Chapter

Politics and Performance: Gustavo Modena’s <i>dantate</i> *

Michael Caesar and Nick Havely

in Dante in the Long Nineteenth Century

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199584628
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739095 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199584628.003.0007
Politics and Performance: Gustavo Modena’s dantate *

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This chapter attempts to reconstruct, as far as possible, the dantate performed in London and in Italy by the celebrated actor and patriot, Gustavo Modena. These were a distinctive form of declamation of passages from the Divine Comedy which met with considerable acclaim between the 1830s and the 1850s, and enjoyed a long afterlife in the memory of witnesses and fellow professionals for at least half a century after Modena's death in 1861. The chapter contributes to the study of Dante in the nineteenth century by exploring the possibilities and limitations of oral performance of the text at a time when Dante was rapidly filling the role of national poet amidst the heightened political tensions of the Risorgimento. The concluding sections place Modena's further reflections on and performance of Dante in the context of his growing disillusionment with the likely and actual outcomes of the struggle for nationhood.

Keywords: Dante; Gustavo Modena; oral performance; nationhood; dantate; Divine Comedy

Chapter.  10714 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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