Diego SagliaUniversita degli Studi di Parma

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From Gothic Italy to Italy as Gothic Archive
Italian Narratives and the Late Romantic Metrical Tale
in Gothic Studies
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This essay addresses Gothic constructions of Italy by reconsidering Romantic-period literary works that capitalised on stereotypes of the country as a land ridden with violence, vice and dangers. If Gothic discourse ‘pre-scribed’ Italy as a country of terrifying events, Gothic writings also reworked an Italy that was already ‘pre-scribed’ according to hostile notions within a stratified geo-cultural archive dating back at least to the Renaissance. This combination of disparaging images was not created exclusively on the basis of British anti-Catholic feelings and other cultural hostility. Often it originated from Italian documentary sources and, particularly Italian literature, itself the object of increasing scrutiny in the Romantic period. This essay examines the Gothic construction and uses of Italy in verse tales published in the later Romantic period and inspired by Dante‘s Divina Commedia and Boccaccio‘s Decameron, among them Edward Wilmot‘s Ugolino; or, the Tower of Famine, Felicia Hemans‘s ‘The Maremma’, William Herbert‘s Pia della Pietra, John Keats‘s Isabella and Barry Cornwall‘s A Sicilian Story. These narrative poems employ Italy as an archive of Gothic plots, atmospheres and situations, making plain its double status: that of a fictitious, approximative set of geo-cultural notions, as well as that of a repertoire of fictional materials.

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