Women and Feminine Images in Giacomo Leopardi, 1798-1837 Bicentenary Essays

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This is the first comprehensive study in English on the role of female characters and feminine imagery in Leopardi. It offers a multi-faceted approach, places his views on women in context, examines thematic concerns, formal practices and ideological positioning of the time, and focuses on the impact of contemporary women writers such as Madame de Stael and Madame de Lambert on Leopardi’s philosophical writings and literary theory. It brings together biographical, philosophical and literary aspects of Leopardi’s works in relation to the notion, influence and depiction of women and feminine images. With illustrations

“All the basic questions of Leopardian criticism are clearly and persuasively reviewed. Press and Williams have produced a perceptive work on Leopardi’s poetry tout court, its genesis in the culture of the Enlightenment, and its literary sources with particular reference to Madame de Stael. . . . the book contains the fullest study of this subject in recent years and will be compulsory reading for anyone interested in it. Most importantly, the book does not look at Leopardi from a narrow feminist or post-feminist standpoint. . . . There is . . . much close textual analysis of the major cants to endear Williams and Press to generations of students.” – Italian Studies

“. . . very thoroughly researched and clearly and interestingly written. . . . an original contribution to scholarship. . . .the book will attract the attention of Leopardi scholars internationally. While the authors eschew the more strident forms of feminism fashionable in academic circles, they sensitively explore the role of women in Leopardi’s life and works and the pervasive presence of female figures in his poetry. Particularly pleasing is the way in which Williams and Press situate Leopardi in both an Italian and a European tradition.” – Brian Moloney

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Illustrations, Preface, Introduction
The Legacy of Reason: Women in the background; A family portrait; The experience of love
Paolina Leopardi and Natural Illusions: Women and the reform of the nation; Paolina’s reading of her brother’s poem; The political message of Leopardi’s Canzoni and Madame de Stael; Leopardi’s ultrafilosofia
Fictions of Sappho and the Theme of Suicide: The variety of images of Sappho; The expression of feeling in poetry; The ancient and the modern in Leopardi’s Ultimo canto di Saffo; The pathos of Leopardi’s Sappho
Love and Death: Images of Women in Canti from Il primo amore to the ‘sepolcrali: The early years 1817-23; The re-birth of poetic inspiration 1828-30; The death of illusions 1831-35
Feminine Images in the Physical World: Natura and Luna
Madame de Stael, Passions and Morality: Leopardi and Madame de Stael; Madame de Stael on the passions; Leopardi’s Stoicism and La ginestra; Madame de Stael’s ‘bienfaisance’ and human goodness in La ginestra
Appendices: A - Index of Poems B - Works of Leopardi other than Canti cited in text
Bibliography, Index of Names

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