It is often assumed that a special function of imaginative and fictional writing and a special aesthetic value as a distinctive feature of literary prose are the fruits of what has been called the “invention of literature” between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: the transformation of writing, that is, from rhetoric or belles lettres to art. However, while much has been written and said about the French, German, and Scottish Enlightenments, little is known about the Italian one. Engaged in a reevaluation of this lesser-known, peripheral Enlightenment, this essay discusses Vincenzo Cuoco's novel Plato in Italy in the local context of the transformation of the publishing industry in Italy and in the European context of Bonapartism. Fiction acquires here a special kind of value: that of reimagining a radical democracy betrayed by Napoleonic restoration.
1 September 2011
Roberto M. Dainotto; With Plato in Italy: The Value of Literary Fiction in Napoleonic Italy. Modern Language Quarterly 1 September 2011; 72 (3): 399–418. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-1275181
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