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Prof. Virginia Cox (New York University) “The Conquest of Mexico in an Unknown Epic of the Late Cinquecento”
March 23 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
This paper discusses a vernacular Italian epic of the 1580s narrating Cortés’s conquest of Mexico, which survives in a single manuscript and has attracted no critical attention to date. The work was authored by the traveler and orientalist Gerolamo Vecchietti, and it is dedicated to Ferdinando I de’ Medici in the early years of his rule. It is striking both metrically, as a rare terza rima epic, and thematically, as the sole Italian New World epic to centre on the deeds of Cortés, rather than Columbus or Vespucci. The poem is also intriguing for the equivocal attitude it manifests towards the Spanish colonialist enterprise, which is celebrated in the opening cantos as a heroic evangelizing mission, but later shown in distinctly darker hues.