Diego Saglia
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‘Where shall I turn me?’
Italy and irony in Beppo and Don Juan
in Byron and Italy
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This chapter focuses on Byron’s ‘Italian’ satires, Beppo and Don Juan, as well as the late prose fragment ‘An Italian Carnival’. It begins by highlighting Byron’s parabasic ‘turn’ to Italy in these works in order to argue that the poet’s complex and contradictory self-positioning in Italy, during his years there, underpins the unprecedentedly multiform poetics and worldview of these texts. The chapter begins by examining the ambivalences and contradictions in Don Juan’s references to Pulci, Ariosto, Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, showing the extent to which Italy’s literature contributes to, but is also subverted by, Byron’s constructing of his new ‘medley mode’. Turning to Beppo, the chapter considers the ways in which the figure of the cavalier servente offers the poet a crucially performative model for his Italian ‘turn’ and the parabasic nature of his satires. The chapter concludes by examining Byron’s reprise of this mode in ‘An Italian Carnival’ to delineate a final image and assessment of the country.

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