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The Reception of Giacomo Leopardi in the Nineteenth Century: Italy’s Greatest Poet after Dante?

Veronese, Cosetta. (2008) The Reception of Giacomo Leopardi in the Nineteenth Century: Italy’s Greatest Poet after Dante? Lewiston, N.Y..

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Abstract

Taking the scarce philosophical appreciation of Leopardi in the 19 th century as a starting point, this work explores new aspects of Leopardi’s reception with a view to substantiate this negative response.  A study of the specificities of the Risorgimento reveals areas of convergence and diversion between the prevailing hegemony and the artist. Leopardi’s growing artistic status was useful at a time when the establishment encouraged cultural forces to unite in support of national unification; a position Leopardi seemed to endorse until the mid 1820s. Later, however, a pessimistic materialism emerged in his work that required his cultural role to be substantially revised. Leopardi’s anti-religious and anti-progressive attitude was unsuitable to both the conservative and progressive factions of the establishment, who attempted to redefine his literary status on the basis of his personal circumstances (health, education and family relations). After his death, critical responses (until the publication of the  Zibaldone in 1898) testify to the persistent discomfort posed by Leopardi’s pessimism and suggest it was reinterpreted on the basis of sentimentalism and biographism. The strategies by which Leopardi’s personal circumstances were manipulated reveal striking similarities with the anthropological practices of sacrifice and scapegoating identified by René Girard. As a result, it can be argued that 19 th century audiences read Leopardi’s artistic exceptionality predominantly in the light of his biographical exceptionality in order to submerge, suffocate and control those cultural elements that hegemony had coded as disruptive and destabilizing. There was little awareness of Leopardi in France, Germany and Britain until the second half of the century, when European culture witnessed the growth of a sense of scepticism, pessimism and decay. This facilitated an earlier appreciation of Leopardi’s philosophical position than that occurring within Italy.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaften > Fachbereich Italianistik > Italienische Literaturwissenschaft (Terzoli)
UniBasel Contributors:Veronese, Cosetta M
Item Type:Book
Book Subtype:Authored Book
Publisher:Edwin Mellen Press
ISBN:978-0-7734-4972-5
Number of Pages:410
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Authored book
Last Modified:23 Feb 2017 15:21
Deposited On:23 Feb 2017 15:21

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