Serious Play: Desire and Authority in the Poetry of Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto

Overview

Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto, premodern Europe's three greatest comic poets, found abundant cause for laughter in the foibles and follies of human desire. Yet they also excelled at the dangerous game of skewering the elites on whom they depended for patronage. The resulting depictions of addled lovers and rattled rulers create a unique dynamic of trenchant critique wrapped in amusing, enlightening, and disturbing fantasy, an achievement hailed as serio ludere, serious play, by ...

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Serious Play: Desire and Authority in the Poetry of Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto

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Overview

Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto, premodern Europe's three greatest comic poets, found abundant cause for laughter in the foibles and follies of human desire. Yet they also excelled at the dangerous game of skewering the elites on whom they depended for patronage. The resulting depictions of addled lovers and rattled rulers create a unique dynamic of trenchant critique wrapped in amusing, enlightening, and disturbing fantasy, an achievement hailed as serio ludere, serious play, by Renaissance theorists.

Through an imaginative analysis of Ovid's amatory poetry, Chaucer's dream poems and excerpts from the Canterbury Tales, and Ariosto's epic Orlando Furioso, Robert W. Hanning illuminates the contrast and continuities in often hilarious, always empathetic representations of bungled desire and thwarted political authority. He also documents the response of all three poets to the "authority" of cultural predecessors and poetic convention. Each poet lived through exciting times (Augustan Rome, late-medieval London, and high-Renaissance Italy, respectively) and their outsider-insider status links them as memorable speakers of comedic truth to power. Providing fresh perspectives on Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto within their rich historical moments, Serious Play isolates the elements that make their work so appealing centuries after they lived, observed, and wrote.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

Thoughtful, scholarly, [and] often humorous.

Speculum

[ Serious Play] delights and instructs.

Renaissance Quarterly

Hanning offers lively appreciations of three major poets whose works speak comic truth to cultural power.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231152105
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 9/23/2010
  • Series: Leonard Hastings Schoff Lectures Series
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert W. Hanning, a native of New York City, taught medieval and Renaissance literature at Columbia University for forty-five years before his retirement in 2006. He has also taught and lectured on issues of "race," ethnicity, and immigration in America. His books include The Vision of History in Early Britain, The Individual in Twelfth-Century Romance, and The Lais of Marie de France, cotranslated with Joan M. Ferrante.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface and AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. Ovid's Amatory Poetry: Rome in a Comic Mirror2. Chaucer: Dealing with the Authorities; Or, Twisting the Nose That Feeds You3. Ariosto's Orlando Furioso: Confusion Multiply Confounded; Or, Astray in the Forest of DesireIn Conclusion (or Inconclusion)EpilogueIndex

Columbia University Press

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