Entertainment and Irony: The Orlando Furioso from Modern to Postmodern
Entertainment and Irony: The Orlando Furioso from Modern to Postmodern
Abstract and Keywords
Less popular than in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso has however made an impact on Anglo-American fiction. Loved by Samuel Beckett, who called risolino ariostesco (Ariosto’s smile) the poetic strategy of his preferred artists, and C. S. Lewis, who famously claimed that his utmost happiness would be to be always sitting by a window overlooking the sea, reading Ariosto’s masterpiece, Orlando Furioso proves more and more influential in contemporary fiction when it comes to epic modes, narrative techniques, fantasy and sci-fi: taken as a source of inspiration by both well-educated and popular writers and filmmakers, such as, among many others, David Lodge in Small World, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro in Ariosto and Jim Jarmusch in Mystery Train, Orlando Furioso proves in tune with two keywords of our contemporary age, irony and entertainment. This essay will explore his legacy in twentieth-century Anglo-American fiction in order to assess its potential in our times.
BY THE SECOND HALF of the eighteenth century the Orlando Furioso was so popular among British aristocrats that the Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett (1721–71) could describe it as ‘pretty much used’ in a gentlewoman’s library in The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748, ch. 39),1 and not much later the Right Honourable Charles James Fox (1749–1806) spent ‘every moment that could be spared from gambling and flirting […] in devouring Dante and Ariosto’, as his biographer George Otto Trevelyan put it.2 Yet Ariosto’s poem had lost much of its popularity among English readers (and writers) at the opening of the twentieth century, as confirmed by the fact that no translation of the Orlando Furioso into English was produced between the British William Stewart Rose’s eight-volume version of 1823–31 and the American Allan H. Gilbert’s prose version of 1954.3 Nevertheless, in 1936 Ariosto’s poem was evoked in the writings of two highly influential, and ostensibly antithetical, authors: C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) and Samuel Beckett (1906–89). As it happens, Lewis and Beckett were appropriating Ariosto to their own ends, yet the fact that they both addressed the Orlando Furioso to find answers to their literary undertaking is symptomatic of new cultural needs and therefore worth exploring in more depth.
Lewis and Beckett define the two poles of Ariosto’s allure in twentieth-century English culture: he is appreciated, on the one hand, for his fantasy, invention and entertainment; and, on the other, for his irony, multifariousness and reflection. Appropriating Ariosto’s masterpiece and promoting their critical views on it, Lewis (p.287) and Beckett were also adapting it into the receiving culture. As highlighted by Linda Hutcheon, appropriation precedes and paves the way to adaptation, since ‘what is involved in adapting can be a process of appropriation, of taking possession of another’s story, and filtering it, in a sense, through one’s own sensibility, interests, and talents’, up to the point that ‘adapters are first interpreters and then creators’.4 A triangle is thus created, with appropriation at the top and interpretation and adaptation at the base. Adaptation in fact, as Hutcheon has explained, implies a double process of ‘aggressive appropriation’ and ‘patient salvaging’:5 as we are encouraged to compare the artefact we are experiencing with the one we already know – or are invited to know – each adaptation involves a dialogue between the old work and the new. In Hutcheon’s analysis, this is a typical feature of postmodernism: texts coexist independently of their chronological distance and even the authors’ wills. This is what Ariosto did in his poem and what modern and postmodern writers have done with Ariosto’s poem. Being itself a transitional poem, between ancient and modern, the Middle Ages and the modern era, the Orlando Furioso proves particularly apt to such a process of adaptation, for it mirrors an age of transition where the trauma associated with the initial narrative points of departure is acknowledged but the forward trajectory remains uncertain.6
Since adaptation’s doubleness reflects the postmodern investment in complicity and critique, Ariosto has been subsumed all too readily into postmodernism.7 Postmodernism, on the other hand, has often been associated with the development of the mass entertainment industry and the use of irony, to the extent that the two poles of the wide spectrum constructed by C. S. Lewis and Beckett’s appropriations (p.288) of Ariosto can aptly describe a space that welcomes the Orlando Furioso into postmodernism. Focusing on the creative rather than the critical reception of Ariosto in twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature in English, this chapter will look at the presence of the Orlando Furioso amongst science fiction writers responding to his quest narrative, fantastic elements and loose relationship to time and space, as well as amongst postmodern writers seeking experimental forms and genres to express the crises of postmodern life. My hypothesis is that many late twentieth-and early twenty-first-century writers in the English-speaking world have found in Ariosto and his work a field of tensions where they can reflect upon, explore, and question the tensions they experience in their own times.
C. S. Lewis and Beckett’s Legacy
In May 1936 C. S. Lewis published The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition, where English readers could find a presentation of Ariosto’s poem as a forerunner to Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. At the beginning of the seventh and final chapter of the book, devoted to The Faerie Queene, Lewis mentions Ariosto’s allegorical interpretations as an influence on Spenser’s ‘“continued allegory or dark conceit”’.8 Ariosto was later introduced as ‘admittedly the greatest of Italian poets after Dante’ and superior to his predecessor Matteo Maria Boiardo.9 Lewis celebrated his being ‘a master of irony and of comic construction’, and especially, a quality which he shares with Boiardo, his power of invention: ‘the fertility of his fancy is “beyond expectation, beyond hope”’,10 due to his variety of characters, imitation of the multiplicity in nature, and richness of sentiments and life. Lewis went so far in praising Ariosto’s inventiveness and fullness that he compared his poem to ‘God’s plenty’: ‘you can no more exhaust it than you can exhaust nature itself ’.11 As a result, Lewis could only challenge the literary memory of his English readers: ‘when you are tired of Ariosto, you are tired of life’.12 The reference to Samuel Johnson’s famous statement that ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’13 is not difficult to grasp and suggests an implicit comparison between the fullness of London and the fullness of the Orlando Furioso: allusion works as a means to reinforce the connection between what is already known (in this case, Johnson’s adage) and what is yet to be known (in this case, Ariosto’s poem). In so doing, Lewis was implicitly linking the rather unknown Ariosto to the (p.289) very well-known Johnson and thus introducing Ariosto within the shared memory of his English readers. If, as Maurice Halbwachs has demonstrated, ‘it is in society that people normally acquire their memories’,14 Lewis’ deliberate association of Ariosto with Johnson made the former more familiar, and therefore more acceptable, to the English reader, allowing him to shed his strangeness and appropriating him into the English tradition. Subsequently, the reader is invited to accustom him- or herself to the pairing of Johnson with Ariosto, so much so that the following association between Johnson and the Italian epic can be readily taken as a metonymia for Ariosto’s poem:
Johnson once described the ideal happiness which he would choose if he were regardless of futurity. My own choice, with the same reservation, would be to read the Italian epic – to be always convalescent from some small illness and always seated in a window that overlooked the sea, there to read these poems eight hours of each happy day.15
In this passage, Lewis was obviously celebrating Boiardo, Ariosto and Tasso’s poems all together, yet his preference for Ariosto had already been stated earlier on and this appreciation is clearly connected to the broader deployment of Johnson throughout the book. Indeed, the authority of Johnson is ranged to underline Lewis’ enjoyment of Ariosto above all other Italian epic poets. More generally, two keywords for the English readers emerged from C. S. Lewis’ book in respect of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso: invention and entertainment; and the sustained allusion to Johnson forms part of a ‘domestication’ strategy (to borrow a term from translation studies) that Lewis employs to render Ariosto’s text closer to the receiving culture. It should be added that such a strategy can often lead to a sort of simplification and neutralization of the source text, thus sacrificing potentially its complexity and multilayered nature.
