Dante and British Romantic Women Writers: Writing the Nation, Defining National Culture

Diego Saglia

in Dante in the Long Nineteenth Century

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199584628
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739095 | DOI:
Dante and British Romantic Women Writers: Writing the Nation, Defining National Culture

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This chapter discusses various female authors' views of the nation (England, Britain, Italy, or an abstract entity) as a political and cultural structure in the mirror of Dante and his verse. It starts by considering Anna Seward's epistolary exchanges with Henry Francis Cary in the 1790s, where she censured his passion for the Italian poet because of her concerns about a progressive loss of Englishness in the national poetical tradition. It then examines Felicia Hemans's poem ‘The Maremma’ (1820), in which she reinvents the tale of Pia de' Tolomei through her own poetical idiom as well as Shakespearean, and therefore quintessentially national, characterization and formal patterns. It concludes with Mary Shelley's constructions of Dante as a major emblem of oppositional and ‘proto-liberal’ ideas of the nation in her essay ‘Giovanni Villani’ (1823) and in Valperga (1823), her novel about the medieval Italian republics. The chapter draws attention to the presence of Romantic women's works on Dante to emphasize the need for further research into this presence. Concentrating specifically on their ‘national’ approaches to the poet, it points out some ways to reinstate female contributions to the Romantic re-evaluation of the Italian bard and their relevance to discourses of cultural and political identity and agency.

Keywords: female authors; Anna Seward; Felicia Hemans; Mary Shelley; Romantic women; Dante

Chapter.  7490 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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