In a pair of lectures given at the Collegio Romano early in the seventeenth century, Famiano Strada, professor of eloquence, delighted audiences with a fictitious account of a lavish contest a century before. Dressed as their favorite ancient poets, the leading humanists of the day (Pontano, Bembo, Castiglione, etc.) were carried down the Tiber, Strada explains, perched on a floating Parnassus. Each later offered, in the guise and style of his ancient model, a new poem; these, of course, are really Strada’s own virtuosic compositions, and their topics include a remarkably precocious attempt to imagine the electric telegraph. Reconsidering this odd text in order to rethink the workings of classical reception, this paper will argue that beneath the fun lies a startling disruption of the space-time continuum, by which the present, haunted by a past already haunted by another past, suddenly finds itself connected to a dimly seen future.
Shane Butler is Nancy H. and Robert E. Hall Professor in the Humanities and Professor and Chair of Classics at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
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