Parole Rubate : Rivista Internazionale di Studi sulla Citazione (Dec 2012)

“Civis romana sum”. La Londra intertestuale di Bernardine Evaristo

  • Samanta Trivellini

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 3, no. 6
pp. 75 – 91


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Bernardine Evaristo’s novel in verse The Emperor’s Babe (2001) features the story of Zuleika, the daughter of Nubian immigrants, who lives in Roman London at the beginning of the third century A.D.. Evaristo’s sources are both classical – Latin poetry, proverbs, mottos, myths, as well as material culture – and modern – for example, Oscar Wilde’s perspective on history informs the revisionist intent of the novel.This article aims to examine the role of quotations and intertextual echoes in the development of the storyline and in the dialectic between past and present. If apparently they contribute to the recreation of the ancient cultural background, at a deeper level, they also engender ironic tensions and parodic effects through discrepancies in tone, style and narrative situations. Moreover, in relation to the protagonist’s gendered and subaltern position, quotations and other references are a crucial aspect of Evaristo’s rewriting of history: by mapping today’s post-imperial and multicultural London on to the Roman city, The Emperor’s Babe subverts the myth of the nation at its roots.