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Later in the second discourse. Tasso argues for the necessity of unity in the epic plot, attempts to demonstrate that romance does not constitute a genre in itself, and asserts that Ariosto 's Orlando Furioso cannot, therefore, be classi- fied as a romance since the genre does not exist and must be considered a failed epic. Through all of his discussion of epic unity. Tasso continuously leads the discussion back to a consideration of the reader's experience. In dis- cussing the appropriate size for an epic poem, for instance, he writes: The reader's experience of the poem is again the standard by which the epic poet judges his subject; he or she must grasp the causal relation of the poem's events, or the effect of the poem will be lost.

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Tasso uses the same criteria to judge the Orlando Furioso; Ariosto's poem is too long and contains multiple plots, which pose a danger because they lead to confusion and engender multiple meanings, an effect that Tasso equates with indeterminacy or lack of meaning altogether he does not seem to distinguish between the two: The plot of the poem must be "complete," must have a beginning, middle, and end, because only then will the poem be understandable, only then will the moral causality of the poem's events become clear.

Tasso talks of searching for "perfection" in the plot "Tutta o intiera deve essere la favola perch' in lei la perfezione si ricerca" [1. Andrew Fichter, for example, writes the following: But Neo- Platonism is only part of what is at issue here for Tasso. Unity becomes neces- sary because of rhetorical concerns; the lack of a determinate ending, for exam- ple, would be problematic as it would Umit the reader's ability to understand the poem.

Unity of meaning is not only true to Tasso 's conception of the struc- ture of the universe, but it is also necessary if he is to ensure that his epic will have the proper effects on its readers. Tasso' s Domestication of Allegory Tasso's early Discorsi dell'arte poetica, therefore, have a problematic rela- tionship to The Poetics. While he appeals to Aristotle's treatise frequently and at various points extrapolates from Aristotle's discussion of epic, at other mo- ments Tasso contradicts the treatise or bends it to serve his own purposes.

Even in the second discourse, where structural issues seem paramount. Tasso con- tinuously justifies his theory by appealing to the experience of the reader. Tasso's early " Aristotelianism" is compromised, as he works toward a moralis- tic theory of poetry. The relationship of the early Discorsi to Aristotelianism is analogous to the relationship of the later "Allegoria del Poema" to the allegori- cal tradition; both contradict and at times compromise their authoritative sources, and both do so in the interests of a rhetorically effective poetry. Ulti- mately, the views of the poetry presented in the two treatises prove similar.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the "Allegoria del Poema" is Tasso's strong emphasis at the beginning of the treatise on the importance of imitation in poetry. He asserts that heroic poetry possesses a dual nature: These appeals differed from the "Allegoria," however, in that they often characterized the literal sense of fiction as apparently frivo- lous or even immoral; the immoral husk needed to be stripped away to reveal the kernel of moral truth within.

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Tasso departs from the allegorical tradition of discarding the literal sense, however, by em- phasizing the importance of the imitative aspect of poetry. Stanley Benf ell His description of the literal, mimetic aspect of the poem differs strikingly from what we might expect in a treatise claiming allegorical meaning: Tasso's imitations are not beautiful lies, written to be discarded. Instead, he asserts the importance of poetry's mimetic powers, its ability to represent physical reality vividly before ''corporeal eyes". He makes no suggestion that the poem's narrative needs to be rejected in order to understand the allegory.

He continues to affirm, in other words, the centrality of the literal sense even in this allegorical reading; for, according to Tasso, allegory becomes thoroughly intertwined in the hteral, verisimilar narrative.

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In his "Exposition of the Content of Virgil according to Moral Philosophy," for example, Fulgentius explains book one of The Aeneid with its narrative of shipwreck "as an allegory of the dangers of birth, which include both the pangs of the mother in giving birth and the hazards of the child in its need to be bom" In book four, Aeneas, the exemplary maturing man, comes to embody "the spirit of adolescence, on holiday from patemal control, [who] goes off hunting, is inflamed by passion and, driven by storm and cloud, that is, by confusion of mind, commits adultery" In the commentary of Virgil by the Renaissance Neo-Platonist Landino, the joumeys of the Virgilian hero are made to correspond to his moral development in a way that similarly disregards the poem's literal narrative.

Troy signifies, for Landino, "the innocent sensual- ity of childhood"; after leaming to abandon his sensual values, Aeneas then confronts the perils of civic life in Carthage; his arrival in Italy signifies the attaining of the contemplative life Murrin As Murrin remarks, "Such an exegesis The difference between this kind of extended allegorical reading and the allegorical account that Tasso provides in the "Allegoria," proves to be pro- found, therefore, despite the ostensible similarities.

