Elise De Biasio Thesis Idea: Exploration of a Macaronic Zooepic

I am interested in focusing on the theme of zooepics, specifically focusing on La moschea: the 1615 Macaronic work of Teofilo Folengo (known under the pen names Merlino Coccajo and Merlinus Cocaius). With its promising 1 star rating on Goodreads, it is clear that this piece is not popular (the low number of Google search results demonstrate this as well – it is difficult to get the results above 10 pages). This is both a downside and a large help. The task of finding information now seems less daunting because there’s less to sort through, but the fact that there is less to sort through means I will have to generate much of the content by pulling from many many resources without Folengo or his work mentioned by name. I have dug up multiple online copies of the text, and found a scholar, Ann E Mullaney, who is currently working on this text, updating her research on her personal website

This piece interests me so much because it is a wonderful blend of Latin, Italian, and Lombard – well suited to my double major in Classical Languages and Transnational Italian Studies. The language used is called “Macaronic Latin” from the Italian pasta, maccheroni — a mixture of three different ingredients (pasta, butter, and cheese). Here is an English example of this, apparently it was an anonymous addition to a Yale chalkboard during the 1980s:

Yankee Doodle transit

In urbem on a pony; 

Posuit pennam in his hat

And called it macaroni(c)!

Source Anonymous

Macaronic literature was seen as a less refined, and its form was relegated to the genre of comedy. My interest in it comes from this unrefinement because the text has been relatively unexplored despite its historical popularity. This interest was also heightened by a wikisource article that mentions this sort of literature, saying that Folengo was “a distinguished cultivator of macaronic poetry, a by-path of literature which we are compelled to leave unexplored” which makes me want to look into it all the more to evade such compulsions. There is no English translation that I’ve found, though Giovan Battista Lalli created an Italian translation I would reference. 

The text draws from a long Greek satirical tradition, recalling Aristophanes with its animal focus. However, I believe the primary connection lies elsewhere in the 3rd c. BCE Batrachomyomachia (commonly but probably incorrectly attributed to Homer). A good comparison text is the later 1842 satirical take on that poem: I Paralipomeni alla batracomiomachia (English Title: The War of Mice and the Crabs; Direct Translation: “ Omissions from the Battle of the Frogs and Mice”) by Giacomo Leopardi. Parody is another theme I would be focusing on, seeing as the Batrachomyomachia is a parody of the Iliad while I Paralipomeni alla batracomiomachia is a parody of the Batrachomyomachia and the 1516 chivalric epic Orlando furioso.

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  1. I love Macaronic poetry. Here’s a favorite of mine (not too Macaronic, but from a 19th century collection of Macaronic poems), for anyone who’s taken our Homer-focused intermediate Greek class:
    Polyphloisboisterous Homer of old
    Threw all his augments into the sea,
    Although he had often be courteously told
    That perfect imperfects begin with an “e”.
    “Well,” quoth the Bard, with a dignified air,
    “What the digamma does anyone care?”

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