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Fabulous Ireland- «Ibernia Fabulosa»

Imagining Ireland in Renaissance Italy

Eric Haywood

According to Petrarch, the Father of the Renaissance, Ireland was almost as well known to the Italians as Italy itself. Visiting Ireland from the comfort of their armchairs, his followers thus knew for a fact that the Irish ate their fathers and slept with their mothers, were welcoming and inhospitable, and were the best and the worst of Christians, and that Ireland was home to St Patrick’s Purgatory, where you could visit the otherworld, save your soul and your business, and locate your missing relatives.
This book examines Italian descriptions of Ireland in the context of the Renaissance rediscovery of ancient culture and reinvention of geography and historiography, the fashioning of the self and the other, and travel writing. The author argues that the intellectuals of the time were more interested in ‘truth for’ than in ‘truth about’ and that they imagined Ireland differently in different circumstances, populating it with their own fantasies, so that its otherness would pose no threat to their sense of self.
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Apologies and Acknowledgements


As the Introduction explains, this book is about language-games, but it is also a language-game itself, as are all our spoken and written communications. The kind of game it probably resembles most is an old jigsaw puzzle, which for a very long time has lain forgotten in the attic and from which, as a result, many pieces are still missing. I hope to have assembled the pieces I was able to recover in such a way that the puzzle makes sense to my readers. However I am fully aware that the pieces could well have been assembled otherwise, with the puzzle taking on a different shape. Indeed, it is my hope that at least some of my readers will attempt to do just that, for that is how language-games are to be played. We all construct reality differently.

Nevertheless, in order to be understood, there are rules we should all obey. Yet I must confess that there are some rules I find it very difficult to learn, or relearn. That may be due to my demographic profile. I therefore prefer to stick with BC and AD, to talk about the ‘discovery’ of the ‘New World’, and to use ‘he’ when referring to a person of undefined sex (for instance, the reader). But I do so for the sake of convenience, not out of malice or prejudice. I therefore pray my readers to bear with me, especially if their profile is different from mine.


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