PhD ceremony: Mr. A.R. Pelgrom, 14.30 uur, Aula Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen
Dissertation: Storie italiane. Romantische geschiedcultuur tussen stedelijke traditie en nationaal besef. Milaan en Florence, 1800-1848
Promotor(s): prof. W.E. Krul, prof. M.J. Schwegman
Storie italiane is about the ‘century of history’ in the ‘land of hundred cities’. During the Romantic era history flourished in Italy as elsewhere in Europe, not only in historiography but especially in literature, painting and music. Pelgrom examines the bloom of historical interest from an unusual point of view: the city. Ever since Italian unification (1861), research on Italian romanticism has been mostly preoccupied with national consciousness and has therefore largely ignored the urban perspective. To the eyes of prominent Italian intellectuals of the early nineteenth century, however, the city had been and still was the ultimate epitomisation of Italian civilisation across the centuries.
Furthermore, as is made evident by Pelgrom, romantic historical culture in Italy’s two major cultural centres, Milan and Florence, was first and foremost an urban culture, determined by local traditions. Until well into the nineteenth century, their urban historiographies were dominated by existing, older city histories. Apparently the same was true for the artistic reception of the most prominent figures and episodes from the Florentine and Milanese past, which are passed in review here: the twelfth-century Lombard League, Lorenzo ‘il Magnifico’ and his age, the Milanese duke Ludovico Sforza ‘il Moro’ and his court, and the last Florentine republic of 1530.
The romantic imagination of such themes evidently arose from a long urban reflection. But at the same time, during the political turmoil of the mid nineteenth-century some elements of these traditions were raised above their original context and made into national symbols. Their various origins and mutual differences seemed to have disappeared instantly. The creation of a select and uniform ‘national’ historical canon from different local traditions resulted above all from the combined efforts of artistic historical representations. Historiography only managed to present an alternative synthesis of the shattered Italian past when the modern epic of the struggle for Italian independence could finally be written down.
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