Questioning Italian Romanticism: Foscolo, Leopardi and Manzoni in debate (NeMLA)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

The classical-romantic debate (1816-1826) was a crucial moment for the definition of modern Italian literature. Ugo Foscolo, Giacomo Leopardi and Alessandro Manzoni, while taking part in the discussion, express some of the key aspects of their poetics. These three authors, some of the most important in Italian literature, were deeply influenced by the debate; at the same time, they claimed their original positions, which are not completely identifiable as either Classicist or Romantic. Indeed, sometimes scholars have, for example, unduly classified Leopardi as a Romantic, even though he thought of himself as a Classicist. At the other end of the spectrum, the very existence of an Italian Romanticism has often been questioned and even provocatively denied. The debate addressed important literary questions regarding Imitation, the use of mythology, and the Aristotelian unities. More generally however, the search for a reference model for the Italian intellectual, the construction of a literary canon which was, also, the definition of a specific identity, were what was at stake in the dispute. This self-fashioning process implies not only an aesthetic-philosophical issue, but also a linguistic and political one. During the debate Italian intellectuals compared themselves with the rest of Europe at a decisive historical juncture, just prior to political unification.
This session seeks contributions that aim to cast new light on the problematic definition of Italian Romanticism, from different points of view. Participants may focus on one of the three main authors mentioned, make a comparison between them, or open the discussion to other voices in the classical-romantic debate. Even if this roundtable is about the specificity of the Italian literary discussion, papers which examine the issue from an interdisciplinary (intersections between Literature and Philosophy, History, Art, Linguistics, Politics) and comparative (Italian authors in dialogue with European ones) perspective will be particularly appreciated.

Abstracts should be submitted by the means of the NeMLA website ( no later than 30 September 2018. For any information please contact the session chair:
Ida Duretto, Scuola Normale Superiore,