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Look Inside Romanticism and Improvisation, 1750–1850

Romanticism and Improvisation, 1750–1850


Part of Cambridge Studies in Romanticism

  • Date Published: August 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521897099

£ 52.00

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About the Authors
  • During the Romantic era, especially in Italy, performers known as improvvisatori and improvvisatrici extemporised poetry in public in response to subjects requested by their audiences. This type of performance fascinated Grand Tourists from northern Europe, who reported on poetic improvisers in hundreds of travel accounts, journals, letters, and periodical articles. By uncovering historical data and interpreting literary texts, Professor Esterhammer identifies patterns in the evolving responses of English, German, French, and Russian writers to the experience of improvisation. She explores how improvisation interacts with Romantic ideas about genius, spontaneity, orality, and emotional expressiveness, and relates to evolving concepts of gender and nation. Esterhammer goes on to interpret the influence that the figure of the poetic improviser had in nineteenth-century English and European fiction. In this context, the improvvisatore casts new light on conflicts between poetic genius and socio-economic constraints, and on the evolution of the Bildungsroman.

    • Original research on the fascinating phenomenon of the improvvisatore
    • Taps into current interest in Romantic drama and cultural performativity
    • Explores English, German, French, Italian and Russian literature and culture and the relationships between them
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Romanticism and Improvisation is on all counts an original and valuable study of improvisation as a trans-European phenomenon …' Monatshefte

    'This book should be of general interest to scholars of the romantic period, but of especial import to those concerned with the emergence of the idea of romantic poetic genius, the development of national concepts of literature, the impact of mass print culture, and romantic audiences.' BARS Bulletin & Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2008
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521897099
    • length: 290 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 160 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.59kg
    • contains: 17 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. This lightning of the mind: improvisation and performance in the Romantic era
    2. Defining improvisation and improvising national identity: from grand tourists to Della Cruscans
    3. Importing improvisation: oral performance and print culture in the age of Goethe
    4. Was Homer an improvvisatore?: histories of improvisation in antiquarian scholarship and popular culture
    5. The spectacle of the Romantic improviser: Corilla, Corinne, and British women poets of the 1820s
    6. Stars of the post-Napoleonic stage: Rosa Taddei, Tommaso Sgricci, and their audiences
    7. Byron, Hoffmann, and the improvisational worlds of carnival and commedia
    8. Sociability, social practice, and the Bildungsroman of the 1830s
    9. The improviser's disorder: adventurers and misfits in nineteenth-century fiction
    10. Virtuosi, vaudevillians, mystics, madmen, and rhetoricians: improvisational contexts of the nineteenth century

  • Author

    Angela Esterhammer, University of Toronto
    Angela Esterhammer is Professor in the Department of English, University of Zurich and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Western Ontario. Previous books include Romantic Poetry. The Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages (edited, 2002) and The Romantic Performative: Language and Action in British and German Romanticism (2000).

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