Romantic Dialectics: Culture, Gender, Theater

Essays in Honor of Lilla Maria Crisafulli

by Serena Baiesi (Volume editor) Stuart Curran (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection 254 Pages
Series: Romantic Studies, Volume 1


Romantic Dialectics: Culture, Gender, Theater aims to emphasize the importance of collaboration and exchange in the exploration of neglected areas of Romanticism. The essays grouped in this volume, moreover, are themselves inherently dialectical, being built on, and shaped by, the underlying tension between competing and even at times opposing literary, social and political elements. The three sections of the volume include: Culture and international relations; Aspects of female-oriented aesthetics; and Theatre and drama of the Romantic period. These three topics well reflect the diversified areas of the research and teaching of Professor Lilla Maria Crisafulli, to whom this volume is dedicated. This collection also eloquently illustrates how current research in Romanticism, carried out by scholars from a number of different countries and schools, is nevertheless united by a shared dialectical engagement in generating and debating new approaches to this extremely rich intellectual field.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword: On the Dialectics of Literature and Life (Keir Elam)
  • Introduction (Serena Baiesi / Stuart Curran)
  • Part I: Cultural Dialectics
  • 1. Byron and Shelley: Becoming Italian (Stuart Curran)
  • 2. “I will Teach […] the Stones / To Rise Against Earth’s Tyrants”: Moving Beyond War in Byron’s “War Cantos” (Jeffrey N. Cox)
  • 3. Romantic Fabrications of Napoleon (Peter Vassallo)
  • 4. Between Culture Shock and Franciscan Ecology: Wordsworth’s Last Encounter with Italy (Elena Spandri)
  • 5. “That Crabbed German”: Mary Shelley’s Germanizing (Nora Crook)
  • 6. The Place of Keats’s Endymion in Times of Peril and among “Blear-Eyed Nations” (Greg Kucich)
  • Part II: Dialectics of Gender
  • 7. Outside the Love of Men: The Ladies of Llangollen, Anna Seward, and Female Friendship (Gioia Angeletti)
  • 8. Reading for Agency: The Literary Bildung of Fanny Price (Carlotta Farese)
  • 9. “I will Tell my Story, and my Reader shall Judge for Me”: Mary Shelley’s Stories for The Keepsake (Serena Baiesi)
  • Part III: Dialectical Theatrical Modes
  • 10. Women and Closet Drama (Catherine Burroughs)
  • 11. “And the Explosion Immediately Takes Place”: Romantic Tragedy and the End(s) of Melodrama (Michael Gamer)
  • 12. Translating Spaces: The Case of Paul and Virginia (Franca Dellarosa)
  • 13. Staging Strangeness in Charles Robert Maturin’s Bertram (Diego Saglia)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

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Foreword: On the Dialectics of Literature and Life

All things exist as they are perceived: at least in relation to the percipient … But poetry defeats the curse which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions. And whether it spreads its own figured curtain, or withdraws life’s dark veil from before the scene of things, it equally creates for us a being within our being. It makes us the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos.

—Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defense of Poetry

… as a lily, that overlooks the less illustrious yet beautiful flowers of a garden. Her beauty, her accomplishments, and the gift of flowing yet mild eloquence that she possessed, the glowing brilliancy of her ardent yet tempered imagination, made her the leader of the little band to which she belonged. … [She] incorporated the thoughts of the sublimest geniuses with her own, while the creative fire in her heart and brain formed new combinations to delight and occupy her.

—Mary Shelley, Valperga

I am delighted and grateful to have been invited by the editors to add a brief foreword to this fine volume dedicated to Lilla Maria Crisafulli. Two aspects of this collection seem to me particularly appropriate as a celebration of Lilla’s achievements. The first is its international character, bringing together, as it does, important scholars from Italy, Great Britain, Europe and the United States. This reflects Lilla’s career as a Romantic scholar of authentically international stature, as well as her ceaseless cultural engagement in setting up transnational and transoceanic dialogues, in the form of conferences and collections of essays, through the international and multilingual journal La questione romantica—of which she is co-founder and general editor—and likewise in the creation and direction of the Interuniversity Centre for Romantic Studies of the University of Bologna, with its many European and American, as well as Italian, associates.