About two months later, reviewing Jack Butler Yeats’ novel The Amaranthers in the July–September issue of Dublin Magazine, Beckett praised Yeats for being similar to Ariosto in his ironic talent for bringing together narrative fragments so as to shape something new:
The irony is Ariostesque, as slight and as fitful and struck from the same impact, between the reality of the imagined and reminiscence of its elements. The face remains grave, but the mind has smiled. The profound risolino that does not destroy.
The discontinuity is Ariostesque, proceeding from the same necessary indifference to flowers on the table-centre on the centre of the table, from the same respect (p.290) for the mobility and autonomy of the imagined (a world of the same order if not so intense as the ‘ideal real’ of Prowst, so obnoxious to the continuity girls).16
Irony and discontinuity are the two keywords that Beckett as literary critic applies to both Yeats and Ariosto: the ability to combine past and present, memory and reality, the ideal truth and the flux of time, in line with Marcel Proust’s undertaking in À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time, 1913–27). Although his idea of Ariosto was mainly mediated by his reading of J. A. Symonds’ The Renaissance in Italy (1875–86), part 2, devoted to Italian Literature, and Francesco De Sanctis’ Storia della letteratura italiana (1870–2), which he had read and was familiar with,17 Beckett showed a precocious awareness that ‘Ariosto’s “irony” is not a mocking or cynical scepticism; it is rather what De Gourmont calls un esprit ouvert à la compréhension multiple des choses, a certain emotional detachment from the situation in hand’, as Donald S. Carne-Ross would have it some fifteen years later.18 In fact, the word risolino is aptly borrowed from Francesco De Sanctis’ chapter on Ariosto, but Beckett is far from sharing De Sanctis and Symonds’ views that Ariosto was merely a purposeless practitioner of ‘pure art’; instead, he sees Ariosto as a master of narrative thanks to his disjunctive irony, to the extent that he can be taken as a precursor of Beckett’s own poetical and aesthetical preferences. Thus, Ariosto becomes the predecessor of an Irish literary line, leading from Yeats to Beckett himself, characterized by philosophical irony, discontinuity and humour: appropriating Ariosto, Beckett made his poem readable in the light of his own ‘poetics of residua, “disjecta membra”, and “odds and ends”’, as well as ‘of previous (s)crap(s), residua, fragments, debris’.19
It is perhaps no coincidence that both Lewis and Beckett recalled their attraction to Ariosto nearly twenty years later in the 1950s. Early in 1951, asked whether he would call his space-time trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, 1938; Perelandra, 1943; That Hideous Strength, 1945) an epic, Lewis replied: ‘Clearly, in virtue of its fantastic elements, it could only be an epic of the Ariosto type.’20 By ‘the Ariosto type’, Lewis meant the prevailing of invention over literary and cultural origins: ‘It lacks sufficient root in legend and tradition to be what I’d call an epic.’21 On 22 January 1952, in a letter in French to the painter Henri Hayden, including the homage (p.291) ‘Henri Hayden, homme-peintre’, Beckett went back to his idea of Ariosto’s twofold irony, praising the artist’s work for having ‘un risolino à l’Arioste’ – a snigger worthy of Ariosto.22 Two years later, C. S. Lewis penned the blurb of The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), the first novel of J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings, where he famously compared Tolkien’s invention to that of Ariosto:
If Ariosto rivalled it in invention (in fact he does not) he would still lack its heroic seriousness. No imaginary world has been projected which is at once so multifarious and so true to its own inner laws; none so seemingly objective, so disinfected from the taint of an author’s merely individual psychology; none so relevant to the actual human situation yet so free from allegory. And what fine shading there is in the variations of style to meet the almost endless diversity of scenes and characters – comic, homely, epic, monstrous, or diabolic.23
Lewis could not find a more convincing comparison for Tolkien’s inventiveness than Ariosto’s: the combination of fantastic and realistic elements; the depth of psychological and social analysis; the variety of styles and situations; the grasp of human nature and its mutability made Tolkien a new Ariosto, but with more epic gravity than his predecessor. The fantasy writer Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–6), was particularly interested in how we build fictional worlds and found in Ariosto an excellent example of how to write a persuasive fiction.
Apparently, Tolkien was not particularly pleased with the comparison and replied: ‘I don’t know Ariosto and I’d loathe him if I did’,24 yet the comparison was there and is worth carrying on when dealing with ‘postmodern’ Ariosto. The Lord of the Rings was published well before postmodernism became a fashionable term in literary criticism, which is usually rooted in the appearance of the book The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature by the Arab-American scholar Ihab Hassan in 1971 and the first issue of the journal boundary 2 (subtitled ‘Journal of Postmodern Literature and Culture’) in 1972; and Tolkien died in 1973.25 Nevertheless, in 2001 The Lord of the Rings became one of the (p.292) most impressive postmodern experiments in computer-generated imagery with the film series directed by Peter Jackson.26 A web of intertextual relationships was thus created, evoking the Orlando Furioso in the postmodern era thanks to the connection established by Lewis between Ariosto and Tolkien’s masterpieces. Via Tolkien, therefore, and perhaps despite Tolkien himself, the linking between Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and the digital age is established and cannot be escaped.
In conclusion, both C. S. Lewis and Beckett paved the way for the appropriation of the Orlando Furioso in the subsequent, postmodern age. In fact, the Orlando Furioso can now easily fit within the conceptual framework of what we call postmodernism, where entertainment becomes a means of triggering full immersion in the story for the recipient, forgetting time and space, and irony is a subversive rhetorical strategy.27
Moving back to the 1940s after this flash-forward to postmodernism, it is useful to address a then relatively new genre in literature: ‘alternate history’, i.e. the genre of fiction (also known as ‘alternative history’ or ‘uchronia’) that retells past events as if they had occurred differently.28
In fact, the Orlando Furioso’s powerful interplay between reality and fantasy attracted American science fiction writers as early as the 1940s. In 1941, L. Sprague (p.293) de Camp (1907–2000) and Fletcher Pratt (1897–1956) published in the US magazine Unknown the short story The Castle of Iron as part of the Harold Shea series. This included parallel-world tales in which the protagonist, psychologist Harold Shea, is transported into ancient myths and legends that become real. The story of The Castle of Iron, the third of the series – later revised and expanded into a novel, first published in hardcover by Gnome Press in 1950 – features three psychologists who visit two parallel worlds, first Xanadu, after Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan, and second the wizard Atlantès de Carena’s marvellous iron castle in northern Spain, then Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, whose world is easily reachable because the protagonist had already visited Spenser’s Faerie Queene in the previous story of the series, The Mathematics of Magic (1940). ‘Since each of these universes’ – the protagonist explains – ‘contains the same basic mental pattern, it is easy to perceive how transference from one to the other would be a relatively light task.’29 Ariosto’s world works as a means to explore issues of otherness and communication that are at the core of this fantasy. We find most of Ariosto’s characters here, such as Roland, Roger, Astolph, Reinald and Bradamant, all treated with a mocking irony. Roland, for example, has regressed to the mental age of three and now calls himself ‘Snookums’, but Harold’s psychological skills restore to him his memory. In his later autobiography, Time and Chance (1996), Sprague de Camp stated that ‘[he] found Ariosto more entertaining’ than Spenser: ‘Perhaps his heroes’ light-hearted way of trying to rape the heroines as soon as they have rescued them from monsters lends a spice [sic] lacking in Spenser’s more austere presentation.’30
In 1954 the short story ‘To Here and the Easel’ by science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon (1918–85) appeared, first published in Star Short Novels, a book edited by Fredrick Pohl and published by Ballantine Books. The story was meant, at Ballantine’s request, to give the reader ‘insight into the creative process’.31 The story questions from the very beginning ‘who’s a writer?’,32 and casts a double reality, featuring a painter suffering from creative block who swings back and forth, like in a fantasy schizophrenia, between his life as Giles, helpless before his empty canvas, and Rogero, a successful knight from Ariosto’s poem. In the process of his psychic projection, he learns to paint ‘the beauty in what he sees’ instead of waiting for beauty to come along.33
In 1960 the avant-garde poet Kenneth Koch (1925–2002) published what he called ‘an experiment in narrative’, an epic poem in ottava rima and iambic (p.294) pentameter, Ko, or A Season on Earth. The poem is implicitly Ariostesque in its conception, structure and metre: its interwoven plots move among Cincinnati, Tucson, Paris, Tahiti, Pompeii, Rome, Kalamazoo, Tibet, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Rapallo; the variety of characters includes a Japanese baseball star, a neurotic financier who hopes to control the earth’s dogs, an unhappy Cockney, an English private eye, and an ‘Action Poet’. The metre is the classical Italian stanza, in direct comparison with the whole tradition of chivalric poetry. Variety of space, multiplicity of character and narrative rhythm are what Koch found in the Orlando Furioso and exploited to his own ends: the representation of a changing world, where people from all over the world mingle and interact in many different ways. In 1972, in the Fall issue of the American journal Field: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, David Shapiro (b. 1947), the American avant-garde poet and art critic, published ‘A Conversation with Kenneth Koch’. At the time, Shapiro was a PhD student of English at Columbia University in New York City and Koch was his Professor of Poetry. After a question about his knowledge of French, Shapiro asked Koch about ‘his experience of Italy and Ariosto’ in order to shed light on his technique of ‘tessellated narratives’. Koch’s answer was straightforward: ‘What I found in Ariosto was a poetry that was all action. There’s almost no reflection in the whole of the Orlando Furioso. It’s one action after another, as in certain early Mack Sennett comedies; I love that quality.’34 ‘Tessellated narrative’, that is, the combination of different stories in the manner of a mosaic, and ‘all action’, that is, a pace that leaves the reader breathless, can be taken as guidelines to Ariosto’s postmodern reuses. Not too far from Beckett’s combinatorial irony and C. S. Lewis’ praise of invention, Koch’s approach to Ariosto can be read in the light of postmodern issues of mediation between old and new cultural codes and power of narrative.
