Peter W. Graham
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Parisina, Mazeppa and Anglo-Italian displacement
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This chapter examines Parisina (written in England but on an Italian topic) and Mazeppa (written in Italy but on a non-Italian topic) as exemplary instances of Byron’s creation of an Anglo-Italian poetics based on displacement in his narrative verse. It considers them separately and together as a useful way of understanding the ‘intricate fabrication of Byron’s Anglo-Italian identity’. It also considers them ‘in dialogue’ and in relation to Italy in order to throw new light on two works that are generally sidelined in the Byron canon. In Parisina, Byron offers an Italian cautionary tale to Regency England, one in which he can ‘poetically release’ things in his own life that he had to publicly suppress in England. In Mazeppa, instead, Byron explores key aspects of his life in Italy in an imagined location that is displaced from Italy rather than to it. As this essay shows, both narrative poems demonstrate, in contradiction to much critical thinking about Byron, the importance of ‘not being on the spot’ to both the poet’s narrative method and his poetic self-fashioning.

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