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Characters in Time: Staël, Shelley, Leopardi, and the Construction of Italianness in Romantic Historicism

Characters in Time: Staël, Shelley, Leopardi, and the Construction of Italianness in Romantic... This article considers how the concept of national character changed in post-revolutionary Europe by examining how Italians are depicted in Madame de Staël's Corinne , Percy Bysshe Shelley's “Lines Written among the Euganean Hills,” and Giacomo Leopardi's “La ginestra.” I show how national typing based on immutable factors such as climate and physiology was reformulated in a way that foregrounded history and human agency. The old discourse of civic humanism, with its emphasis on virtues and good government, is invoked here both as explanation and remedy for Italy's decline. Staël's “immersive” version of Italian history, Shelley's indictment of moral degeneration, and Leopardi's theory of society all hark back to the values of citizenship, liberty, and solidarity of classical republicanism. By connecting representations of Italy to contemporary developments in the philosophy of history and national typing, this essay raises new questions about the Romantic engagement with the idea of Italy. Romanticism Italy Staël Leopardi PB Shelley http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Comparative Literature Duke University Press

Characters in Time: Staël, Shelley, Leopardi, and the Construction of Italianness in Romantic Historicism

Comparative Literature , Volume 67 (4) – Dec 1, 2015

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Duke Univ Press
ISSN
0010-4124
eISSN
1945-8517
DOI
10.1215/00104124-3327492
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article considers how the concept of national character changed in post-revolutionary Europe by examining how Italians are depicted in Madame de Staël's Corinne , Percy Bysshe Shelley's “Lines Written among the Euganean Hills,” and Giacomo Leopardi's “La ginestra.” I show how national typing based on immutable factors such as climate and physiology was reformulated in a way that foregrounded history and human agency. The old discourse of civic humanism, with its emphasis on virtues and good government, is invoked here both as explanation and remedy for Italy's decline. Staël's “immersive” version of Italian history, Shelley's indictment of moral degeneration, and Leopardi's theory of society all hark back to the values of citizenship, liberty, and solidarity of classical republicanism. By connecting representations of Italy to contemporary developments in the philosophy of history and national typing, this essay raises new questions about the Romantic engagement with the idea of Italy. Romanticism Italy Staël Leopardi PB Shelley

Journal

Comparative LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Dec 1, 2015

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