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date: 24 June 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes the emergence of the terminology of improvisation in the English language. Terms relating to improvisation began to appear in the eighteenth century and came to be used frequently in the nineteenth. Germaine de Staël’s 1807 novel Corinne ou L’Italie (published in French and translated into English the same year) was an important part of this emergence of improvisation. By attending to the content and language of Corinne, including the novel’s earliest translations, the chapter argues that the novel helped create a sense of improvisation as an Italianate artistic practice with political overtones specific to the context of the Napoleonic Wars. For the Staëlian improviser, art and history alike progress not toward pre-ordained goals but by taking new information into account and improvising new ends.

Keywords: Germaine de Staël, British literature, French literature, French Revolution, translation, Italy, Romanticism, Napoleon I

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