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date: 21 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter revisits the heated controversies over Italian Romanticism to show that they actually represent a vital literary mode. In short, the debates led to the creation of literary masterpieces that carry within themselves the signs of the age’s literary polemics. The public debate about the relation between literary and national identity made authors aware of their political responsibilities toward the yet-to-be-born Italian nation. Foscolo, Leopardi, and Manzoni avoided direct alignment with mainstream Romantic thought, but enjoyed a greater literary and artistic freedom than their more doctrinaire (and less talented) contemporaries. Italy’s isolation from much of European intellectual life gave the nation’s controversies over Romanticism a dramatic, almost desperate air, as the subtext over whether Italy would become ‘Romantic’ was equal to asking whether it could become ‘modern’.

Keywords: Italian Romanticism, polemic, literary form, national identity, anti-romanticism, Foscolo, Leopardi, Manzoni, Mme de Staël, Europe.

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