Fact, Fiction, Fantasy: the First Crusade in Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered

A monochrome print depicting a large number of female forms in classical flowing clothing, some small naked cherubs with wings outstretched.  to the right of the image, a winged horse with forelegs raised and wings outstretchedWriters and fans of historical fiction would agree: Torquato Tasso was the George R.R. Martin of his time. Tasso's epic fantasy, Jerusalem Delivered, based on the First Crusade, is populated with knights and fights, male and female warriors and witches, castles and dragons, forests and quests. The illustrations for the English edition of his masterpiece in the Hunterian’s Art Gallery collection capture the exotic and magical appeal of this heroic world.

‌Factual sources, of course, tell a different story: chroniclers and historians, geographers and travel-writers in the Glasgow University Special Collections depict the extraordinary event of the First Crusade and the world that created it from the point of view of reality. Maps and photographs of the Holy Land reveal a world completely different to the one created by the poet's flights of fancy.

Realist or fantasy, historical fiction is ever inspired by known facts, then fills in the gaps with its own inventions, enhancing our experience and enjoyment of the past.

Monochrome print depicting the Christian Army under the command of Godfrey of Bulloigne.  A large tree, a city scape and Mountains for the backdrop to a scene of Army tents of Middle Eastern style, and a number of soldiers kneeling to worship a large upright crucifix figure. Two large weapons on wheels are visible at the right side (catapult or Trebuchet)Visit my blog

For an exciting connection of this project to a previous one, look here


Ioulia Kolovou, 1st year PhD, Creative Writing

‌P‌hD Research: Zoe, or The Obscure Rose, a historic novel, set in Constantinople and the Holy Land at the time of the First Crusade. The critical component of the PhD involves the examination of two more novels, by Sir Walter Scott and by Greek author Maro Douka, set at the same time and place (and with some characters in common). My research focuses on historiography and historical fiction, the formative role of texts such as chivalric romance, Lives of Saints, and Byzantine dream books, and national representations and stereotypes (particularly of Greeks) in First Crusade-centred literature. 

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Top, The Muses Glorify Torquato Tasso. Giambatista Piazzetta, 1745.Sp Coll Hunterian Cd.2.1., Special Collections, University of Glasgow Library;
Above, The Christian Army under the Command of Godfrey of Bulloigne 1759. By Elizabeth Jane Collins.© The Hunterian, University of Glasgow 2014