The Epic of Juan Latino: Dilemmas of Race and Religion in Renaissance Spain
Published: July 2016© 2016
288 Pages, 6.27 x 9.28 x 0.95 in, 3 maps
In The Epic of Juan Latino, Elizabeth R. Wright tells the story of Renaissance Europe’s first black poet and his epic poem on the naval battle of Lepanto, Austrias Carmen (The Song of John of Austria).
Piecing together the surviving evidence, Wright traces Latino’s life in Granada, Iberia’s last Muslim metropolis, from his early clandestine education as a slave in a noble household to his distinguished career as a schoolmaster at the University of Granada. When intensifying racial discrimination and the chaos of the Morisco Revolt threatened Latino’s hard-won status, he set out to secure his position by publishing an epic poem in Latin verse, the Austrias Carmen, that would demonstrate his mastery of Europe’s international literary language and celebrate his own African heritage.
Through Latino’s remarkable, hitherto untold story, Wright illuminates the racial and religious tensions of sixteenth-century Spain and the position of black Africans within Spain’s nascent empire and within the emerging African diaspora.
Introduction: A Lost Portrait and a Forgotten Name
Part I: From Slave to Freedman in Granada
Chapter 1: Latin Lessons Amid the Remnants of Al-Andalus
Chapter 2: Civil War, Shattered Convivencia
Part II: The Epic of Lepanto
Chapter 3: A Black Poet and a Habsburg Phoenix
Chapter 4: Christians and Muslims on the Battle Lines
Chapter 5: The Costs of Modern Warfare
Conclusion: Song of the Black Swan
Epilogue: Juan Latino in the Harlem Renaissance
Appendix 1: Elegy for Philip II, Annotated Translation
Appendix 2: Chronology
"Wright has produced an admirable and highly recommended study."William D. Phillips, Jr., University of Minnesota, University of Toronto Quarterly, vol 87 3, Summer 2018
“The Epic of Juan Latino is a truly remarkable achievement. Much more than a biography of a former black slave, it is literary history of the best kind. Seldom does one see such a vast geographical, historical, and literary scope covered in a book on a Renaissance subject. Not only is the scholarship outstanding but the author is able to create a learned text that is highly engaging and readable.”María Antonia Garcés, Department of Romance Studies, Cornell University
“In The Epic of Juan Latino, Elizabeth R. Wright digs deep to uncover Latino’s document trail. Wright’s ability to bring together literary and historical studies as well as her lucid writing style has resulted in a beautifully written and refreshing book.”Katie Harris, Department of History, University of California-Davis