For educated poets and readers in the Renaissance, classical literature was as familiar and accessible as the work of their compatriots and contemporaries – often more so. Their creative response to it was not a matter of dry scholarship or inert imitation, but rather of engagement in an ancient and lively conversation which was still unfolding, both in the modern languages and in new Latin verse. This volume seeks to recapture that sense of intimacy and immediacy, as scholars from both sides of the modern disciplinary divide come together to eavesdrop on the conversations conducted through allusion and intertextual play in works from Petrarch to Milton and beyond, and offer their perspectives on the intermingling of ancient and modern strains in the reception of the classical past and its poetry. The essays include illuminating discussions of Ariosto, Du Bellay, Spenser, Marlowe, the anonymous drama Caesars Revenge, Shakespeare and Marvell, and look forward to the grand retrospect of Shelley’s ‘Adonais’. Together, they help us to understand how poets across the ages have thought about their relation to their predecessors, and about their own contributions to what Shelley would call ‘that great poem, which all poets… have built up since the beginning of the world’.
The volume offers a new method of interpreting screen adaptations of Shakespearean drama, focusing on the significance of cinematic genres in the analysis of films adapted from literary sources. The book’s central argument is rooted in the recognition that film genres may provide the most important context informing a film’s production, critical and popular reception. The novelty of the volume is in its use of a genre-based interpretation as an organising principle for a systematic interpretation of Shakespeare film adaptations. The book also highlights Shakespearean elements in several lesser-known films, hoping to generate new critical attention towards them. The volume is organised into six chapters, discussing films that form broad generic groups. Part I comprises three genres from the classical Hollywood era (western, melodrama and gangster noir), while Part II deals with three contemporary blockbuster genres (teen film, undead horror and the biopic). The analyses underline elements that the films have inherited from Shakespeare, while emphasising how the adapting genre leaves a more important mark on the final product than the textual source. The volume’s interdisciplinary approach means that its findings are rooted in both Shakespeare and media studies, underlining the crucial role genres play in the production and reception of literature as well as in contemporary popular visual culture.
The chapter discusses the common debates concerning the film noir as a genre, and, based on the clearly recognisable core elements of the group, argues for the practical applicability of the label, placing it within the context of the thriller and the gangster genre, both of which show considerable overlaps with noir. After the examination of two classic examples of 1940s film noir, both displaying a central interest in male psychology, anxiety and crime, the second half of the chapter looks at post-war gangster films, one from the 1950s, another from 1990, a significant moment in the revival of the gangster genre. The visuality of these films continues to bear clear traces of the noir, but the increased role of violence, together with the protagonists’ changed moral stance, mark them as different from the earlier products. The final example comes from the twenty-first century, an indie neo-noir production, which employs the generic elements of the police drama as well as the gangster film. The range of films examined in the chapter offer convincing proof both for the continued influence of the gangster and noir formulas, and for their ability to adapt to the given socio-historical context.
Reaching for the sky in classical and Renaissance poetics
Poets take flight for an immortality of fame in the heavens, whether experienced in fancy by their own living selves, posthumously in the praises of other writers, or by proxy in the fictional flights of characters in their works. Ovid’s flight of fame in the epilogue to the Metamorphoses is a summation of previous poetic tradition, including Horace’s aspirations to undying fame, imagined in Odes 2.20 as flight in the form of a swan, and Ennius’ posthumous flight on the lips of men. Aspirations to flight are experienced as risky. In Odes 4.2 Horace warns against attempting Pindaric flights. Mythological high-fliers who come crashing down, Daedalus and Phaethon, are figures for poets’ anxieties about the chances of immortalizing themselves in flights of sublimity. The classical sources inform Spenser’s celebration of the deceased Sir Philip Sidney in ‘The Ruines of Time’, combining classical and Christian themes of ascent. The chapter closes with readings of Astolfo’s journey to the moon in cantos 34 and 35 of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, and Milton’s reworking of Ariosto’s Valley of Lost Things on the moon in the Paradise of Fools in Paradise Lost 3, a place of failed Satanic ascents in counterpoint with the poet Milton’s own aspirations to poetic and spiritual flight. Comparative attention is also given to a visual depiction of the apotheosis of poetry, Ingres’ ‘Apotheosis of Homer’.