It will come as no surprise, then, that in 1974 Ballantine Books (the American publisher of The Lord of the Rings) issued the first thirteen cantos of the Orlando Furioso in the prose translation by the science fiction author Richard Hodgens. The press proposed an ideal continuity between Ariosto, Tolkien and science fiction, in the name of Ariosto’s ‘super-colossal cast of world-renowned heroes’ and ‘more plots than you can shake a sword at’.35
The relationship between reality and fantasy is also at the core of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s (b. 1942) Ariosto, first published by Pocket in 1980 and reprinted by Tor in 1988. The full title is Ariosto Furioso: A Romance for an Alternate Renaissance, alluding to both the Orlando Furioso and its historical setting. The protagonist is Lodovico Ariosto, who defines himself as ‘a vagabond’ and works at the court of Damiano de Medici in 1533 Florence in the scenario of a more or less harmonious federated Italy engineered by Lorenzo de Medici, Damiano’s grandfather, a few years (p.295) earlier.36 While working as basically a bureaucrat in his daily life, Ariosto imagines being a Renaissance hero flying on the hippogriff Bellimbusto and fighting for the Cérocchi Indians’ freedom in his fantasy world, set in a uchronic North America colonized by the federated states of Italy and called Nuova Genova. The book is geometrically divided into chapters alternating reality (La Realtà) and fantasy (La Fantasia), as if they were mirroring the historical Ariosto, who ‘traveled the roads of Ferrara / And, at the same time, walked the moon’ – as Jorge Luis Borges (1899– 1986) famously said in a poem on ‘Ariosto y los Arabes’ (‘Ariosto and the Arabs’, 1960).37 Starting from the what-if mechanism that generates uchronian settings (what if Lorenzo de Medici had not died in 1492, but lived to unite Italy in 1515?), this fantasy historical novel is based on two plotlines, the second depending on the first, in an attempt to render the Orlando Furioso’s play with fiction a means to open up a new, dream-like reality. History, with characters such as Lucrezia Borgia, Machiavelli, Thomas More, Michelangelo and Luther, all fictionalized to such an extent that they do not bear much resemblance to historical fact, mingles with uchronia, so as to explore the interaction between life and the power of imagination.
Rather than being just derivative, these Ariostesque fantasies all serve as interpretations of the Orlando Furioso too: no less than C. S. Lewis and Beckett’s critical stances, they invite us to recognize their literary precedent and make the old work fit within the literary and cultural framework of the new. In addition to this, Salman Rushdie’s (b. 1947) mention of Ariosto in The Enchantress of Florence (2008) offers a means to explore the intermingling of past and present, real and ideal, life and dreams, at a time ‘before the real and unreal were segregated for ever and doomed to live apart under different monarchs and separate legal systems’.38 After all, isn’t adaptation ‘how stories evolve and mutate to fit new times and different places’?39
At the beginning of the 1980s the British writer David Lodge (b. 1935) decided to describe his book Small World (1984) as a ‘romance’ rather than a ‘novel’. Borrowing a passage from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s preface to The House of the Seven Gables in the epigraph to the book, Lodge explained that
(p.296) When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume had he professed to be writing a Novel.40
What did Lodge mean by ‘latitude’? Latitude, with acknowledgement to the OED, means just ‘breadth, width’; however, Lodge was stressing its metaphorical meaning of potential for expansion as opposed to depth in literary narrative – which is either definition no. 2 in the OED: ‘Extent, range, scope. Also, great or full extent. Now rare’; or, better, no. 3: ‘Freedom from narrow restrictions; width or liberality of construction or interpretation; tolerated or permitted variety of action or opinion.’ Thus, Lodge was aiming at a more comprehensive representation of reality than the restricted focus traditionally allowed in the genre of the novel. The opposition between romance and the novel in English literature dates back to 1822, when Walter Scott published his Essay on Romance in the supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1816–24), distinguishing between romance as ‘a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents’, and novel as ‘a fictitious narrative, differing from the Romance, because the events are accommodated to the ordinary train of human events, and the modern state of society’.41 In other words, Lodge was promoting the world of loves and adventures, chances and meetings, of ancient romances over psychological depth and realism – which are typical of modern novels – so as to claim a post-novel, and post-modern, status for his book. In order to do so, he explored extensively romance literature available in English, such as the Arthurian stories and the Grail legends, when, almost unexpectedly, he came across Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso – according to his own testimony:
Again by a lucky chance I happened on Patricia Parker’s Inescapable Romance in our campus bookshop. It doesn’t usually stock rather esoteric, academic monographs like that, but there it was, in hardback, a new book. She deals with a number of Renaissance romance writers, and both Spenser and Ariosto particularly interested me. I had studied Spenser as a student, but I didn’t know very much about Ariosto so I got a translation of Orlando Furioso and read bits of it. I immediately saw all kinds of possibilities, and I began to get interested in the whole idea of romance as a type of narrative. I thought about writing a novel, deliberately alluding to the genre of romance, which would licence me to contrive all kinds of coincidences and twists in the story that might otherwise be too hard to swallow.42
(p.297) There is little surprise that a writer like Lodge, an academic himself, and the author, among other works, of The Novelist at the Crossroads (1971) and Working with Structuralism (1981), should stumble upon an academic book such as Parker’s. Parker’s book turned out to be extremely useful to Lodge while he was writing Small World: an academic reflection on the nature of modern narrative, it was ideal for inspiring a modern narrative which contained a reflection on the nature of the academy – ‘An Academic Romance’ is the book’s subtitle: ‘academic in the double sense of dealing with academics, but also drawing on a traditional rather than a contemporary notion of romance as a genre’, Lodge later explained.43 Since that date, he has drawn inspiration from the Orlando Furioso to such an extent that Small World could appropriately be defined as Ariostesque. Not only is the main character called Angelica (after Ariosto’s heroine) and the Orlando Furioso explicitly mentioned here and there, but the metafictional self-awareness of the book is based on Ariosto’s poem. Parker’s main thesis is that ‘“romance” is characterized primarily as a form which simultaneously quests for and postpones a particular end, objective, or object’,44 and this is mirrored at the beginning of Small World in the lecture given by Professor Morris Zapp on literature as striptease:
The dancer teases the audience, as the text teases its readers, with the promise of an ultimate revelation that is infinitely postponed. […] The text unveils itself before us, but never allows itself to be possessed; and instead of striving to possess it we should take pleasure in its teasing.45
Although humorously presented in the words of one of his characters, imbued with structuralist and semiological theories, this represents Lodge’s poetics too. The connection with Ariosto could not be more direct. It is indeed Angelica who immediately afterwards goes to Prof. Zapp to congratulate him and applies his theory to her doctoral dissertation on the subject of romance: ‘I mean, the idea of romance as narrative striptease, the endless leading on the reader, a repeated postponement of an ultimate revelation which never comes – or, when it does, terminates the pleasure of text …’, all this comes from actual romances, she says, where ‘there’s a good deal of actual striptease’.46
As Zapp listens curiously, Angelica underlines that ‘Ariosto’s heroines for instance, are always losing their clothes and being gloated over by the heroes who rescue them’.47 There is a nice mockery of Ariosto’s world here, yet that world is taken as the best example to introduce Lodge’s own theory of literature: a theory (p.298) that is, in its own right, postmodern rather than early modern. This implies, as a consequence, that Ariosto is incorporated in our postmodern times to an extent that would be inconceivable if we think of it only on the ground of a historical perspective. Roland Barthes, the French critic who spoke of the ‘pleasure of the text’, and Gerard Genette, another French critic who – after Borges – theorized literature as ‘the ultimate revelation which never comes’,48 have not invented anything: all was already in Ariosto, who is the only one to exemplify this conception of literature in his own poetical world. The presence of Ariosto in Small World operates as a mise en abyme of Lodge’s poetics. In this instance, mise en abyme means a self-reflexive technique of embedding a text within a text with the same properties.49 Brought into postmodern times by two of the masters of postmodernism, Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, Ariosto could not but easily fit into Lodge’s own poetics.
