Chapter

History and invention in the Italian question

Brian Hamnett

in The Historical Novel in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695041
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732164 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695041.003.0008
History and invention in the Italian question

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French and German influences combined in early Italian Romanticism, but the focus continued to be the problem of foreign rule and political disunity. Added to this was the absence of a common Italian language, in contrast to the wide use of Castilian in Spain and the successful imposition of French in France. The role of the Papacy and the position of the Catholic Church quickly became a focus of nationalist and liberal critique. Into this situation came Manzoni, an ardent Catholic sympathetic to liberalism and the national cause, and a leading figure in the search for a workable national language. Influenced by medievalists such as Fauriel and Sismondi, Manzoni’s early works examined medieval history in drama and historiography. Italian historical novelists, among them D’Azeglio, used medieval and early sixteenth-century themes in order to heighten national consciousness. Manzoni’s ‘The Betrothed’, influenced in part by Scott, opted for a realistic social and local canvas at the time of Spanish rule in Lombardy in the middle period of the Thirty Years’ War. Although not directly oriented towards the nationalist goal, this work was later adopted by liberal nationalists as a founding text. The book was a critique of the abuse of personal power. The novel’s Catholic roots ran deep. Manzoni, who had first made his name in drama and poetry, and had written history in order to explain his play on the Lombards in Italy, included a great deal of history in his historical novel.

Keywords: Romanticism; Austrian Empire; Lombardy; national consciousness; Catholicism; dialect; localism; language; liberalism; unification

Chapter.  13301 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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