Reanimating scenes of history : the treatment of Italy in the writings of Mary Shelley
The mediation through history of Shelley's treatment of Italy is the central theme of this thesis. My analysis of her oeuvre participates in the ongoing critical re~ evaluation of Shelley, and emphasises her sophisticated treatment of civic, social, and national identity through history. The opening two chapters discuss influential texts that prefigure Shelley's treatment of Italy and history. My discussion of J. C. L. Sismondi's Histoire des repubuques itauennes du moyen age (1807 -09, 1818) foregrounds the historical significance of the medieval Italian republics. Consideration of Lady Morgan's Italy (1821) and Germaine de Stael's Corinne (1807) further explores the political resonance of the historical past in the present. The shaping of Shelley's historical aesthetic is traced through William Godwin's Essay of History and Romance and Essay on Sepulchres, uncovering Shelley's strong emphasis on place. The compass of these generically diverse texts accentuates a thematic concern with Shelley's own versatile use of genre. The chapter on Valperga (1823) addresses the generic hybridity of fiction that incorporates history and biography. Additionally, it connects Shelley's representation of the North Italian landscape to political liberty through Sismondi's Tuscan landscapes in his Tableau sur l'agriculture toscane (1801). Shelley's historical aesthetic unites reanimation of the past with a sensitivity to Italy's civic and rural topoi, as the chapter on The last Man (1826) shows. The two concluding chapters interpret Shelley's later writings about Italy as an integration of civic identity, memory, and history. Her biographical project Litles (1835-39) invests the individual aesthetic responses to Italy with a cultural heritage. This is then further developed in her travel memoir Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844), which evaluates Italy's emergent nationalism through its past.