The second appropriate aspect is this volume’s focus on dialectics. Lilla’s approach to Romanticism has always been dialectical in various ← 7 | 8 → senses: because it is concerned with the way literature interacts with the history of ideas; because it enquires into the political implications of literary texts; and because it typically takes an argumentative form, dialoguing vivaciously with critical tradition and with current theoretical approaches alike. “The metaphysics of infinite, or finite, spirit,” affirms Edward Gibbon in his discussion of the ancient Greeks in the third book of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, “have too often been enlisted in the service of superstition. But the human faculties are fortified by the art and practice of dialectics.” Shelley would doubtless have approved, and Lilla likewise, as it is the liberating intellectual and spiritual force of dialectical exchange that has always fascinated her in her critical and historical explorations of Romantic culture.

Not by chance, Lilla’s first and abiding literary passion has been for Percy Bysshe Shelley, probably the most dialectical of the Romantics. Paradigmatic, from this point of view, is her volume La realtà del desiderio: Saggi morali, teoria estetica e prosa politica di P. B. Shelley (Liguori 1999), a reading of the poet’s prose within a European political and philosophical context. The interchange between Shelley and the intellectual climate of his time is likewise explored in her well-known studies of the inter-artistic relations between Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound and the choreography of the great Italian ballerino Salvatore Viganò. Lilla inquires further into the socio-political matrix of British Romantic literature, especially its response to the French Revolution, in studies such as La rivoluzione francese in Inghilterra (Liguori 1990). Another powerful example of her concern for the dialectics between poetry and political philosophy is her essay on Mazzini and Byron (“Poetry as Thought and Action: Mazzini’s Reflections on Byron,” 2012).

In many ways, the culmination of these investigations into the triangular relationship between cultural history, politics, and literary texts was the vast British Risorgimento project—directed by Lilla and published in three volumes—which opened up new and often unsuspected vistas on the direct or indirect involvement of British Romantic and post-Romantic literati in the battle for the liberation and unification of Italy. This project involved several Italian universities, and an impressive line-up of international scholars, over a period of three years, leading to a major conference in Bologna in 2011, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. ← 8 | 9 →

Drama is the genre best suited to the representation of interpersonal and political dialectics, and it is therefore not a coincidence that Lilla has produced a great deal of pioneering work in the once-neglected field of Romantic theater and drama, as the volume The Romantic Stage: A Many-Sided Mirror (edited with Fabio Liberto, Rodopi 2014) goes to show. Pride of place in her research on theater has gone to women playwrights, and especially to women’s history plays, as in her innovative studies of the plays of Joanna Baillie and Mary Russell Mitford, and in the volume Women’s Romantic Theatre and Drama: History, Agency and Performativity (edited with Keir Elam, Ashgate 2010).

Romantic women writers in general feature strongly in Lilla’s research, notably in her studies of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Lady Morgan, Hannah More, Charlotte Smith and Anna Laetitia Barbauld, among others. Her two-volume anthology of English Romantic women poets, Poetesse Romantiche Inglesi (Carocci 2003), was unquestionably a ground-breaking publication, opening the way—together with the collection of essays Le poetesse romantiche inglesi. Tra identità e genere (edited with Cecilia Pietropoli, Carocci 2002)—to a renewed and intense interest in the subject, not in Italy alone.

In the context of Romantic women writers, special prominence is given, in Lilla’s research, to the other great Shelley, Mary, to whom she has dedicated several essays, as well as the highly original volume Mary versus Mary (edited with Giovanna Silvani, Liguori 2001), which discusses the painfully but fruitfully dialectical mother-daughter and author-author relationship between the two Marys, Shelley and Wollstonecraft. Lilla also produced the first Italian translation of Mary Shelley’s novel Valperga (with Keir Elam, Mondadori, 2007)

