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Italy's Gift - Essay Example

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The so-called “Grand Tour” which became popular between in the period from the mid-seventeenth century until the mid-nineteenth century was more than an extravagant holiday opportunity for the rich…
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Download file to see previous pages This paper examines what exactly it was that these travellers found so fascinating in Italy, and how their discoveries transformed Northern Europe at a critical time in its history. There is evidence of some evolution in the way that the Grand Tour was seen by aristocratic families over this long period of some three hundred years. Porter notes that in the seventeenth century a preoccupation with religious divisions, especially in Britain, made the Grand Tour somewhat problematic. The Roman Catholic heritage of Italy was regarded as suspect by those loyal to the monarch, and a series of wars with France made sure that most young people remained preoccupied with interests closer to home (Porter, pp. 2-3). In this period Italy was seen more as an enticing, if somewhat decadent contrast to the increasingly strict moral environment of Northern Europe. This tendency to polarise North and South is the first major influence that affected Northern European society. It helped to define the direction that protestant countries took, with their emphasis on diligence and industrial development, and a certain iconoclastic push for reform and renewal. The Enlightenment took place to some extent in opposition to the backward-looking and tradition bound society of Roman Catholic Italy. In one particular area, however, the example of Italy provided significant impetus for growth and development. Innovations in the visual arts in Italy were universally admired, bringing a new appreciation of beauty and style that was alien to the north. The movement that we now label the Renaissance which had started in Italy back in the late fourteenth century, had already spread out through the whole of Europe by middle of the seventeenth century. ...
aissance which had started in Italy back in the late fourteenth century, had already spread out through the whole of Europe by middle of the seventeenth century. Grand Tour travellers, marvelling at the artefacts which had been produced in this period, became avid collectors, bringing Italian taste to their country homes in the North. This is perhaps the most obvious contribution that the Grand Tour made to society: artists and sculptors in particular took their inspiration from the south and began to see Italy as the home of refinement and taste, as well as the best place to obtain teaching in artistic techniques. A third major influence that arrived in the north from Italy was a new tradition for travel writing which transformed literary genres in Europe beyond recognition. The intrepid Grand Tour travellers kept journals, describing the scenery that they traversed, and the people they met, in lively tones which were the precursor of the modern novel. In eighteenth century Laurence Sterne (1716-1768), for example, developed a descriptive narrative style in the first person which was much imitated. His concept of the “sentimental journey” embraced not only the intellectual and factual discoveries that people made, but also the emotional experiences that began to transform their characters. The narrator Yorick is a clergyman, and this rather uptight persona is at the same time appalled and fascinated by the appearance and behaviour of the people he meets on his travels. In some ways this mirrors the ambiguity that existed at that time between protestant Britain and a more relaxed and vibrant Italy. This more personal, and intimate, kind of writing marks a new sensibility which in the North became known as the Romantic movement. Later writers, such as Gustave ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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