For unlike Fulgentius and Landino, Tasso consistently ties his allegorical reading to the poem's literal narrative. A closer analysis of two examples will help to illustrate how closely he attempts to unite these two senses. Tasso' s Domestication of Allegory In canto 7 of the Gerusalemme, Goffredo decides to hazard his life in a duel with Argante. Raimondo, however, rebukes hini for his wish, since by doing so he will put the entire army at risk: While Raimondo 's reference to Goffredo as the "capo" recalls Tasso 's allegorical identification of him as the intellect, Goffredo as the head of the army also makes sense within the literal narrative of the poem.

The Christian army finds itself unable to function when it fails to unite itself under his leadership; therefore, Raimondo 's warning concerns itself with the fate of the army, not with the ideal man. Thus Tasso continuously works to tie the literal and allegorical together in the "Allegoria," as he often equates the literal events of the poem and the allegorical meaning that he seeks to derive from them. Tasso works to make the two senses seem virtually inseparable. Another example is Tasso's identification of two of his pagan characters, Ismeno and Armida, whom he describes in the following way in the "Alle- goria": If the reader comes to the treatise after having read the poem, however, he or she immediately senses the super- fluity of the analysis; Tasso's allegorical gloss is hardly needed to point out that Ismeno attempts to deceive the intellects of the Christian army while Armida tempts their carnal appetites.

Nevertheless, a consideration of the difference between Ismeno and the character of Errour from Spenser's Faerie Queene demonstrates tJiat Tasso does not create characters so transparently allegorical that they verge on personification. When Redcrosse attacks, she retreats from the light, for, we are told "light she hated" while preferring in "desert darknesse to remaine. Stanley Benfell These details derive from the allegorical nature of the character; they exist to define the character in abstract terms, not to individualize the monster in any way.

Many of the details are simply not "verisimilar" in Tasso's sense. When we compare this description to the introduction of Ismeno at the opening of the second canto of Tasso 's poem, we sense a profound difference. Here we learn that Ismeno has magical powers, including the abiUty to make a corpse breathe and feel.

We also learn that "or Macone adora, e fu cristiano" 2. While Ismeno is certainly not one of the more individualized characters in the poem, all of the details do help to individualize him. In addition, they are all verisimilar details; a Christian reader can accept that a pagan magician had the power to raise bodies from the dead. It is difficult, however, to imagine any reader accepting Errour as any- thing but an allegorical construct.

Tasso 's characters, that is, are simply not sufficiently abstract to embody the kind of personification typical of the tradition of poetic allegory.

This is not to say, however, that the kind of moral allegorization that Tasso provides in his treatise would have been unknown to his readers. In some sixteenth century Italian editions of the Orlando Furioso, for example, editors prefaced each canto with allegorie that interpreted the actions of the character within the canto in a moral sense, similar to the kinds of interpretations that Tasso pro- vides of his own characters.

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Thus, Armida may exemplify the temp- tations of the flesh while not becoming so abstract as to disappear entirely into her allegorical identification. When viewed in this way, as a narrative of exem- plary figures. Tasso 's allegory accords well with his earlier insistence, in the Discorsi dell'arte poetica, that epic actions and characters be defined in exem- plary, universal terms. Tasso suggested in his early discourses that a character could be considered an epic character in so much as he or she exemplified some virtue or vice, a theory of character that resembles the way in which, in the "Allegoria," Tasso assigns a faculty of the mind or a limb of the body to each character.

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There exists, in other words, an underlying consistency in Tasso 's conception of his epic and its moral meaning from his early dis- courses through the "Allegoria. The Discorsi and the "Allegoria" represent not a shift of fundamental conception but of emphasis. For rather than abandoning Aristotehan mimesis in favor of personification allegory. Tasso propenses a moral allegory that concentrates on the exemplary status of his characters, which is used in the service of a poem based on an "Aristotelianism" that insists on an epic's rhetorical effectiveness, is partially achieved through the creation of exemplary characters.

In both trea- Tasso' s Domestication of Allegory lises, that is. Tasso describes the same kind of poem: During the composition of Gerusalemme Liberata, Tasso wrote to Scipione Gonzaga that he objected to allegory because it gave readers a license to inter- pret according to their own capricious inclinations, a practice that leads to an unacceptable multiplicity of readings. Allegory frequently provided a way of reading that proliferated and multiplied meanings, even when wielded by authoritarian and orthodox interpreters, a fact evident from St.

Augustine's De Doctrina Christiana and medieval texts such as St. Bernard's sermons on the Song of Songs.

