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Pastoral at the Boundaries: The Hybridization of Genre in the Fourteenth-Century Italian Eclogue Revival

  • Author(s): Combs-Schilling, Jonathan David
  • Advisor(s): Ascoli, Albert R.
  • et al.


Pastoral at the Boundaries:

The Hybridization of Genre in the Fourteenth-Century Italian Eclogue Revival


Jonathan David Combs-Schilling

Doctor of Philosophy in Italian Studies

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Albert Russell Ascoli, Chair

This dissertation demonstrates that one of the principal aspects of pastoral is its identity as a metagenre by focusing attention on the Latin pastoral production of the fourteenth-century eclogue revival in Italy, and by integrating that production into larger estimations of pastoral's history. Long taken to be a closed circuit within, or a derivative offshoot of, the genre's long history, the eclogues of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio at once accentuated the metageneric elements of classical pastoral and influenced the future of pastoral representations through their consistent exploration of pastoral's boundary-crossing double move--an expansionary movement outward into the representational terrain of other genres and a recuperative (and incorporative) return to the fold.

My first chapter, "Dante's Two Reeds: Pastoral Hierarchies and Hybrids," examines Dante in terms of this double move, positions his eclogues at the origins of a new era of pastoral representation, and addresses why the first continuous tradition of pastoral production in the history of the genre begins with their 165 verses. I individuate one of the principal causes of their influence to be the epistolary context out of which they were forged. By sending his eclogues as letters to the protohumanist Giovanni del Virgilio, Dante harnesses the boundary-traversing movement of epistolarity and invests the metageneric movement of pastoral with a new critical thrust. With this new orientation, Dante utilizes the genre's self-figured humility to interrogate and overturn Giovanni's rigid distinctions between high and low literature and, in the systematically hybrid second eclogue, produces a pastoral fiction that is at once low and high.

There is both a vertical and a horizontal aspect to Dante's use of pastoral as metagenre, and though the two are conjoined, my next two chapters argue that Petrarch explores its vertical aspect through a methodical comparison with epic, while Boccaccio explores its horizontal aspect through a narratologically innovative breach of pastoral's diegetic horizon. In chapter 2, "Translatio bucolicorum: Pastoral and the Place of Epic in Petrarch's Bucolicum carmen," through an analysis of his first eclogue and his letters, in particular Familiares 21.15, I reveal that Petrarch conceived of his collection as a response to the letter that Giovanni had sent Dante, whereby he not only attempts to replace Dante as the originator of the pastoral revival but also figures his collection as an "answer" to Giovanni's request for a new Latin epic. In this light, I proceed to examine Petrarch's pervasive appropriation of epic tropes and strategies, in particular translatio imperii, as he extends the implications of Dante's high-low hybrid to pastoralize the book of epic, and in the process generates the first modern collection of eclogues.

In my third chapter, "Tending to the Boundary: Between Inner and Outer Pastoral in Boccaccio's Buccolicum carmen," I redress critical estimations of Boccaccio's usage of allegory in his eclogue collection to show that it is not a departure from "authentic" pastoral but rather works in concert with the other innovations he brings to the genre, most noticeably the sharp increase in dramatic movement within the eclogues and the narratological complexity deployed in the songs of their protagonists. By narrativizing the arrival of allegory to the landscape of pastoral, as well as its departure, Boccaccio drastically increases the genre's representational purview while also maintaining the autonomy of its fictions. This provokes a doubling of the landscape, which becomes mapped into two distinct but overlapping spaces: an inner pastoral, a more conventional Arcadian scene, and an outer pastoral, a liminal space where the genre encounters and pastoralizes the system of literature beyond its borders.

The cumulative effect of this inquiry is a two-fold recognition: first, while still respecting the distinctions between the pastoral poetics of the tre corone, we can meaningfully speak of the fourteenth-century eclogue revival as a movement; and, second, it was a movement that helped shape pastoral's future as a metagenre.

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