As a consequence, Lodge’s narrative, with its mechanism of escapes and pursuits, is modelled on Ariosto’s technique.50 When Lodge makes his characters, and especially the most Ariostesque of all, Angelica, appear and disappear in an instant, he is clearly drawing from Angelica’s continuous appearing and disappearing in the Orlando Furioso, where she is always escaping her suitors. The most striking occurrence is when she invites one of her suitors, the student Persse McGarrigle, to Professor Robin Dempsey’s room in the conference hotel, pretending that it is her room. Persse arrives first, but does not find Angelica there and hides in the wardrobe to surprise her. Professor Dempsey then comes to the room and goes to bed; while he is still awake, a cough comes from the wardrobe and he thinks Angelica is hiding there. Persse makes his appearance and the two discover together Angelica’s trick: she had invited Persse to Prof. Dempsey’s room, asking him to hide in the wardrobe to watch her going to bed, and promised Prof. Dempsey to go to his room while he was lying in bed. To the latter, she said that she wanted to do ‘like Ruggiero and Alcina’: ‘couple of characters in one of those long Eyetie poems, apparently’ – Dempsey comments. ‘She told me the story – it sounded pretty sexy.’51 Angelica, in other words, is acting in the book as Ariosto and Lodge do with their characters:52 she is combining them in different (p.299) ways to verify how they react. All sorts of humorous misunderstandings come out of this.
The quest for Angelica becomes the engine of the action in Small World, exactly as it is in the Orlando Furioso:53 at the end of the chapter, Persse cries desolately ‘Angelica! Where are you?’,54 and later on he annotates in his notebook ‘Dear God, let me find Angelica.’55 The quest mechanism of the plot of the Orlando Furioso produces all the narrative of Small World too, since life is only a continuous search for what we are missing. Everybody’s looking for somebody, as the Eurythmics have it, and Everybody needs somebody – to love, as sang the Blues Brothers. What more apt to our contemporary mood than Ariosto’s imagination? Angelica is both ‘endlessly pursued’ and ‘ceaselessly suspected’, as is love in Catherine Belsey’s postmodern definition.56 Ultimately, she is a reflection on the textual nature of human life, which can only be – this is Lodge’s lesson here – a cultural product. In fact, she is nothing other than a grapheme, as when Persse, in a Sterne-like fashion, writes her name on the snow.57 Thus, she leads to the idea expressed by Prof. Zapp towards the end of the book, that ‘this whole business of being “in love” is not an existential reality, but a form of cultural production, an illusion produced by the mutual reflections of a million rose-tinted mirrors: love poems, pop songs, movie images, agony columns, shampoo ads, romantic novels’.58 Love as illusion and the unattainable nature of the object of desire: was not this one of the principal messages of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, which is why Lodge’s Angelica is named after Ariosto’s Angelica, the stereotype of the unachievable damsel in distress, but also a devil-like woman who plays with whoever wants her?
If Angelica works as a counter-figure, or mise en abyme, of the role of the author in romance narrative, it is even more so with Cheryl Summerbee, a check-in clerk for British Airways at Heathrow airport: ‘In Cheryl Summerbee’s hands, seat allocation was a fine art, as delicate and complex an operation as arranging blind dates between clients of a lonelyhearts agency.’59 Like Angelica, Ariosto and Lodge himself, Cheryl has fun in combining the various passengers on their flights. It is not by chance, then, that she later proves to be reading the Orlando Furioso, which (p.300) is ‘more amusing’,60 she says, than Spenser’s Faerie Queene. Ariosto’s poem, therefore, is the lens through which Lodge explains his idea of narrative and displays his poetical theory.
Although Lodge has always played down his knowledge of Ariosto’s poem and said that he only ever read a few cantos in volume 1 of Barbara Reynolds’ translation,61 this by no means undermines his metapoetical game with the Orlando Furioso as well as his comprehension of the nature of the poem (to the extent that he enters into the spirit of it better than many academic scholars). In point of fact, Lodge’s book exemplifies in fiction Parker’s theory of romance. The author himself gives the key to the interpretation – metafictionally – in Cheryl’s words during her conversation with Persse on the subject of romances at the airport: ‘Real romance is a pre-novelistic kind of narrative. It’s full of adventure and coincidence and surprises and marvels, and has lots of characters who are lost or enchanted or wandering about looking for each other, or for the Grail, or something like that.’62 The echo of Scott’s ‘marvellous and uncommon incidents’ is difficult to escape.63 This exhibition of its own poetics inside the book is what the Russian formalists called ‘the baring of the device’, i.e. when a character explains the fictional convention on which his or her own reality is based:64 Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso in Small World works therefore as an experiment in structuralism and postmodernism.
Yet the references to Ariosto display an intertextual game with the source that implies both continuity and difference: the perennial risk of the romance genre, its wandering in its own structureless structure, is made into a perfectly controlled structure by the twentieth-century rewriter, which gives all sorts of possibilities in terms of narrative combinations, but less variety than the original model in terms of plotlines. Like Italo Calvino, who was another Ariostesque writer in postmodern times,65 Lodge insists on the value of extension in combination rather than (p.301) dispersive and haphazard narrative. Later on, in an essay on Small World, Lodge stressed the extent to which the Holy Grail legend (as well as all other literary precedents) worked for him in his writing like the Odyssey worked for James Joyce in his Ulysses: ‘I was thinking of the way Joyce used the story of Odysseus to give shape to one day in the lives of several modern Dubliners’.66 Likewise, Lodge uses the Grail legend (but to an even greater extent the Orlando Furioso) to give shape to the lives of some academics in the 1980s: however, rather than attempting to lower the epic hero to everyday reality, as Joyce did with Homer’s Odysseus, Lodge is trying to show the extent to which past techniques can explain contemporary obsessions even better than contemporary approaches. Nevertheless, the reference to Joyce is highly significant from a theoretical point of view: as Joyce had destroyed internally the form of the novel to show that it no longer worked to express modern times, so Lodge overcomes the alleged realism of the modern novel with his reference to romance as a means to explore both psychological insights and narrative time. Lodge himself in a 1982 paper on Joyce explained that ‘in opening up the novel to the play of multiple parodic and stylized discourses Joyce was aiming at a more comprehensive representation of reality than the stylistic decorum the realist novel allowed’, an aim that ‘was organically linked to the project of writing a kind of modern epic, or mock epic, a comic inversion of and commentary upon the archetype of Homer’.67 In opening up the novel to the play of chivalric narrative, Lodge was aiming at a broader depiction of the multiple nature of reality, an aim that he achieved through the operation of resuming Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso for contemporary times.
Lodge’s appropriation and adaptation of Ariosto into the contemporary novel paved the way for other adaptations and appropriations in various media. First came Jim Jarmusch in a 1989 film, Mystery Train, where he used the Orlando Furioso’s narrative structure in order to explore the narration of the so-called ‘casual coincidences’. In Mystery Train three episodes are narrated sequentially, yet they occur simultaneously: a Japanese couple go to Memphis in search of the traces of Elvis Presley, an Italian widow is stranded in Memphis while conducting her husband’s coffin back to Italy, and a trio of misfits hang around in the city evening. They all end up spending the night in the same hotel. The only link between the three (p.302) episodes is a gunshot that we hear at the end of each episode. Connecting the three bangs, the viewer will be able to reconnect the times of the three stories and realize that they took place at the same time. The viewer is thus invited to appreciate the difference between discourse, the sequence of the events as they are narrated, and content, the factual synchronicity of the events (what the Russian formalists called ‘sujet’ and ‘fabula’), and led to reflect on the relationship between fiction and reality. At the time, Jarmusch was engaging in a polemic against the use of cross-cutting in films (the device of cutting away from one action to another to suggest that they are simultaneous) as unrealistic, no other than ‘directorial artifice contradicted by the law of nature that one cannot be in two places more or less at the same time’, while ‘Jarmusch lays each strand out for us, one after the other, in two-dimensional space and it is up to us to lay them one on top of the other, in a single period of time’.68 However, the educated viewer is invited to recognize something more: that the mechanism of reconnection of the plurality of events to simultaneity comes from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. The second episode, entitled The Ghost, features an Italian actress, Nicoletta Braschi, later Mrs Benigni, carrying a copy of Ariosto’s poem in her hands. The Orlando Furioso, in the then most recent Garzanti edition, features in close-up at least twice, when she gets off her flight to Memphis and when she is reading it in her bed in a hotel room. Reference to the Orlando Furioso in such an explicit way in a film dealing with narrative representation of synchronicity, after Parker’s and Lodge’s books, could only mean a meta-reflection on its own narrative structure, at least to those who are able to acknowledge it. Jarmusch has often related his knowledge of Ariosto to his friendship with Roberto Benigni,69 but since he studied English and comparative literature at Columbia University,70 he was in close contact with both Koch and Shapiro, the protagonists in the above-mentioned Ariosto conversation in 1972. One may legitimately presume that Jarmusch was well acquainted with some scholarly interpretation of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso: if this was not Parker’s, then it may have been either that of the highly influential Italian writer Italo Calvino, who had rewritten the Orlando Furioso himself in 1970 and was very popular in the US in those years, or possibly that of Edoardo Sanguineti, the Italian poet and academic, who is less well-known but was prominent in literary show business and who had adapted Ariosto’s text for a theatre production by Luca Ronconi in 1969.71 Sanguineti was indeed the author of the preface to the edition of the poem Braschi carries around in the film, where he highlighted Ariosto’s (p.303) narrative technique as a sort of ‘Barthesian game’ leading not to freedom from the text, but further imprisonment into it.72 Hypothetical as the personal knowledge of Jarmusch might be, yet the film is there and contains, intentionally or not, its potential for metafictional reflection. As a matter of fact, literature, in Jarmusch’s films from the 1990s, ‘becomes another track of meaning (and meaninglessness) that contributes to the semiotic density of the texts’.73
That Ariosto was the master of reconnecting the various branches of the story has been nevertheless part of English tradition since Walter Scott decided to mention him at the opening of chapter 16 of The Heart of Midlothian (1818) as the master of keeping together the ‘dropped stitches’ of the narrative (evidently referring to Ariosto’s self-reflexive statement that ‘varie fila a varie tele / uopo mi son’: ‘I have need of a number of warps and a variety of threads if I am to complete the whole of my tapestry’, Orlando Furioso, 2.30.5–6):
Like the digressive poet Ariosto, I find myself under the necessity of connecting the branches of my story, by taking up the adventures of another of the characters, and bringing them down to the point at which we have left those of Jeanie Deans. It is not, perhaps, the most artificial way of telling a story, but it has the advantage of sparing the necessity of resuming what a knitter (if stocking-looms have left such a person in the land) might call our ‘dropped stitches;’ a labour in which the author generally toils much, without getting credit for his pains.74
Scott would mention Ariosto again a year later at the end of chapter 17 of Ivanhoe (vol. 2, ch. 4):
The occasion of this interruption we can only explain by resuming the adventures of another set of our characters; for, like old Ariosto, we do not pique ourselves upon continuing uniformly to keep company with any one personage of our drama.75
Ariosto is the one who has mastered the narrative play with time at its best: textual synchronicities, i.e. seemingly casual coincidences consciously orchestrated by an authorial strategy, belong then to the text’s instructions and are meant to guide the reader towards specific goals (like reconnecting the branches of the story, but also reflecting on its fictional nature). That a reference to Ariosto in a (p.304) 1989 American film could lead to a strategy for dealing with the issue of time in narrative – as well as an invitation to reflect on the fictional nature of narrative in both novels and films – is therefore not at all surprising and shall be taken as part of those implicit memories that make the history of art and literature so fascinating.
‘Have You Read Orlando Furioso?’
‘Have you read Orlando Furioso?’ is the question that punctuates both of Russell Hoban’s novels on Ariosto’s most iconic heroine, Angelica: Angelica’s Grotto (1999) and Angelica Lost and Found (2010).76 The American expatriate Hoban (1925– 2011), who lived in London from 1969 until his death, started being obsessed with visual representations of naked Angelica chained to a rock in his 1998 novel Mr Rinyo-Clacton’s Offer, in which Odilon Redon’s painting of Angelica and Roger (c. 1910, now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York) serves to explain that ‘the heroes would be out of work if there weren’t always a good selection of little sweeties to be rescued’.77 This is a very good way of flirting, since it concludes: ‘You are one of those in need of rescue, naked and defenceless in a murk of uncertainty and chained to the rock of your inadequacy.’78 More came soon afterwards, with the two novels with Angelica in their titles. The former is a story about internet sex: Harold Klein, a seventy-two-year-old art historian, discovers an entire new world when he enters a porn website called ‘Angelica’s grotto’, whose welcome icon is Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ painting Angelica Saved by Ruggiero (1819–39, now at the National Gallery in London). The reference to Ariosto’s Angelica, mediated by both Ingres’ and Redon’s visual rendering of Ruggiero rescuing her from the sea monster, works as the key to interpret a novel in which psychological drama and metafiction proceed hand in hand.
