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level5

5ABA0006 Romantic Britain and Italy

Credit value: 15 credits
Module convenor: Dr Daniela Cerimonia
Assessment: 1 x 4,000 word essay (100%); coursework reassessment in exam period 3
Teaching pattern: One 2 hour seminar weekly
Pre-requisites: None
Reassessment: Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Module description

The art and literature of Italy have played an important role in British culture since the Middle Ages. The period between late 18th and early 19th century saw a reawakening of interest in all things Italian, as an entire generation of British artists and intellectuals studied the Italian language, read modern and ancient poets, and travelled South to see the remains of Italy’s ancient glory. Classical ruins, sublime landscapes, but also the present state of decadence and political fragmentation formed part of the varied experience and imaginative reconstruction of Italy by British writers.

We will compare the different ways in which Romantic culture gave rise and responded to the myth of Italy, both in Britain and in the Italian peninsula. Primary texts used will include a wide range of sources such as letters, translations, poetry, prose, and the visual arts. Authors considered will include Madame de Staël, Byron, Shelley, Foscolo, and Leopardi. Particular attention will be given to the Romantic reception of Dante’s Commedia.

The course will seek to provide a broad historical perspective on the study of cultural exchange between Italy and Britain, considering it as a process of mutual influence, not alien from reciprocal misunderstanding, whose outcome nevertheless contributed to shape the identity of countries in the Romantic period and beyond. There are no specified prerequisites for the course. Italian and French texts will be discussed in English translation, but students with access to the original language will be encouraged to make use of their linguistic knowledge.

Ideal preparation for this module would include the following reading: Madame de Staël, Corinne, or Italy; Lord Byron, Canto IV of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage; and Joseph Luzzi, Romantic Europe and the Ghost of Italy (Yale UP, 2008).

Educational aims and objectives

This course aims at teaching a comparative methodology for the study of reception across national boundaries. We will compare the different ways in which Romantic culture assimilated the myth of Italy and Italian literature, both in Britain and in the Italian peninsula. The emphasis of the course will be on considering Italian literature in the context of the largely North-European Romantic movement, and primary texts used will include a wide range of sources such as essays, translations, poetry, drama, prose, and the visual arts.

The focus of the course will be twofold. On the one hand, it will investigate the use British poets and writers of the Romantic period made of Italian literature, and will seek to identify the particular qualities of the Italian cultural experience that the British valued, and the canon of authors they admired and imitated. On the other hand, Italian Romanticism will be considered in its relationship to the heritage of antiquity and the “three crowns” of early Italian literature, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio.

The course will seek to provide a broad historical perspective on the study of intercultural transmission between Italy and Britain, considering it as a process of mutual influence, not alien from reciprocal misunderstanding, whose outcome nevertheless contributed to shape the identity of both literary cultures in the Romantic period and beyond. There are no prerequisites for the course and Italian texts will be also discussed in translation, but students with knowledge of Italian are encouraged to refer to the original versions. 

Learning outcomes

 After taking this course students will be able to demonstrate:

  • a detailed knowledge of key Romantic texts on Italy and Italian culture produced by writers and artists from different national contexts;
  •  a good understanding of the key aspects of the Romantic reception of Italian literature and how it developed differently in different national contexts, and the implications for literary and artistic movements across Europe;
  •  a broad familiarity with the concepts and theories of literature in the Romantic period;

Core reading

The following texts are to be studied and discussed in class in the order given. You will find classes much easier to follow if you have the editions listed below, all of which are easily obtainable from bookshops or online. Additional material will be provided on KEATS.

Madame de Staël, Corinne, or Italy [Corinne ou l’Italie] (1807), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Lord Byron, Canto IV of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1817), in The Major Works, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 145-206.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lines Written Among the Euganean Hills (1818), and The Triumph of Life (1822) in The Major Works, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003).

Dante, The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], translated by Robin Kirkpatrick,  (London: Penguin: 2006).

Ugo Foscolo, Sepulchers [Dei sepolcri] (1806), translated by J. G. Nichols, (London, Oneworld Classics, 2009).

Giacomo Leopardi, The Canti [Canti] (1818-36), translated by Jonathan Galassi, (London, Penguin Classics, 2010). 

Additional information

This module is open to students on degree programmes other than those offered by the Department of Comparative Literature (subject to approval by the module convenor and availability of places).

Additional course costs

Students may wish to buy their own copies of the primary texts, but this will not be mandatory, as all texts studied are available from the library.

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

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