in 1548, the year before Fornari attested...

  7. Chapter Three COMMENTARIES ON IMITATIONS IN ORLANDO FURIOSO
    (pp. 48-70)

    Midcentury Venetian publishers and editors played a vital role, as the last chapter showed, in promoting theFuriosoas the modern equivalent of the ancient epics. In their efforts to bestow the status of a classic on Ariosto’s poem, they presented it in large, annotated, and illustrated editions—in a format, that is, that had been reserved for editions of canonical ancient authors. The text of the poem was supplemented with prefaces, biographies, allegorizations, glossaries, and commentaries designed to enhance the value of the work, mainly by associating it with the great poems of antiquity. Among these various “paratexts” the...

  8. Chapter Four AFFILIATIONS WITH OVID’S METAMORPHOSES
    (pp. 71-85)

    While the main trend among Ariosto’s midcentury promoters was to affiliate his poem to Virgil’s epic, by the 1560s one finds that theFuriosois increasingly associated with another Latin poem, in many ways more closely kindred: Ovid’sMetamorphoses. The features shared by the two poems, especially the multiplicity and the variety of their narratives, are often invoked in contrast with the unity of Homeric and Virgilian epic. In fact, by the last third of the century, efforts to dissociate Ariosto’s poem from classical epic may well have been reinforced by the kinship increasingly perceived between it and theMetamorphoses....

  9. Chapter Five CRITICAL RESPONSES TO NARRATIVE DISCONTINUITY IN ORLANDO FURIOSO
    (pp. 86-105)

    I indicated at the start of this book that, from the midcentury on, critics perceived that theFuriosoviolated several of the basic Horatian-Aristotelian principles that were being established as requisites for heroic poetry and that they attacked the poem for these transgressions. As early as 1548, G. B. Pigna had reported, as we saw, that objections were being voiced about the poem’s tide not corresponding to its main subject, its many and confusing actions, its lack of continuity, its excessive dependence on magic and the supernatural, and its author’s failure to observe decorum. Forty years later one finds Ariosto’s...

  10. Chapter Six LIONARDO SALVIATI’S DEFENSE OF ORLANDO FURIOSO
    (pp. 106-122)

    Atthe end of my account of the preliminary legitimation ofOrlando Furioso, I pointed out that already by the 1560s the efforts to affiliate the poem to the canonical epics of antiquity were losing ground. Not only were the new Aristotelians making it progressively evident that the norms Aristode and Horace were taken to have prescribed for the epic were not satisfied by Ariosto’s romance; at the same time that these neoclassicists were under mining claims for theFurioso’s epic ancestry, Giraldi’s progressive argument that it was a modern romanzo composed according to different principles from those characterizing Greek and...

  11. Chapter Seven OTHER DEFENSES OF ORLANDO FURIOSO IN THE 1580s
    (pp. 123-133)

    The sense one is left with at the end of theInfarinato secondo—thatOrlando Furiosohas become a site of contestation over issues that are beyond the poem—is reinforced by the different and contradictory claims made in other defenses of the poem in the 1580s. Salviati’s effort to preserve the epic identity of theFuriosonotwithstanding, an ongoing defensive trend—which I will examine shortly—was to reaffirm the claim that Ariosto’s romanzo constituted a modern kind of poetry different from ancient epic and exempt from Aristotelian and Horatian rules. But some of Ariosto’s defenders took yet another...

  12. Chapter Eight HARINGTON’S ENGLISH REFRACTIONS OF ORLANDO FURIOSO
    (pp. 134-157)

    Italian claims that theFuriosowas a poem equal to the ancient epics were gradually propagated outside of Italy in the latter half of the sixteenth century. As in Italy, other European readers began to recognize the poem as a modern classic largely because publishers presented it to them as such. For example, by 1553, Hieronimo de Urrea’s Spanish verse translation of theFurioso(first published in 1549) was issued by Gabriel Giolito in Venice in exactly the same format (including Dolce’s commentary in Spanish) as his successful editions of the original. The several editions of this Spanish version of...

  13. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 158-166)

    In the last section of hisOsservationi nella volgar lingua(1550), where Lodovico Dolce reviews the various forms of Italian poetry, he presents the history of the development ofottave rime(orstanze, as he also calls them) in the following manner:

    Il Boccaccio . . . ne fu inventore, e primo in esse materia di arme descrisse. Dapoi nella seguente eta alcuni bassi ingegni, parendo Ioro questo modo di rimar facile, in cantar diverse menzogne e favole di Orlando e de Paladini Ie adoperorarono, di maniera, che per lungo tempo in queste non si raccolse cose degne di esser...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 167-198)
  15. PRIMARY WORKS CONSULTED
    (pp. 199-202)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 203-205)