The Art of History

by allegrainitalia

L’arte della storia

In Rome, I am taking two classes through my university. One is an advanced Italian language course, and the other a culture course entitled “Rome through words, images, and film” or something like that. Essentially, the course walks us through the history of Rome using literature, art and film. The first couple days were about Roman history, but the other day we reviewed passages from The Aeneid, which I’ve always wanted to read. The Odyssey is one of my favorites, so I knew I would love it. There’s nothing like a beautiful story of war, romance, action, and spiritualism. The epics have it all.

You don’t need to have read The Aeneid to understand this post, however. One of the parts of The Aeneid that we reviewed was the story of Dido, who fell in love with Aeneas. Rhetorically, this woman is a masterpiece. Unlike many of Virgil’s female characters, Dido knows what she wants, speaks her mind, and is in a position of power. Throughout her and Aeneas’ interaction, she has the best monologues and speeches of passion and poise. I love Dido. But interestingly, she falls in love with Aeneas because of his tales of war.

In class, I mentioned how her attraction of Aeneas is similar to Desdemona’s love for Othello in Shakespeare’s Othello. When Othello would come over to Desdemona’s house for dinner with her father, Desdemona would listen intently to Othello’s tales of warfare and battles. This, she said, is how she fell in love with Othello.

In Dante’s Inferno, Dante speaks to a pair of lovers who is in hell for their lust. They claim they would read of Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair together, but when Lancelot and Guinevere kissed, they felt the pressing urge to succumb to their love for each other. Obviously, they were not in the position to be lovers.

Each goes to prove the power of words, and more specifically narration. Consider that good journalism should almost be a narration of the subject. A great article should tell a story and urge the reader to take interest in the subject. A compelling blog, I believe, should do the same.

In case you were wondering why I created this blog, more than to document my travels, it is also because I believe in the mysticism and power of narration. Although all of the above literary references describes the effect of narration on the reader, it’s also important to note the effect of telling a story.

A historically powerful persuasion technique is to force a non-believer to take the side of the believer. In many POW camps, the government would encourage the prisoners of war to write essays pro-government, creating a competition, not just for the literature. It was also a means of brainwashing.

Although my intention is to not brainwash, I hope to encourage myself to dig deeper into my travels and find meaning in things that I may have otherwise overlooked. Whether I have followers or not, I hope that by doing so, I will be able to look back on these posts and probe into my own story.

After all, great narration is timeless, and I am in the eternal city.