Byron Bits 7: Sex and Instagram

A fan­ci­ful illus­tra­tion (from a paint­ing by James Drum­mond?) of Byron with his first Venet­ian lover, Mar­i­an­na Segati: his land­la­dy

Hon­est­ly, that title — which looks like it might be click­bait — is a fair descrip­tion of the con­tent of this short talk. I start by look­ing at a pecu­liar but not very con­tro­ver­sial aspect of Don Juan: the con­trast between the “boy’s own adven­ture” sto­ry and the actu­al machin­ery of the nar­ra­tive, that is not at all what a read­er might expect and I end with a brief ques­tion about what the poem sug­gests of Bry­on’s gen­der pref­er­ences.

Byron’s “epic” has most of the equip­ment of a clas­si­cal Epic: a man­ly, vir­tu­ous hero; the adven­ture prompt­ed by the enmi­ty of the Gods (or at least of a dis­tort­ed reli­gios­i­ty on the part of his Moth­er); a voy­age and a storm at sea; our hero marooned and set upon by a princess and a vio­lent pirate; exot­ic exile as a slave; bat­tles; brave com­pan­ions; the love of a Queen (Empress, no less!), and; a promised (and per­haps approach­ing in the last Can­to) vis­it to Hell.

But, as Samuel But­ler claimed about the Odyssey, there’s some­thing rather odd about Byron’s epic. It’s not quite the same case as the Odyssey, of course, but there’s a notable par­al­lel.

I trust that explains every­thing? No? Then you’ll just have to lis­ten to (or read) my talk.

Byron Bits #7, Sex and Insta­gram

Byron fan (not fanatic); poetry lover (not tragic); doctor of melancholia (not gloom).

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