Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

History

Major Professor

Benadusi, Giovanna.

Keywords

Grand tour, Women, Italy, Eighteenth-century, Travel

Abstract

On the tenth of January 1786, Mrs. Hester Lynch Piozzi recorded her entrance into the city of Naples, Italy in her travel journal Observations and Reflections Made in the Course of a Journey Through France, Italy, and Germany. She emphasized the importance of her experience in Naples by stating that: "among all the new ideas I have acquired since England lessened to my sight upon the sea, those gained at Naples will be the last to quit me." This British woman's stay in Naples was but a brief period within her three year long Grand Tour, yet it represented a great deal more than a simple respite. It became both a metaphor for her own break from the English society with her second marriage to an Italian musician and a forum through which she could express her complex opinions about class, ethnicity and gender.

Essentially, this study reconstructs how Naples became a symbolic site in the journal and what it and its inhabitants represented to Hester Piozzi, both geographically and personally. Moreover, it simultaneously analyzes the common northern-European impressions that informed her opinions of Naples and the personal experiences that shaped her interactions with Neapolitans. Complex and sometimes conflicting beliefs and motivations formed Hester Piozzi's opinions of the place and its people. The object of my thesis is to understand how these various strands shaped her cultural interactions in the Italian south. In Piozzi's mind, Naples stood for many things. In part, long-standing northern European conceptions of Italian society formed the basis for her perceptions. More interestingly they also built upon her intensely personal observations as a woman who had split from her own social niche, the British upper-class.

The city's exotic qualities provided her with the ability to fully embrace her liberation, yet in that context she also found common parallels that connected the lives of Neapolitan women to her own. Ironically, in the place that she believed to be most opposite to her home, she found a striking metaphor to help her evaluate and understand her own fractured life in England.

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