Sunday, September 20, 2009

On Beyond Zebra (Epic): Scanderbeide

My most exciting recent discovery is 'The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe', a series of translations published by the University of Chicago Press that focuses on works by 16th and 17th century women. My first glimpse into the series was Margherita Sarrochi's 'Scanderbeide'. Published in the 17th century, Scanderbeide's claim to fame is that it is the first historical heroic epic authored by a woman. More importantly, it is an excellent read. Sarrocchi took as her subject the war of resistance against the Ottoman sultanate by George Scanderbeg, a fifteenth-century Albanian warrior-prince.

The 'ide' in the title means tale, as in the Iliad (tale of Illium) or the Aeneid (the tale of Aeneas). Readers familiar with classical epics will recognise the many references to these works, as well as Tasso and Ariosto. But the Scanderbeide is a unique and enjoyable work. George Scanderbeg was apparently an obvious choice for the subject of a heroic poem. His war against the Turks saved the Roman church from its greatest threat, the Ottoman Empire. Sarrocchi deftly weaves a complex and fascinating story from her sources.

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