Lilla’s research on women’s writing fed into three important academic and pedagogic initiatives: her direction of the Bologna unit of the European Erasmus Mundus Master degree program “Gemma,” dedicated to women’s and gender studies; her founding and coordinating of EDGES, the European PhD in women’s and gender studies; and her leadership of the European project GRACE: Gender and Cultures of Equality in Europe. These programs are part of Lilla’s tireless dedication to academic and cultural institutions: from her seven-year mandate as a member of the governing body of the University of Bologna, to her two-term presidency of the Italian Association for English Studies. ← 9 | 10 →

In Lilla’s career the dialectics of literature translates into the dialectics of life, and vice versa. Everyone who has had the opportunity to know her and to work with her could hardly fail to be struck by her intellectual liveliness, her warm, outgoing and empathetic personality, and her extraordinary leadership and organizational skills. Generations of students have benefitted from her didactic and communicational abilities, and a veritable army of younger scholars has been inspired by her generous inclusiveness and encouragement.

The dialectics of Romanticism shows that there is no divide between intellect and sentiment. “Reason,” as Shelley puts it in Queen Mab, “may claim our gratitude.” I therefore wish to express my sincere gratitude to the editors, Stuart Curran and Serena Baiesi, for all the affection, competence, and intellectual rigor they have put into this book. Many thanks also to the excellent contributors, all friends of Lilla’s as well as highly respected colleagues. I also wish to thank the many friends and colleagues who have collaborated with Lilla over the years and who are not represented in this volume for simple reasons of space. They are far too many to name, but I would particularly like to mention the following colleagues who have worked with Lilla in and through the Centro Romantico: the late and much missed Laura Bandiera, Beatrice Battaglia, Roberto Baronti Marchiò, Fred Burwick, Kora Caplan, Nicoletta Caputo, Fernando Cioni, Carla Comellini, Claudia Corti, Rosy Colombo, Richard Cronin, Keith Crook, Vita Fortunati, Alessandro Gebbia, Annalisa Goldoni, Gilberta Golinelli, Daniela Guardamagna, Lia Guerra, Paul Hamilton, Giovanni Iamartino, Isabella Imperiali, William Keach, Gary Kelly, Norbert Lennartz, Fabio Liberto, Dorothy Macmillan, Bruna Mancini, Elisabetta Marino, Rita Monticelli, Michael O’Neill, Andrea Peghinelli, Cecilia Pietropoli, Alan Rawes, Michael Rossington, Maria Schoina, Giovanna Silvani, Annamaria Sportelli, Graziella Todisco, Janet Todd, Timothy Webb. Such a wide-ranging web of friends and colleagues testifies to Lilla’s ability, in the words of Shelley, to “Weave a network of colored light”: a network colored by the warmth of friendship and enlightened by shared cultural endeavor.

Keir Elam

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This volume, composed of essays by long-time associates and colleagues of Lilla Maria Crisafulli, constitutes at once a reflection and a refraction of concerns that have attracted her intellectual advocacy and scholarship over many decades. As founder and director of the University of Bologna’s Centro Interuniversitario per lo Studio del Romanticismo (CISR), Professor Crisafulli has been at the forefront of cultivating a dialogue among the various manifestations, mainly but not exclusively European, of a broadly defined concept of Romantic culture that eventually spanned much of the globe. In concentrating on her own specialty, the arena of British Romanticism, she has brought that same overarching perspective to bear on what are still underrepresented areas of inquiry among its literary and historical students. It is natural, then, that these concerns should provide the focus for the international assemblage of voices that comprise this volume celebrating her singular achievement.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
English Romanticism Dialectics Romantic theatre Shelley women’s writing Byron
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 254 pp.

Biographical notes

Serena Baiesi (Volume editor) Stuart Curran (Volume editor)

Serena Baiesi is associate professor of English Literature at the University of Bologna. Her research interests include Romantic poetry, gothic novel, Jane Austen, and slavery literature. Stuart Curran is Vartan Gregorian Emeritus Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, and author of numerous works on P.B. Shelley and in the field of British Romanticism. He served as president of the Keats-Shelley Association of America 2007–16.


Title: Romantic Dialectics: Culture, Gender, Theater