Barnes, Mollie Elizabeth
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This dissertation studies Anglo-American expatriates who address, or pointedly don’t address, the Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy. I argue that the ambivalence writers associate with Italy is important, not just because it upends allegiances normally understood as simply republican or as simply anti-republican, but also because it challenges the ways we read the mood of the period and the ways we define emerging nation-states. I frame the dissertation with Margaret Fuller, who argues that this mid-century moment forced her to reconcile seemingly incompatible allegiances to “Art” and to the “the state of the race” or “the state of the people.” Anglo-American Italophiles were, in fact, often overwhelmed by ambivalence in the wake of the mid-century revolutions; and expatriate writers often realized allegiances to politics and to aesthetics, to republicans and to anti-republicans. I trace Anglo-American expatriates in three cities (Rome, Florence, and Venice) and across two generations (1848–1870 and 1871–1892), and I divide the dissertation into three diptychs: chapters one and two are about Rome; chapters three and four are about Florence; and chapters five and six are about Venice. The first half of each diptych shows how mid-century writers weren’t defined by unequivocal republicanism or unequivocal anti-republicanism but by a much more elusive disposition: politicoaesthetic ambivalence. I argue that this ambivalence intensifies in the years just following the unification of the peninsula. The second half of each diptych shows how the Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy became a mythology. Yet expatriate writers often demonstrate the ways that Italy resists an arcadian mythology and the ways the Risorgimento didn’t lead—inevitably—to the Unification of Italy. While this dissertation studies Italy specifically, it also studies the ways that Italy upended Anglo-American expatriates’ ideas about nations and nationalisms. By the turn of the century, many writers were still haunted by mid-century histories, historiographies, and the ongoing fragility defining the peninsula. Italy became, then, a nerve center for renderings of statehood, nationhood, and civic belonging; this nexus for the patriotic imaginary inspired writers to place politics, aesthetics, and often misguided humanitarian desires in unexpected conversation with one another.