My thesis explores the construction of the New World mythology as it appears in early modern Italian epic poems. It focuses on how Italian writers engage with and contribute to this process of myth-creation; how the newly created mythology relates to the political, social and cultural context of the time; and investigates extent to which it was affected by the personal agendas of the poets. By analysing three New World myths (Brazilian Amazons, Patagonian giants and Canadian pygmies), it provides insights into the perception that Italians had of the newly discovered lands in the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as providing a greater understanding of the role that early modern Italy had in the ‘invention’ of the Americas. Italian epic poets domesticated New World myths for their own purposes, using written, visual and material sources as an anchor for their agendas. The study of these myths change, in some cases completely, our reading of the poems. New World myths are at once an exercise in ekphrasis of the maps, cartouches, engravings and collectible objects they derived from, and a record of the impact the Americas had on the early modern Italians.
For this project, the Paul & Henry Woltmann Memorial Scholarship (2014) has given me the opportunity to spend a period of study at the Houghton Library in Harvard University; the AHRC International Placement Award (2013) funded my research at the Huntington Library in San Marino (California), and the Universitas 21 Scholarship (2012) allowed me to consult the Native American archive in the University of British Columbia (Canada).