My thesis examines the construction of New World mythography as it appears in Renaissance epic poems depicting America. Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, conquistadores, explorers and missionaries brought their experiences and accounts back from the Americas to Europe. European poets embraced these stories and built on ‘historical’ materials - which indulged the fantastic and paid little regard to authenticity - and introduced fantastic elements from their own imaginations: it was the birth of a new European-American mythology. Focussing on nine Italian writers, and in particular on Tommaso Stigliani’s Mondo nuovo (1628), my central research questions are:
- How do Italian writers engage with and contribute to the European-American mythology of early modern Europe?
- What does this mythology enable Italian writers to say about the political, social and cultural context of Renaissance and Baroque Italy?
- To what extent was the European-American mythology invented by Europeans and to what degree could it have been affected by native beliefs and myths?
I examine this mythology from a multidisciplinary perspective within the context of the literary and historical writings of the time and I focus on the “political” agenda of Italian writers dealing with the otherness of, say, a tribe of savage cannibals or with the ideals of men yet to be “civilized” and converted.
For this project, the Paul & Henry Woltmann Memorial Scholarship (2011) has given me the opportunity to spend a period of study in Harvard University; the Universitas 21 Scholarship (2012) will allow me to consult the Native American archive in the University of British Columbia (Canada), and the AHRC International Placement Award (2012) will fund my research at the Huntington Library in San Marino (California).
Some aspects of this research have been presented at the International Postgraduate Colloquium sponsored by the Society for Italian Studies. This conference took place on the 8th of June in Birmingham (www.birmingham.ac.uk/sis2012), and I was also a member of the organising committee.
In April 2013, I will present my paper “‘Others’ yes, but in doublets. Allegory in Tommaso Stigliani’s Mondo nuovo” at the Renaissance Society of America Conference in San Diego.