The same is true for allegorical poetic texts; for example, the clearly allegorical narrative of Spenser's Faerie Queene seems to multiply meanings much as Errour vomits books. Similarly, in a passage that Harrington will translate unacknowledged into the preface of his translation of the Orlando Furioso, Leone Ebreo, as part of a defense of poetry's seriousness and veracity in the second of his Dialoghi di amore, inter- prets the myth of Perseus on several levels; he distinguishes between the myth's "senso historiale" and how it "significa [ Tasso's objections to allegory's proliferation of meanings become clearer in the hght of this tradition, as is his decision to write an allegory that works to eliminate that multiplicity, that eliminates all but a particular kind of moral allegory, which he could tie closely to the actions of his characters and thus to the literal sense of the poem.

Tasso, that is, "domesticates" allegory, strictly delimiting allegorical meaning to a single moral reading in order to undercut the multiplicity of interpretations - the uncontrollable, capricious "wildness" - that allegory invariably encourages. In both treatises, then. Tasso works to eliminate multiplicity through an ex- ercise of authorial control.

In his second discourse, he objected to the multiple, digressive plots of romance that produce "distrazione nell'animo e impedi- mento nell'operare" 1. Instead, he proposed the creation of epic with a single "end"; in the "Allegoria" he spells out that end for his readers: Tasso attempts to spell out the univocal meaning he envisaged in the Discorsi as proper to epic.


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The "Allegoria" does not contradict Tasso's theory of an effective epic that he delineates in his Discorsi; rather, it leads wandering readers back to the single end he had envisioned, under his own banners, moving them towards a political and religious felicity. Tasso expected to preface the poem with the prose "Allegoria"; on that day he wrote to Scipione Gonzaga, informing him that he intended "di far stampare l'allegoria in fronte del poema" Kates and Rhu "Tasso's First Discourse".

He also notes that the defenders of romance also appealed to Aristotle and attempted to extend his poetic theory so as to nclude romance. See Minnis ans Scott Rhu's comment in The Genesis: I would argue that Tasso wants his readers to miss the distinction; verisimilitude is essential precisely beacause a reader will accept verisimilar events as true. While m the second discourse he elaborates on Anstotle's distinction between poetry and history, he ignores it in the first discourse m order to claim the histoncal subject for epic.

Rhu's sense of this discourse: I would argue, however, that the issues of plot structure are inseparable from rhetoncal considerations for Tasso. Unity of plot is crucial precisely because of Its impact on meaning and moral interpretation. Dante's emphasis on the fictional nature of the literal narrative and the necessity of stripping away this "beautiful be" in order to arrive at the "hidden truth" is echoed by Boccaccio's discussion of poetic truth in his Genealogia deorum gentilium, where he de- clares that poetry "veils truth m a fair and fitting gaiment of fiction.

If then, sense is revealed from under the veil of fiction, the composition of fiction is not idle nonsense" 39, In both the Dante of the Convivio and Boccaccio, the "truth" of poetry bes beneath the surface, and it is necessary to discard the bteral sense to get at it. Valvassori in Proclaiming a Classic One of the most interestmg aspects of the poem is precisely where such unity and univocality break down. For the argument, how- ever, that "the Gerusalemme belongs to the order marked by Homer, Virgil, and Milton, where aUegory plays no important role" and that the "only kind of aUegory that operates to any degree is obbque and problematic moral exemplification," see Kennedy.

In his recent book on epic and empire. Quint has argued that there are definite ideological, rebgious, and moral underpin- nings to the unity and teleology of epic narrative ; he explores the relationship of Tasso's poem to Counter-Reformation pobtical and rebgious ideology at Bollettino della Civica Biblioteca 78 Indianapolis and New Yoric: Liberal Arts Press, New Haven and London: Storia della letteratura italiana.

Dynastic Epic in the Renaissance. Brian Scott, with the assistance of David Wallace, eds. Medieval Liter- ary Theory and Criticism c. The Italian View from Dante to Tasso. Scritti suW arte poetica. Time interrelates the di- verging discourses, generating a locus for judgment. By combining descriptive psychology and epistemology in his temporal analysis, Augustine refutes time's privileged ontological status and considers it only in terms of human experience.

Book XI establishes the transience of the present while asserting the permanence of presence. The roles of truth, of confession and of the reader dlso figure prominently in Italo Svevo's La coscienza di Zeno? However, unlike in the Confessiones, the totalizing capacity of time which, like the trinity, is at once three definite mo- ments, is questioned by the fragmented narrating subject. Time-consciousness is a defining characteristic of modernism, and Svevo's text is no exception: Within each chapter the events are arranged chronologically, but the narra- tive frequentiy shifts between temporal planes.

Autunno Piero Garofalo live material according to subject matter further minimizes the temporal pro- gression because these intersecting and imbricating life situations abolish chronological continuity.