By Arnold Anthony Schmidt (auth.)
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Additional resources for Byron and the Rhetoric of Italian Nationalism
By ron a nd Ita ly 15 common today, of experiencing not an authentic but a literary Italy, as guidebooks told them what sights to see and how to feel about seeing them (Black 72–73). In that sense, the literature of the Grand Tour constructed the individual traveler’s sojourn, and also the impression of Italy with which the traveler returned home. For the British, the experience of travel, as well as the literature it inspired, heightened understanding of Italy’s unified culture. This transformed the consciousness of modern Europe, generating in grand tourists the perception of Italy as a nation, and helping visitors to recognize the territorial and cultural integrity of the peninsula.
In de Sauvigny 191). The House of Savoy ruled Piedmont-Sardinia; the pope held jurisdiction over the Papal States and Rome; the Habsburgs controlled Lombardy-Venetia and Tuscany, and the Spanish Bourbons wielded power in the Two Sicilies (Smith, Making 3–4). After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Italy remained a sphere of influence—by then, of Austria, Britain, France, and Russia—all more interested in gaining advantages over each other than in aiding the Italians. Historians generally identify the various early nineteenth-century rebellions, such as the revolutions of 1820–1821 in which Byron had hoped to participate, as the first tangible manifestations of the Risorgimento.
Italians held different ideas. After the failure of the Neapolitan revolution in 1821, Vincenzo Cuoco observed that rebellions will not succeed unless citizens understood how their active involvement would change the status quo (Avitabile 5); romantics believed that literature could instill that understanding. The authors who admired Byron saw literature as creating a national consciousness, and the repressive Austrian, Bourbon, and Papal governments must have agreed, because they persecuted these authors, who often paid the price of imprisonment or exile for their publications.