Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Reading the Monstrous Body: Clorinda and the Gerusalem Delivered

Angela S. Noya Polidori.

The contradictions inherent in the character of Clorinda, the main heroine in Torquato Tasso's 'Gerusalem Delivered', have repeatedly excited the imagination of both readers and scholars throughout the centuries. In fact, recent scholarship on the subject, which also focuses on these contradictions (she is born white to black parents, she is both Muslim and Christian, and she possesses male, female as well as amimal qualities), have led some to interpret her hybridity as a sign of monstrosity. Monsters proliferated in the Renaissance as portents of future calamities and served as visual signs sent on earth by a benevolent God as a reminder that man had sinned. Following this line of thought, Clorinda, then, in the 'Gerusalem Delivered' could appear as a visual sign of man's sins. But what is humanity guilty of ? It isn't by chance that Tasso assigns to this character epithets that refer to her strenght and to her superiority, epithets which seem to be aligned with her sense of pride. In Tasso's pastoral drama 'l'Aminta', which dates to the same period as the work in question, Tasso engages the reader in a philosophical discussion on love. True love, according to him, has been overshadowed by a false sense of superiority which leads to an over-inflated sense of pride that hinders man from embracing a notion of love based on true faith. A comparison of the two works reveals that according to Tasso pride (pride in one's religion, race or gender) distances man from true faith. In light of all this, Clorinda, then, becomes a universal sign of pride, one though, which also transgresses difference and points the way to a religion which is based on a universal concept of love.


Angela S. Noya Polidori  (United States)
Co-Director of Italian Program
Department of Languages and Literatures
University of Denver

Angela S Noya Polidiori is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Languages at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is a senior lecturer at the University of Denver where she co-directs the Italian program. Her scholarly interests include the early modern period and the early nineteenth century.

  • Monstrousity
Person as Subject
  • Tasso, Torquato

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)