Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Comparative Literature

Supervisor

Boulter, Jonathan

2nd Supervisor

Baldassarri, Guido

Affiliation

University of Padova

Joint Supervisor

Abstract

While existing theories of romance (in particular, those formulated by Northrop Frye and Fredric Jameson) accurately characterize this literary mode as a highly politicized example of art, this thesis contends that the political nature of romance is broader and more complex than discussed so far. In order to offer a new and comprehensive political theory of romance, this work proposes a comparison between two historically and culturally diverse examples of romance, that is Matteo Maria Boiardo’s chivalric poem Inamoramento de Orlando and George Lucas’ space opera film Star Wars. By reading Boiardo and Lucas’ texts via Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of mixed semiotics, this thesis proposes to define romance as a countersignifying regime of signs, or in other words as a semiotic environment that appropriates signs from other texts to deprive them of any meaning or function. Defining romance as a countersignifying semiotic system enables us to explore political uses of romance that have been ignored so far. On the one hand, Star Wars uses countersignification to create a Junkspace in Rem Koolhaas’ sense of the term, or in other words a semiotic environment that contributes to accelerated commodification and consumption typical of modern capitalism. On the other hand, Inamoramento de Orlando uses the same semiotics to create a Thirdspace, that is a space of coincidence between different intellectual frameworks that wishes to encourage innovative heuristic practices. Moreover, the countersignifying semiotics of romance allows this literary form to function also as what Deleuze and Guattari call minor art, a politicized form of artistic expression that, by producing an unsettling experience, challenges hierarchical structures of power and majoritarian worldviews. While Inamoramento de Orlando and Star Wars cannot be defined as examples of minor art per se, performance adaptations of these two texts such as the Maggio folk theatre tradition and the role-playing videogame Star Wars Galaxies push the countersignifying semiotics of the original texts towards a process of becoming-minoritarian.

Available for download on Thursday, December 31, 2020

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