Klein starts his ‘Ariostesque’ adventure by typing the word ‘SEX’ in the Yahoo search box on the internet, while listening to ‘Everybody’s somebody’s fool’, a hit of 1960 performed by Connie Francis, which introduces the reader to the quest for the desired object and the idea of love as lack and yearning for completion. However, like Ruggiero, who proves no hero when facing Angelica naked in the Orlando Furioso, cantos 10 and 11, Klein is far from being a chivalrous and disinterested rescuer. He exclaims in front of the Ingres painting: ‘Angelica, yes! Her nudity and bondage – what more could a hero ask for!’ This ironically leads him to feel like a somewhat unlikely modern knight rather than just a libertine longing for (p.305) sexual pleasure: ‘How long must I await the hero’s pleasure?’79 Furthermore, the mechanism of opening windows in the browser strangely resembles Ariosto’s narrative technique, with its continual opening of stories. Thus, he will meet Angelica/Melissa, a student who is pursuing research on sex in old age and will make him her fool.
Hoban went back to Angelica eleven years later, when he was eighty-six years old, with Angelica Lost and Found. The plot is quite simple in its eccentricity. Volatore (Italian for both flyer and flying, adjective), as Hoban renames the hippogriff of the Orlando Furioso, has escaped the poem and is looking for his beloved Angelica in contemporary San Francisco (not too far from El Paso, Texas, where Girolamo da Carpi’s sixteenth-century painting Ruggiero Saving Angelica is now on display). His task is to blur the boundaries between animal and human, as well as between fiction and reality. The key question is posed by Angelica to Volatore after their first meeting – and subsequent intercourse: ‘Volatore, how is it that a real woman can mate with a poetic invention?’80 Futuristic as it might seem at first sight, the question opens up an enquiry into the very nature of literature and its relationship with reality. The answer to the question comes only at the end of the book, when Jon, a shrink who is in love with Angelica, lets Volatore enter his mind and share its nature. ‘Well, really, every good man is a bit of an animal and every animal has something human about it’,81 Angelica comments on learning that Volatore has entered Jon’s mind. However, leaving her joke aside, Angelica and Jon have met and fallen in love because – like Ariosto – they are able to match poetry and reality and accept that there is something beyond mere evidence. This way, Volatore becomes a metaphor for love itself, which can be fully appreciated only if we take off our own selves and move towards the unknown.
Some of the best features of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, like its philosophical irony, the various threads to the plot and the multifaceted representation of contemporary history, are inevitably lost in this twenty-first-century appropriation of the poem. Yet the quest theme, the unrequited search for love and the narrative-generating mechanism of desire are so aptly adapted to our contemporary world that the Orlando Furioso seems one of the best ways to interpret not only his own but our times too.
Perhaps the most striking and most loved of J. K. Rowling’s (b. 1965) Harry Potter-related inventions is the hippogriff. The connection with Ariosto’s creature was put (p.306) forward rather soon after its appearance in The Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), the third novel in the Harry Potter series,82 but the writer has always denied having a precise source, admitting only that it comes from tradition.83 It would be very difficult to determine which tradition, had Rowling not given a detailed description of the animal’s physical appearance. Her hippogriffs have eagle heads and horse bodies,84 which is in line with Ariosto’s representation, since his hippogriff has a gryphon’s head and a mare’s body. Furthermore, hippogriffs are described as having eagle heads and horse bodies in Bulfinch’s Mythology, the collection of classical myths and chivalric stories gathered by the American Harvard graduate and banker Thomas Bulfinch (1796–1867) – which is likely to be familiar to Rowling, a graduate in French and Classics at the University of Exeter and a passionate reader well beyond her degree programme at the time, according to her well-known self-presentation.85 Since Bulfinch clearly depends on Ariosto for his account of the hippogriff in chivalric tradition, mentioning the Orlando Furioso among his sources at the opening of the book and citing from it when dealing with hippogriffs,86 Rowling’s hippogriff would appear to be indirectly yet deeply linked to Ariosto’s invention. This is a very good example of postmodern intertextuality, where writers no longer quote their sources, but ‘incorporate them, to the point where the line between high art and commercial form seems increasingly difficult to draw’.87 Since, however, there is no obligation for the reader to either know or recognize the source text, what we have in place here is a typical postmodern dispersed, free-ranging intertextuality.
Ariosto would therefore be part of our postmodern frame of mind, or, if you like, the digital age, in that he is undoubtedly part of the web of references that inform the shaping of our culture. Yet Ariosto’s presence becomes more and more literary-aware when we go to another of Rowling’s literary passions, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. This should surely ring a bell for Ariosto scholars: wasn’t The Fellowship of the Ring compared by C. S. Lewis to Ariosto’s poem, as we have seen in the first section of this chapter? It is in fact the connection between Ariosto and Tolkien that invites me to hypothesize another likely source of Rowling’s (p.307) hippogriff: The Magician’s Nephew (1955), the sixth published and actually the first book in the chronology of The Chronicles of Narnia. In the novel, C. S. Lewis introduces his readers to a horse, Strawberry, which at a certain moment of the story unexpectedly becomes a winged horse and is later re-baptized Fledge by Aslan the lion: the horse struggles during its metamorphosis, yet finally is absolutely happy with it.
‘Be winged. Be the father of all flying horses,’ roared Aslan in a voice that shook the ground. ‘Your name is Fledge.’
The horse shied, just as it might have shied in the old, miserable days when it pulled a hansom. Then it reared. It strained its neck back as if there were a fly biting its shoulders and it wanted to scratch them. And then, just as the beasts had burst out of the earth, there burst out from the shoulders of Fledge wings that spread and grew, larger than eagles’, larger than swans’, larger than angels’ wings in church windows. The feathers shone chestnut colour and copper colour. He gave a great sweep with them and leaped into the air. Twenty feet above Aslan and Digory he snorted, neighed, and curvetted. Then, after circling once round them, he dropped to the earth, all four hoofs together, looking awkward and surprised, but extremely pleased.88
How likely is it that J. K. Rowling had in mind C. S. Lewis’ Strawberry/Fledge when conceiving her hippogriff? How likely is it that Lewis had in mind Ariosto’s hippogriff when conceiving his Strawberry? It is impossible to say, at present, but, after all, who cares? What is relevant to my discourse here is that we are in the presence of an intertextual web of relationships, including Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, that is part of the culture within which we form our imagination and our reading of the world. Ariosto’s presence in our world, in this light, would be co-essential and quintessential to our being post-: postmodern and postariostan, too. If intertextuality is key to understanding postmodernism, as Linda Hutcheon has repeatedly stressed, since it alternates between instability and control, tradition and innovation, reinstatement and parody,89 the first step toward a postmodern understanding, and reuse, of Ariosto would be already in place.
Characterized by ironic discontinuity in Beckett’s interpretation as well as epic invention in C. S. Lewis’ comparison, the Orlando Furioso seems all the more suitable to post-postmodernism when we think of the intertextual web it is already involved within, including both the book and the film of both The Lord of the Rings and The Prisoner of Azkaban. Will the Orlando Furioso be the next Hollywood blockbuster?
(1) Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, ed. Paul-Gabriel Boucé (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 221.
(2) George Otto Trevelyan, The Early History of Charles James Fox (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1880), p. 56.
(3) Stuart Gillespie, ‘Ariosto’, in Olive Classe (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Literary Translation into English (London, Routledge, 2000), 1:75–7 at 76.
(4) Linda Hutcheon, with Siobhan O’Flynn, A Theory of Adaptation (London and New York, Routledge, 2013), p. 18.
(6) This reading of Ariosto’s poem is reflected in the mesmerizing definition of Ariosto’s language suggested, more or less at the same time as Lewis and Beckett’s relaunch of Ariosto in British culture, by the Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam (1891–1938), a passionate reader of the Orlando Furioso, as ‘a captivating mix / Of Pushkin’s sadness and Mediterranean bluster’, thus locating Ariosto on the border between different spatio-temporal coordinates. See Osip Mandelshtam, Poems, trans. Ilya Bernstein (New York, M-Graphics Publishing, 2014), p. 29. The poem was written on 4–6 May 1933, but published only posthumously.
