Translating Italy in the Eighteenth Century offers a historical analysis of the role played by translation in that complex redefinition of women's writing that was taking place in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century. It investigates the ways in which women writers managed to appropriate images of Italy and adapt them to their own purposes in a period which covers the 'moral turn' in women's writing in the 1740s and foreshadows the Romantic interest in Italy at the end of the century.
A brief survey of translations produced by women in the period 1730-1799 provides an overview of the genres favoured by women translators, such as the moral novel, sentimental play and a type of conduct literature of a distinctively 'proto-feminist' character. Elizabeth Carter's translation of Francesco Algarotti's II Newtonianesimo per le Dame (1739) is one of the best examples of the latter kind of texts. A close reading of the English translation indicates a 'proto-feminist' exploitation of the myth of Italian women's cultural prestige.
Another genre increasingly accessible to women, namely travel writing, confirms this female interest in Italy. Female travellers who visited Italy in the second half of the century, such as Hester Piozzi, observed the state of women's education through the lenses provided by Carter. Piozzi's image of Italy, a paradoxical mixture of imagination and realistic observation, became a powerful symbolic source, which enabled the fictional image of a modern, relatively egalitarian British society to take shape.
Table of Contents
1. Women's Writing in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century: From the Domestic Novel to Representations of the Foreign
(i) Methodological Premise: Feminist Narratives of the Rise of the Woman Writer
(ii) The Age of Sensibility
(iii) The Rise of the Idea of the Nation in Eighteenth Century Britain
(iv) The Female Gothic: The Italy of Ann Radcliffe
2. Female Translators in the Eighteenth Century: the Role of Women as Literary Innovators
(i) Historical Research in Translation Studies: a Case for Localism?
(ii) The Rise in the Production of Women's Fiction
(iii) Women and Translation in the Mid-Eighteenth Century
(vi) A Survey of Translations by Women 1730-1799
3. Elizabeth Carter's Translation of Algarotti's Newtonianesimo per le Dame: Female Learning and Feminist Cultural Appropriation
(i) Elizabeth Carter: The 'Learn'd Eliza, Sister of the Muse'
(ii) Carter and Feminism
(iii) Women and Education in the Pages of the Gentleman's Magazine
(iv) The Genesis of Carter's Translation of Algarotti
(v) The Reception of Algarotti's Text in his Country
(vi) Carter's Translation of Algarotti: An Adaptation for Female Readers
(vii) The Role of the 'Translatress'
4. Eighteenth Century Travel Writing: Constructing Images of the Other
(i) Travel Writing as a Form of Translation
(ii) Women and Travel Writing in the Eighteenth Century
(iii) Eighteenth-Century Discourses of Travel
(iv) Eighteenth Century British Travellers Constructing Italy
5. Hester Piozzi's Appropriation of the Image of Italy: Gender and the Nation
(i) Hester Thrale Piozzi: A Dilettante or a Remarkable Woman Writer?
(ii) Production and Reception of Women's Travel Writing
(iii) Hester Piozzi's Observations and Reflections: Gender and Narration
(iv) Female Identity
(v) National Identity
'By shifting attention away from the well-worn costume drama of British-French rivalry in the eighteenth century, Agorni not only proposes a more nuanced view of the elaboration of British national identity in that century but she also makes explicit connections between travelling texts (translation) and textual travellers (travel writing) which add to our understanding of the relation between mobility, sensibility and gender in earlier periods.'
Michael Cronin, Studies in Travel Writing