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Madame de StaëlThe Dangerous Exile$
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Angelica Goodden

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199238095

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199238095.001.0001

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Corinne or Italy

Corinne or Italy

(p.153) 5 Corinne or Italy
Madame de Staël

Angelica Goodden (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The next period of research travel takes her to Italy. Corinne, the novel that emerges from it, is both a guide to Italian art, literature, customs, and landscape and a work with a political slant (though Staël prudently denies the latter). In a way, she identifies herself with Italy, feeling that they both suffer under a regime of oppression designed to curtail individuality and genius; accordingly, she makes the figure of the improvvisatrice Corinne her idealized alter ego. Napoleon would be enraged by her refusal to celebrate him, as well as by her Europeanism, her persistence (which his exiling of her has encouraged) in writing about foreign cultures approvingly. Staël's other focus, the suffering of women who love unreliable and vacillating men, recalls Delphine, again raising the matter of her sex's exile from the world of action and fulfilment that the male inhabits as of right. In Staël's own case abandonment — metaphorically and actually expressed by exile — is a spur to new achievement; yet her novels insist on the need for her sex to preserve its freedom of action in a world of morally inferior men, so underlining the double bind in which women find themselves caught.

Keywords:   Corinne, Italy, politics, women's oppression, genius, Napoleon, man's vacillation, Europeanism, Delphine

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