(7) On Ariosto and postmodernism, see Remo Ceserani, ‘Ariosto, il moderno e il postmoderno’, Horizonte, 9 (2005/6), special issue: Trugbildenerisches Labyrinth – Kaleidoskopartige Effekte. Neurezeptionen des ‘Orlando furioso’ von Ariosto, ed. C. Klettke and G. Maag, 27–44. Ceserani suggested five points where Ariosto and postmodernism merge: 1. Assemblage and pastiche; 2. Metafiction; 3. The actualization of mythological material; 4. Horizontal (or synchronic) narrative; 5. Preference for allegory over symbolism. For further discussion on postmodern readings of Ariosto’s poem, see also David Quint, ‘Astolfo’s Voyage to the Moon’, Yale Italian Studies, 1 (1977), 398–409; and Ita Mac Carthy, ‘Ariosto the Lunar Traveller’, Modern Language Review, 104.1 (2009), 71–82; as well as Alberto Casadei’s opposition to the postmodern appropriation of Ariosto: ‘Precettistica e libertà nella poetica ariostesca’, in Gianni Venturi (ed.), L’uno e l’altro Ariosto. In corte e nelle delizie (Florence, Olschki, 2011), pp. 239–62 (now also in Ariosto. I metodi e i mondi possibili (Venice, Marsilio, 2016), pp. 57–84).
(8) C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 372.
(13) James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (London, Cadell, 1822), 3:182.
(14) Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, ed. and trans. Lewis A. Coser (Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 38.
(15) Lewis, The Allegory of Love, p. 379. Lewis could be mindful of Scott’s anecdote that he could cure himself from feverish attacks only by reading Ariosto: see Walter Scott, The Letters of Sir Walter Scott, ed. H. J. C. Grierson and others, 12 vols (London, Constable and Co, 1832–7), VII:8. Letter dated 18 December 1821.
(16) Samuel Beckett, ‘An Imaginative Work!’, in Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment, ed. Ruby Cohn (London, Calder, 1983), pp. 89–90 at 89. On Beckett’s knowledge of Ariosto’s poem see Everett C. Frost and Jane Maxwell, ‘Catalogue of “Notes Diverse Holo[Graph]”’, Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui, 16 (2006), 19–181 at 29–37.
(17) Frost and Maxwell, ‘Catalogue of “Notes Diverse Holo[Graph]”’, p. 35; Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon, Samuel Beckett’s Library (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 103.
(18) Donald S. Carne-Ross, ‘Introduction to Ariosto’, Nine, ed. P. Russell, 111 (1951), 113–25 at 122.
(19) Daniela Caselli, Beckett’s Dantes: Intertextuality in the Fiction and Criticism (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2013), pp. 86 and 165.
(20) C. S. Lewis, Collected Letters, ed. Walter Hooper (London, HarperCollins, 2006), 3:87.
(22) Beckett, ‘Henri Hayden, homme-peintre’, in Disjecta, pp. 146–7 at 147.
(23) J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (Oxford, George Allen & Unwin, 1954), dust jacket. See also Lewis, Collected Letters, 3:383. For further discussion, see: Colin Duriez, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship (Mahwah, NJ, HiddenSpring, 2003), pp. 141–2; Diana Pavlac Glyer, The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community (Kent, OH, Kent State University Press, 2007), p. 204.
(24) Charlotte and Denis Plimmer, ‘JRR Tolkien: “Film My Books? It’s Easier to Film The Odyssey”’, The Telegraph Magazine, 22 March 1968: www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2016/04/19/jrr-tolkien-film-my-books-its-easier-to-film-the-odyssey/ (accessed 31 August 2017).
(25) On the roots of postmodernism in literary criticism, see: Brian McHale, Postmodernist Fiction (London, Routledge, 1987); Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (London and New York, Routledge, 1988); Patricia Waugh, ‘Postmodernism’, in Christa Knellwolf and Christopher Norris (eds), The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 289–306); Steven Connor, ‘Postmodernism and Literature’, in Steven Connor (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 62–81.
(26) On Tolkien and postmodernism, see: Shaun F. D. Hughes, ‘Introduction: Postmodern Tolkien’, Modern Fiction Studies, 50.4 (2004), 807–13; Hannah Brady, ‘The Fantasy of the Real: J.R.R. Tolkien, Modernism, and Postmodernism’, English Seminar Capstone Research Papers, Paper 7 (2011), http://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/english_seminar_capstone/7 (accessed 31 August 2017). On the film The Lord of the Rings and postmodernism, see Verlyn Flieger, ‘A Distant Mirror: Tolkien and Jackson in the Looking-Glass’, in Richard Utz and Jesse G. Swan (eds), Postmodern Medievalisms (Cambridge, D.S. Brewer, 2004), pp. 67–78.
(27) The idea of the Orlando Furioso as a poem without time or even beyond time has been promoted by the Italian writers Borgese and Gadda and exploited at length in scholarly criticism by Bologna; see Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, L’Ariosto nel mondo degli invisibili (1923), in Da Dante a Thomas Mann, ed. Giulio Vallese (Milan, Mondadori, 1958), pp. 152–90 at 180 (‘si vorrebbe poter scrivere, con la stessa legittimità della parola spaziare, la parola stemporare: cioè trascendere i tempi, travalicare le epoche’: ‘I would like to be allowed to write the word “stemporare” as legitimately as the word “spaziare” (to range), i.e., to transcend time, to cross epochs’); Carlo Emilio Gadda, I viaggi, la morte (Milan, Garzanti, 1958), p. 175 (‘Chi pensa che il tempo fluisca, che la vita si compia e vanisca nel tempo, al leggere l’Ariosto?’: ‘Who would think that time flows, that life accomplishes and vanishes with time, when reading Ariosto?’); Corrado Bologna, La macchina del ‘Furioso’. Lettura dell’‘Orlando’ e delle ‘Satire’ (Turin, Einaudi, 1998). The idea of the Orlando Furioso as a poem where irony dominates the poetical imagination has been expressed all throughout Ariosto’s criticism; see the compendious review by Stefano Jossa, ‘Ironia’, in Annalisa Izzo (ed.), Lessico critico dell’‘Orlando Furioso’ (Rome, Carocci, 2017), pp. 177–97.
(28) See Jeff Prucher (ed.), Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 4–6 and 253.
(29) L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, The Castle of Iron, in The Compleat Enchanter: The Magical Misadventures of Harold Shea (London, Millennium, 2000), pp. 239–395 at 253.
(30) L. Sprague de Camp, Time and Chance: An Autobiography (London, Gateway, 2011), accessed via google books 31 August 2017.
(31) Theodore Sturgeon, Bright Segment, ed. Paul Williams (Berkeley, CA, North Atlantic Books, 2002), p. 393.
(35) Joseph Gibaldi, ‘Will Ariosto Be the Next Tolkien?’, College Literature, 2.2 (1975), 138–42.
(36) Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Ariosto Furioso: A Romance for an Alternate Renaissance (New York, Pocket Books, 1980), pp. 4, 7–10.
(37) Jorge Luis Borges, Dreamtigers, trans. Mildred Boyer and Harold Morland (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1964), p. 83.
(38) Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence (London, Random House, 2008), p. 324. See also Vassilena Parashkevova, Salman Rushdie’s Cities: Reconfigurational Politics and the Contemporary Urban Imagination (London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012), pp. 178–9.
(40) Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables, ed. Milton. R. Stern (New York and London, Penguin, 1981), p. 1; David Lodge, Small World: An Academic Romance (London, Secker & Warburg, 1984), epigraph.
