Overlooked for centuries, the Furioso’s declared interest in ‘le donne’ is, by now, fully recognised. What excites most critical discussion is the poem’s double-edged treatment of the subject, since conflicting views of women represent one of its characteristic features.
This book breaks new ground in tackling that narrative ambivalence, as it reads the poem both on the level of thematics and poetics. In devising an approach that examines the so-called ideology of the Furioso in light of its rhetorical practises, it allows a more complex understanding of Ariosto’s contribution to the Renaissance debate about women to emerge.
Mac Carthy follows the poem’s enquiry into women’s place in society, their behaviour, education, sexuality and relations with men by means of a series of case studies. Each study proceeds along a double line of enquiry, using Ariosto’s poetic craft to shed light on his treatment of women and vice versa. Grounded in a rigorous historical context, the book also situates Ariosto’s women in relation to their predecessors and contemporaries in literary and non-literary texts. In so doing, it yields valuable insights both into the Furioso’s female characters and into the complicated nature of the poem’s transactions with its cultural and literary frame.