Speaking Spirits: Ventriloquizing the Dead in Renaissance Italy
Published: May 2015© 2015
280 Pages, 6.35 x 9.30 x 0.95 in
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In classical and early modern rhetoric, to write or speak using the voice of a dead individual is known as eidolopoeia. Whether through ghost stories, journeys to another world, or dream visions, Renaissance writers frequently used this rhetorical device not only to co-opt the authority of their predecessors but in order to express partisan or politically dangerous arguments.
In Speaking Spirits, Sherry Roush presents the first systematic study of early modern Italian eidolopoeia. Expanding the study of Renaissance eidolopoeia beyond the well-known cases of the shades in Dante’s Commedia and the spirits of Boccaccio’s De casibus vivorum illustrium, Roush examines many other appearances of famous ghosts – invocations of Boccaccio by Vincenzo Bagli and Jacopo Caviceo, Girolamo Malipiero’s representation of Petrarch in Limbo, and Girolamo Benivieni’s ghostly voice of Pico della Mirandola. Through close readings of these eidolopoetic texts, she illuminates the important role that this rhetoric played in the literary, legal, and political history of Renaissance Italy.
1. Rewriting the Auctor: Revising according to the Text’s Letter or Spirit?
2. Divining Dante: Scandals of His Corpus and Corpse
3. Genius Loci: Exile, Citizenship, and the Place of Burial
4. Habeas Corpus, Habeas Spiritum: Some (Not-So-) Final Thoughts
‘Roush’s rich study adds much to our understanding of the dynamics of literary authority, showing how authors can simultaneously worship their forbears while exploiting their power to sometimes contrary ends.’George McClure, Renaissance Quarterly vol 69:02:2016
‘With a wealth of material to sustain the focus of her exploration and the clarity of style in which she presents the fruit of her research, Roush’s most recent volume merits a place on the shelf of any Renaissance or Medieval Italianst’s library.’Carlo Anneli, Annali D’Italianistica vol 35:2016
"[Speaking Spirits] is clearly written and generous with lengthy quotations and translations…this work is most relevant to Italianists. But even the general reader will find the work’s capsule authorial autobiographies, literary backstories, and glimpses into peculiar concerns of Renaissance authors of interest. "Justine Walden, Sixteenth Century Journal vol. 49, no. 1 2018
“In Speaking Spirits, eidolopoeia becomes an astute way of examining several interesting aspects of Renaissance culture.”Armando Maggi, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago