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Romanticism And Improvisation, 1750-1850
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Angela Esterhammer writes that 'if there is any constant in the Romantic reception of poetic improvisation, it is the assumption that written poetry is the norm against which all poetic production must be measured'. This assumption held sway in writing about verbal improvisation for generations. Judgments of the literary quality of improvisatory performance, generally filtered through the reactions of Italian improvisation's more famous literary observers, such as Lord Byron and the Shelleys, took improvisation to be an intriguing but not centrally influential curiosity of Italian culture. In this limited perspective, improvisatory Links Of London Charms performance was a cultural curiosity, a phenomenon elevated to literary importance only when mentioned in Byron's Don Juan, for instance, or Percy Shelley's Hellas.
Improvisation's claim to a more prominent place in Romantic studies became apparent with the emergence of new literary genealogies in the late twentieth century. In Literary Women, Ellen Moers identified Germaine de Stael's novel Corinne, or Italy (1807) as a crucial early representation of improvisation. Moers documented the large number of English women writers who linked themselves to Corinne's eponymous heroine, a half-Italian improwisatrice who finds in Italy a freedom of public expression lacking in her native England. Moers's overview of Stael's influence outlined the shape of a new scholarship of Romantic improvisation, in which scholars unearthed the large number of texts many of them popular and influential at the time, and many written by women that centrally address the practice, meaning and migration of Italian improvisation. Subsequently, a growing number of scholars, most of them publishing in the last eight years, have also attempted to explain improvisation's cultural significance to specific national traditions. This recent work has established the importance of improvisation as a way of imagining poetic composition as a social act. As an oral art involving performance before a live audience, improvisation resists the solitary, contemplative silence that Wordsworth and others imagined to be the environment proper to literary writing.
No previous study, however, has approached the ambition and comprehensiveness of Esterhammer's Romanticism and Improvisation, 1750-1850. Like earlier work on Romanticism and improvisation by literary scholars, Esterhammer's book 'focuses on the reception of Links Of London Bracelets performances by improvvisatori and improvvisatrici': the transformation of such performances into novels, poems, travelers'' accounts, and other textual forms. Esterhammer brings to the project two important areas of expertise: a deep understanding of performance as an academic field she previously wrote The Romantic Per formative: Language and Action in British and German Romanticism and a pan-European, multilingual perspective.
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