Session 10A: Romanticism and the New Europe

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10A. Romanticism and the New Europe

Esther Wohlgemut (Ottawa): "Internationalism in The Edinburgh Review"
Kari Lokke (California-Davis): "Rewriting Romanticism: George Sand's Consuelo and Revolutionary History"

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"Internationalism in The Edinburgh Review"
Esther Wohlgemut
University of Ottawa

Recent years have witnessed a great deal of critical attention to the emergence of the "new Europe" and have drawn attention to the way in which geopolitical and geocultural changes have prompted us to question the viability of the nation-state in a world of increasing globalization. Anthony D. Smith, for example, points to the way in which traditional notions of national identity have been put under pressure by the creation of a wider, pan-European identity. In "National identity and the idea of European unity: (1992), Smith argues that national identity need not be antithetical to the creation of a pan-European identity. "If we hold to the Romantic doctrine and view the nation as a seamless, organic cultural unity, the contradiction becomes acute," he explains. "If, on the other hand, we accept a more voluntaristic and pluralistic conception and regard the nation as a rational association of common laws and culutre within a defined territory, then the contradiction is minimized." For Smith, this second formulation of nation upsets the dichotomy maintained by both anti- and pan-European groups in which European union is cast as a choice between either national or European identity. I want to pursue this argument by considering the internationalism sought by the Edinburgh Review as a reaction to the conservative restructuring of post-Napoleonic Europe.

Written several years before Napoleon's defeat in 1814, Francis Jeffrey's review "Letter on the French Government" (April 1810) provides a useful reference point for the question of internationalism in the post-Napoleonic Edinburgh Review. In "Letter on the French Government," Jeffrey presents a model for a New Europe, arguing that Europe's future depends on the formation of a "vigorous confederacy of the continental states;--a confederacy where the people should have an interest." He attributes Britain's previously ineffectual efforts to unite Europe against Napoleon to misplaced attempts to bribe nations into co-operating: "We treated, and harangued, and confederated, when there was no common interest, but the interest in our subsidies." Britain, he suggests, should now take another tactic and "trust to natural and regular, though steady course of human affairs, for that effectual cooperation which cannot be hoped from alliances and intrigues." If left to itself, modern society encourages peace: developments such as international commerce and literacy have altered public perception, making people aware that "it is not their interest that their governors should be engaged in perpetual wars and usurpations, or that the independence of all other nations should be permanently destroyed." For Jeffrey, international union involves something more than pragmatic connections between self-sufficient Burkean nations: in his model of international union, national interest is part of an international community of interests.

In post-Napoleonic Britain, the future of Europe was much on the public mind: for conservatives such as Castlereagh, the collapse of Napoleon's Empire signalled Europe's return to its pre-Revolutionary state, but for others it was a chance to imagine a New Europe. Edinburgh reviewers such as Francis Jeffrey, Henry Brougham and James Mackintosh, for example, saw a return to pre-Revolutionary Europe as not only unadvisable but impossible, and the internationalism they broached in the pages of the Edinburgh Review challenged the conservative restructuring of post-Napoleonic Europe. Their writings on topics such as the partition of Poland, the French Revolution, Napoleon's France, Free Trade, and British political reform construed the New Europe as a community of interdependent nations. In "State and Prospects of Europe" (April 1814), for example, Jeffrey deplores the "extinction of [Polish] national dignity--this sore and unmerited wound to their national pride." By depriving Poles of their "political being," he argues, the partition of Poland not only destroyed an "antient kingdom" but "struck also at the root of [the] individual happiness and prosperity" of the Polish people. Until Poland is set free, the "wholesome neighbourhood" of Europe will be poisoned by its "noxious vapours:" "every independence within their range, sickens, and is endangered by the contagion." For Jeffrey and his fellow reviewers, international union was something that protected rather than eradicated national identities. To investigate the internationalism sought by the post-Napoleonic Edinburgh Review will not only contribute to the current revision of the political history of the period, but may also contribute to our own (re)thinking of the "New Europe."

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"Rewriting Romanticism: George Sand's Consuelo and Revolutionary History"
Kari Lokke
University of California-Davis

George Sand's Consuelo and its sequel The Countess of Rudolstadt, written from 1842 to 1844, are set in the decades prior to the French Revolution of 1789. This historical novel provides a kind of panoramic view of European culture and politics during the pre-revolutionary era, as it takes its eponymous heroine from her triumphs on the Venetian opera stage through a series of Gothic trials in a Bohemian castle, to a picaresque journey with the composer Joseph Haydn, and into the courts of Frederick the Great and Maria Theresa. The novel concludes with a Freemasonic initiation from which Consuelo emerges to become a wandering musician who devotes herself to an art of the people, an art explicitly in the service of "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité." In Consuelo George Sand rewrites pre-revolutionary history as well as the Romantic response to the French Revolution from a proto-feminist and proto-socialist perspective in order to suggest an alternative political and aesthetic vision that, she believed, might actually have been able to realize the emancipatory and egalitarian ideals of that revolutionary moment. As a female Bildungsroman as well as a historical novel, _Consuelo_ provides a portrait of the heroine's development into an exemplary artist who is also an agent of revolutionary social change.

Sand's portrait of Consuelo as ideal artist is set against the backdrop of her critique of previous models of Romantic genius, both male and female. in this paper, I analyze Sand's critique of three of these models of the Romantic artist: the poetess or abandoned woman based upon Germaine de Stael's Corinne the Byronic, Napoleonic or Promethean titan, and the self-absorbed and self-destructive melancholy genius. In the Venetian chapters that open the novel, Sand exposes the selfishness and emptiness of the prima donna Corilla, an avatar of Stael's Corinne. Furthermore, when Consuelo herself is betrayed by her fiancé Anzoleto, she refuses to indulge herself in a self-destructive performance of the abandoned woman as does Corinne, instead choosing the freedom and independence made possible by her art. In the Bohemian chapters, Sand represents Count Albert Rudolstadt, an other-worldly musician and violinist modelled after Frederic Chopin, as the embodiment of Romantic melancholy. Sand furthermore offers a socio-political diagnosis of this mal du siecle, revealing it to be caused in Albert's case by his guilt over bloody campaigns in his previous incarnation as Jean Hus, Slavic insurrectionary against the Germans and violently anti-Catholic Protestant heretic. In essence, through her exploration of the multiple incarnations of Count Albert, Sand reveals Romantic melancholy to be rooted in guilt occasioned by the failure of the French Revolution which in turn is inseparable from Romantic glorification of the Promethean or Titanic individual.

In place of these models of Romantic genius, Sand concludes her novel with a vision of the artist that incorporates socialist and proto-feminist elements of the early nineteenth-century utopian writings and movements of Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Leroux. With her partner Albert, Consuelo wanders anonymously as a gypsy artist, ministering to the people, as "la bonne désse de la pauvreté" and helping them create the profound social change to come.

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Last updated July 26, 1999
by Kathleen McConnell