Ugo Foscolo's Tragic Vision in Italy and England

The Romanic Review, January-November 2017 | Go to article overview

Ugo Foscolo's Tragic Vision in Italy and England


Rachel A. Walsh. Ugo Foscolo's Tragic Vision in Italy and England. University of Toronto Press, 2014. 218 pp.

Rachel A. Walsh's monograph on Ugo Foscolo's early nineteenth-century tragedies focuses on the less successful but highly interesting aspect of the great Italian writer's oeuvre, his tragedies. A distinguished representative of the generation that witnessed and, in his case, took part in the Napoleonic Wars, Foscolo hoped that the fall of Venice, his family's city, would lead to the creation of a free, united Italy. Napoleon, however, gave Venice to the Austrian monarchy, which for many years controlled the old duchy and its culture. A fiery partisan of Italian national unity, Foscolo expressed his disappointment in his novel The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis (1802), an epistolary confession similar to Goethe's The Sufferings of Young Wertber. In Foscolo's story a disenchanted young man commits suicide, not because his beloved marries someone else, as in the case of Goethe's character, but because Italy, betrayed by Napoleon, will not be able to conquer its freedom. As Rachel Walsh shows, the paths Foscolo pursued during his time in Italy involved both literary creation and literary criticism and sought the same goal: to preach the national ideal by teaching the public moral values and by offering examples of political grandeur. His 1809 lecture On the origins and function of literature argues that "literature should inspire a sense of national awareness, especially during a time of foreign occupation" (p. 45). Italian history, until then a topic for foreign writers, should become one of the main topics of Italian literature. Only by representing the spirit of the Italian people would literature fulfill its mission of helping the development of a national spirit.

Foscolo also wrote three tragedies but, as Walsh notices, at first sight they seem to be quite removed from the ideas expressed in his critical writings. The first two continue the Italian neoclassical tradition, as illustrated by Vittorio Alfieri (1749-1803), and develop Greek mythological subjects. Tieste (1796), inspired by Seneca and Crebillon's plays on the same topic, presents a horrifying story of adultery, murder, and blood-drinking involving Thyestes and Atreus, the uncle and brother of Homer's Agamemnon and Menelaos. Like Alfieri, Foscolo aimed at inspiring pity and terror in his audience by evoking the cruel grandeur of legendary times. As Walsh argues, his much later Ajace remains faithful to the same artistic ideal, yet, being much longer and less well-built than Tieste, it failed to please its spectators in Milan. However, in Foscolo's own view, Ajace still represented a crucial signpost on the road toward a successful Italian national literature.

Walsh's emphasis on the links between Italian neoclassicism and the ideal of a patriotic literature is particularly interesting within the wider European literary context. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Ugo Foscolo's Tragic Vision in Italy and England
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.