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

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

by Robert Hanning
     
 

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Comic poets are inspired best by the bittersweet nature of their art-the thrill of skewering the world's power elite while nevertheless being dependent on their support. Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto were extremely attuned to the dynamics of this relationship, with Ovid suffering most from his comedic missteps. Their audacity and acute insight are the very elements

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Overview

Comic poets are inspired best by the bittersweet nature of their art-the thrill of skewering the world's power elite while nevertheless being dependent on their support. Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto were extremely attuned to the dynamics of this relationship, with Ovid suffering most from his comedic missteps. Their audacity and acute insight are the very elements that make their work so appealing centuries after their subjects have stumbled off the stage.

Through a careful and 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 identifies the comic mastery that turns these poets' trenchant critique into such amusing, enlightening, and disturbing fantasy. This technique, termed serio ludere, or serious play, by Renaissance theorists, is especially compelling when studied through these writers and their politically powerful audiences. Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto are not often studied together, but each lived in exciting times (Augustan Rome, late-medieval London, and high-Renaissance Italy, respectively), and their unique position as outsider-insiders afforded them the freedom to speak comedic truth to power. These poets also rebelled against the "authority" of poetic influence in their work, remaking literary convention while, at the same time, challenging political power.

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231526395
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
10/06/2010
Series:
Leonard Hastings Schoff Lectures
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

Sarah Spence
Serious Play is a glittering, brilliant romp through three serio-comic masters. Behind Robert Hanning's marvelous reading lies a serious meditation on comedy's ability to measure 'the tensions between private and public imperatives' through a unique approach to issues of desire and authority.

John M. Fyler
Serious Play will be required reading for graduate students of later medieval and early modern literature, and I will recommend it enthusiastically to my undergraduates. Robert Hanning's focus is always firmly on the literary. Even when he broaches such New Historicist topics as the political agendas of these three poets, or at least their anxious relation to patronage and political authority, he does so with nuance and a notably light touch.

Aravind Adiga
Robert Hanning's inspired lectures have brought the literature of the middle ages to life for generations. Serious Play draws on decades of scholarship to show us why three of the world's great comic poets—Ovid, Chaucer, and Ariosto—continue to be so exciting and engaging. If you haven't had the good fortune to study Chaucer under Hanning, reading this book goes a long way in making up for the loss.

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Meet the Author

Robert W. Hanning taught medieval and Renaissance literature at Columbia University for forty-five years. His books include The Vision of History in Early Britain, The Individual in Twelfth-Century Romance, and The Lais of Marie de France.

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