Diptych and virtual diptych in Marvell, Milton, Du Bellay and others
This chapter offers access to the kinds of conversation with antiquity made possible by instances of parallel Latin and vernacular composition in certain early modern poets. A substantial subset of Marvell’s poetry is in Latin; and of particular interest are instances in which the poet writes Latin and English versions of the same poem. Ros and Hortus now ask to be considered alongside ‘On a Drop of Dew’ and ‘The Garden’ as parallel and cross-referential compositions in which Marvell plays with, and thematises, his dual literary competence in English and in Latin. These are special cases; but the idea of ‘diptych’ composition offers a distinctive way of getting a purchase on literary bilingualism at large. In Marvell’s time, the matter is rendered most fully tangible in Milton’s double book of Poems English and Latin. However, the chapter’s midsection takes the idea of the cross-linguistic diptych in a different and hypothetical direction: what if one were to imagine a Latin ‘twin’ for every vernacular poem in the classical tradition, even in the 99% of cases in which no such twin exists? Such a thought-experiment finds traction in the case of the famously Latinate English of Paradise Lost; with an added twist in that translators were not lacking who took it upon themselves to do what Milton did not do, and to render the epic’s Latinate and Virgilian verse into post-virgilian Latin. The final pages briefly extend the conversation to the poetry of Ronsard and Du Bellay a century earlier in France.
The chapter presents the book’s main thesis, arguing for a genre-based interpretation of film adaptations of literary works and pointing out the advantages of such a method over the traditional fidelity-based approach. It reflects briefly on the historical development of genre studies, and on the absence of genre as a central element from both mainstream and more recent adaptation criticism, particularly Shakespeare on screen studies. Since 2010, Shakespeare adaptation research has turned increasingly towards new media and the destabilisation of several fundamental concepts, including film, adaptation, even Shakespeare, or the changes associated with the digitally networked participation characterising contemporary cultural production and consumption. The concept of the rhizome and its use in rhizomatic adaptation criticism is also considered; the applicability of the concept for the genre-based research exemplified by the volume is pointed out. The chapter, however, confirms its belief in the broad applicability of generic categories and encourages the use of this method of adaptation analysis for screen products based on non-Shakespearean literary sources as well. The final section of the chapter describes the criteria of selecting the films included in the volume and offers a brief overview of the book’s structure.
The disciplinary divide between classics and modern literary studies sets up an artificial boundary, which can obscure our view both of what poets are doing and of how they perceive their role. Such compartmentalisation is alien to the bilingual cultures of Renaissance Europe, where Latin was still a medium for prolific literary composition, and where ancient texts rediscovered and edited by humanist scholars appeared in print with the shock of the new. Though acutely aware of the historical distance between themselves and the ancients, educated readers and writers also experienced a sense of paradoxical contemporaneity with classical authors, often expressed through the common trope whereby an ancient poet is imagined as raised from the dead through imitation or translation, or present as friend and teacher in the pages of their books. The trope may seem naively ahistoricist, but the ‘revival’ of Anacreon in the verse of Herrick and Stanley’s royalist coterie during the English Civil War illustrates how central it can be to the poet’s engagement with contemporary politics, and thus to a fully responsive historicist reading. Petrarch, with his letters to the ancients, is often seen as the origin of the period’s uncanny sense of intimacy with classical ghosts, but he was joining a conversation consciously begun by Seneca. Senecan intertextuality also pervades the ‘Ascent of Mont Ventoux’ more deeply than has been recognised, suggesting that the extent even of Petrarch’s engagement with classical writers has been underestimated.
This chapter examines the revivification of the figure of Julius Caesar in three early modern responses to Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile, avoiding an overtly political reading of Lucan to trace instead an intimate conversation between classical poet, early modern translators and imitators. Starting with Lucans First Booke – a translation that presents as blood-transfusion – I show how Marlowe’s reanimation of Caesar as a Roman Tamburlaine enables the anti-hero to escape the bounds of Lucan’s censoriously moralising and fractured poem. Turning next to the anonymously authored academic drama The Tragedie of Caesar and Pompey, or Caesar’s Revenge, we find the full articulation of a Caesar who fulfils and exceeds this Marlovian potential, and an author who runs the attractions to negative repetition in Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile to their natural endpoint: dissolution of the cosmos and the complete confusion of its moral eschatology. The chapter concludes by analysing the destabilising effects of such a revivification of Caesar for both poem and author, via close reading of Thomas May’s 1627 Pharsalia; and in the same author’s attempts both to kill Caesar and ‘end’ Lucan in his 1630 Continuation. The multiple iterations of May’s translation and supplement enact the struggle to resist the super-charged early modern Caesar and Lucan’s unresolved, repetitive poetics alike: and May can accomplish his task in the end only by succumbing to Lucan’s regressive poetics of repetition, adopting early modern tragedy's politics of personal vengeance, and appropriating for his own authorial self the blood-transfusion metaphor of Lucans First Booke.