Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere è una rivista annuale a stampa e online ad accesso aperto del Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici dell’Università di Trieste (DiSU), pubblicata dal 1994 presso la casa editrice EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste. È apparsa in precedenza con il complemento di titolo Rivista di letterature e civiltà Anglo-germaniche e, dal 2005 al 2011, con quello di Rivista di Letterature straniere, Comparatistica e Studi culturali. La rivista pubblica contributi originali dedicati alle letterature di lingua inglese, tedesca e francese. Prospero ospita contributi inediti di studiosi italiani e stranieri che pongono il testo letterario e l’analisi testuale al centro di più ampie riflessioni di carattere ermeneutico, filologico e storico-culturale. In particolare, si apre alle convergenze di carattere interdisciplinare e transdisciplinare tra la letteratura e gli altri saperi. Numeri monografici curati da guest editors italiani e stranieri su temi specifici si alternano a numeri miscellanei.
Influenced by Walter Scott’s historical novels, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck: A Romance (eventually released in 1830) has long been overlooked by most critics and scholars. Indeed, up until recently, little attention has been paid to Mary Shelley’s attempt to delve into British history, widely perceived as both an escapist retreat into the past, and an open disavowal of her commitment to social and political reform which, on the other hand, was evident in her previous literary endeavours.
Nonetheless, as this essay sets out to elucidate, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, a narrative focused on the pretender to the English throne who claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury (one of the two “Princes in the Tower”), may be perceived as Mary Shelley’s attempt to actively employ history as an effective instrument to reflect and ponder on current-day problems. After all, in his essay entitled Of History and Romance (1797), William Godwin had already emphasized that the attentive study of history could offer valuable insights into the future. Hence, it could be argued that, far from signaling Mary Shelley’s lack of engagement, her fourth novel actually aimed at delving into highly debated issues, such as tyranny, power and, as will be shown, even the role of women in society.
In 1848, the publication of Arthur Hugh Clough’s The Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich. A Long Vacation-Pastoral astounds the Victorian reading public. This complex narrative poem, characterised by heteroglossia, an idiosyncratic metre and a variety of styles and registers, at different levels deconstructs Englishness, as well as it relocates the concept of Britishness. The article aims to show how the poet, both through form and content, provocatively suggests that, behind its façade of stability, Victorian Britain is not a supranational state marked by political uniformity and cultural organicity but rather consists of several “nations within the nation” that cannot be harmonized, owing to language, gender, class and ethnic questions. First, Clough conveys this image of a dis-United Kingdom through his deployment of a heterogeneous amalgam of diversified languages, reflecting individual, cultural, social or geographical differences. Secondly, he debunks a unified idea of Englishness (or Britishness for that matter) by depicting a confused English hero whose emotional fluctuations mirror the fractures undermining the stability and unity of Victorian society: the gender divide; class conflicts; and the clash between rural and urban worlds. Finally, by representing a group of Oxford students’ journey to the exotic Scottish Highlands, Clough invites the reader to reflect on Britain’s ethnic and cultural divisions, on the meaning of cultural reception and the hindrances involved in any experience of trans- or interculturality. Ultimately, the analysis of these three interrelated aspects will explain why Clough’s contentious conceptions of Englishness and Britishness must be seen in the light of his sceptical frame of mind and epistemic (self)doubt.