Guest seminar by Paolo Brusa on ‘From wandering to destitution: a shift in Heliodoran peregrinatio in 17th-century Spain’

The fourth lecture in our online seminar series will be given by Paolo Brusa (Freie Universität Berlin) on ‘From wandering to destitution: a shift in Heliodoran peregrinatio in 17th-century Spain’


“Then nobody shall hold my peregrino for a product of fancy… because a stranger’s vicissitudes are not only verisimilar, but also forcibly true”.

My talk explores how Lope de Vega’s El peregrino en su patria (1604), from which the above quote stems, initiates and condenses a peculiar phenomenon in the Spanish early modern appropriations of the Hellenistic novel: the association of the protagonists’ peregrinations with a sense of precariousness and loss. As it began circulating in the world of printed vernacular literature in 1547, the Aethiopica must appear to its early modern Western readers as a foreign tale, both in a temporal and in a spatial sense: an ancient text whose story takes place in a geographically exotic landscape. Spanish translations duly bridged that gap in familiarity with footnotes and indices, which also highlighted the value of the reading as a source of (sometimes curious) knowledge. In the first Spanish novel based on Heliodorus, however, Lope de Vega takes a different route: contravening the recommendation of Neo-Aristotelian poetics, he sets the narration on the contemporary Iberian Peninsula. He thus stages a “stranger in his own homeland”, shifting the peregrination from the physical wandering on foreign soil to a more radical destitution. In my talk, I will analyse Lope’s defiant gesture and its connections to contemporary literary theory as well as novel writing and editing practices.


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