(41) Walter Scott, The Miscellaneous Prose Works, vol. VI, Chivalry, Romance, and the Drama (Edinburgh and London, Robert Cadell and Houlston & Stoneman, 1834), p. 129. Later in the essay, Scott observed that ‘The Romantic poets of Italy did not even disdain to imitate the rambling, diffused, and episodical style proper of the old Romance; and Ariosto, in particular, although he torments the reader’s attention by digressing from one action to another, delights us, upon frequent perusals, by the extreme ingenuity with which he gathers up the broken ends of his narrative, and finally weaves them all handsomely together in the same piece’ (p. 195).
(42) Raymond H. Thompson, ‘Interview with David Lodge’, The Camelot Project, 15 May 1989: http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/interview-with-david-lodge (accessed 31 August 2017).
(43) David Lodge, ‘Small World: An Introduction’ (1984), in Write On: Occasional Essays ’65–’85 (London, Secker & Warburg, 1986), pp. 70–5 at 73.
(44) Patricia A. Parker, Inescapable Romance: Studies in the Poetics of a Mode (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1979), p. 4.
(48) Roland Barthes, Le plaisir du texte (Paris, Seuil, 1973); Eng. trans., The Pleasure of the Text (New York, Hill and Wang, 1975); Gerard Genette, Figures of Literary Discourse, trans. Alan Sheridan, intro. Marie-Rose Logan (Oxford, Blackwell, 1982), p. 132.
(49) Lucien Dällenbach, Le récit spéculaire. Essai sur la mise en abyme (Paris, Seuil, 1977).
(50) On Ariosto’s narrative technique, see Peter Brand, ‘L’entrelacement nell’Orlando Furioso’, Giornale storico della letteratura italiana, 154 (1977), 509–32; Marco Praloran, Tempo e azione nell’ ‘Orlando furioso’ (Florence, Olschki, 1999); Sergio Zatti, The Quest for Epic: From Ariosto to Tasso (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2006), pp. 13–37.
(52) On Ariosto’s play with his characters see, for example, Orlando Furioso, 15.9.5–8: ‘Di questo altrove io vo’ rendervi conto; / ch’ad un gran duca è forza ch’io riguardi, / il qual mi grida, e di lontano accenna, / e priega ch’io nol lasci ne la penna’ (‘Later I shall relate to you what happened; now I must turn my attention to a great duke who is calling and beckoning to me from a distance, entreating my pen to release him onto the page’; trans. Guido Waldman). See also Robert M. Durling, The Figure of the Poet in Renaissance Epic (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1965).
(53) All the action of the Orlando Furioso springs from ‘Angelica who escapes’ (Orlando Furioso, 1.10). On the quest theme in the Orlando Furioso see Donald S. Carne-Ross, ‘The One and the Many: A Reading of Orlando Furioso, Cantos 1 and 8’, Arion, 5.2 (1966), 195–234; Zatti, The Quest for Epic, pp. 38–59.
(56) Bárbara Arizti, Textuality as Striptease: The Discourses of Intimacy in David Lodge’s Changing Places and Small World (Frankfurt am Main, P. Lang, 2002), p. 193.
(61) Lodge’s notes for Small World, archived in the Cadbury Library in Birmingham, suggest that this is indeed true and not literary pose. Lodge himself recently confirmed his scarce knowledge of the Orlando Furioso in the talk he gave in Birmingham on 18 November 2017: see www.birming-ham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/languages/events/2016/orlando-furioso-at-500.aspx#videos(accessed 31 August 2017).
(63) Scott had been mentioned in the academically highly influential essay by Fredric Jameson, ‘Magical Narratives: Romance as Genre’, New Literary History, 7 (1975–6), 135–63 – which is possibly one of Lodge’s theoretical sources together with the explicitly quoted books by Jessie L. Weston (From Ritual to Romance, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1920) and Parker. Jameson’s premise, imbued with erotic allure, is that romance works ‘as a temptation and a mode of expression across a whole range of historical periods, seeming to offer itself, if only intermittently, as a formal possibility which can be revived and renewed’ (142).
(64) Natalja Vorobyova Jorgensen, ‘David Lodge: A Therapy for the Self’, in Jon Stewart (ed.), Kierkegaard’s Influence on Literature, Criticism and Art (Farnham, Ashgate, 2013), pp. 131–56 at 142.
(65) On Calvino and Ariosto see Lucia Re, ‘Ariosto and Calvino: The Adventures of a Reader’, in Donald Beecher, Massimo Ciavolella and Roberto Fedi (eds), Ariosto Today: Contemporary Perspectives (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2003), pp. 209–33.
(67) David Lodge, After Bakhtin: Essays on Fiction and Criticism (London and New York, Routledge, 1990), p. 39.
(68) Bert Cardullo, Bresson and Others: Spiritual Style in the Cinema (Newcastle, Cambridge Scholars, 2009), p. 58.
(69) Jim Jarmusch: Interviews, ed. Ludvig Hertzberg (Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2001), p. 160.
(70) Juan Antonio Suárez, Jim Jarmusch (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 2007), p. 153.
(71) On Ronconi’s Orlando Furioso see Sandro Bernardi, ‘From Poem to Theatre to Cinema: Luca Ronconi’s Orlando Furioso’, in Beecher et al., Ariosto Today: Contemporary Perspectives, pp. 195–210.
(72) Edoardo Sanguineti, ‘La macchina narrativa dell’Ariosto’, in L. Ariosto, Orlando furioso, ed. Marcello Turchi, intro. Edoardo Sanguineti (Milan, Garzanti, 1974), pp. li–lvii at p. li.
(74) Walter Scott, The Heart of Mid-Lothian, ed. Tony Inglis (London, Penguin, 2006), p. 163.
(75) Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, ed. Graham Tulloch (London, Penguin, 2000), p. 152. Scott was obviously referring to Ariosto’s masterly technique of deferring the narrative action, in order to follow more threads to the story, as exemplified by ‘ma seguitiamo Angelica che fugge’ (1.32.8: ‘But let us pursue Angelica in her flight’; trans. Waldman) and ‘Ma perché varie fila a varie tele / uopo mi son, che tutte ordire intendo, / lascio Rinaldo e l’agitata prua, / e torno a dire di Bradamante sua’ (2.30.5–8: ‘But as I have need of a number of warps and a variety of threads if I am to complete the whole of my tapestry, I shall leave Rinaldo and his pitching prow and return to the tale of his sister Bradamante’; trans. Waldman).
(76) Russell Hoban, Angelica’s Grotto (London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1999), pp. 38, 61; Russell Hoban, Angelica Lost and Found (London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010), pp. 41, 164.
(77) Russell Hoban, Mr Rinyo-Clacton’s Offer (London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998), p. 154.
(82) John Granger, Looking for God in Harry Potter (Wheaton, IL, SaltRiver, 2004), p. 97.
(84) See Newt Scamander (J. K. Rowling), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (New York, Scholastics, 2001), p. 21.
(85) See for example www.jkrowling.com/about/ (accessed 31 August 2017). The connection between Rowling and Bulfinch has been suggested, in addition to various discussions online, by Peggy J. Huey, ‘A Basilisk, a Phoenix, and a Philosopher’s Stone: Harry Potter’s Myths and Legends’, in Cynthia Whitney Hallett (ed.), Scholarly Studies in Harry Potter: Applying Academic Methods to a Popular Text (Lewiston, NY and Lampeter, Edwin Mellen Press, 2005), pp. 65–83.
(86) Bulfinch’s Mythology (New York, Grosset & Dunlap, 1913), p. 719.
(87) Fredric Jameson, ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’, in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle, WA, Bay Press, 1983), pp. 111–25 at 112.
(88) C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew (Harmondsworth, Puffin Books, 1978), pp. 133–4.
(89) Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism, pp. 124–40. See also recent studies on video games: James Paul Gee, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Christophe Duret and Christian-Marie Pons (eds), Contemporary Research on Intertextuality in Video Games (Hershey, IGI Global, 2016).