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Marianna d'Ezio

Venice: International Connections as seen through Elisabetta Caminer Turra’s Europa Letteraria (18th century)


Among the Italian women writers who contributed to establishing connections between the Western and the Eastern parts of Europe during the 18th century, those intellectuals who lived in the Veneto area had long been accustomed to regular contacts with countries East of Venice. In fact, in Venice and the Veneto the proliferation of spaces of self-display, such as theatres, salons, assemblies, and casinos, signaled the emergence of a ‘new world’, where the networks instituted by conversations, coteries and casinos, mostly run by intellectual women, shaped a new system of European sociability ranging from Spain to Britain, to include France, Poland, Sweden, and Russia, only to cite some of the most representative European presences in Venetian public spaces.

This was further enhanced by the cosmopolitan nature of Venice, frequented as it was by a myriad of European travelers whose ‘Variety and Numbers […] almost surpasses what you can imagine’(1). In such a setting bursting with foreigners, ambassadors, and travelers, places devoted to sociability and the fruitful exchange of ideas were to represent this ‘new world’ as an emblem of European modernity. In particular, assemblies and spaces of conversation run by women as active promoters of a cosmopolitan and intellectual social life in the Veneto aimed at becoming spaces for the promotion of cultural, intellectual, and literary connections between Italy and its Eastern neighbors.

My paper discusses the impact of the Italian intellectual and also prominent publisher and journalist Elisabetta Caminer Turra on the creation of new international connections, with particular reference to her entries, articles, reviews and translations published in her Europa Letteraria (Literary Europe), a paper she directed for more than twenty years. Among the numerous articles and essays she published in her papers, some are of particular value to our discourse, as they discuss and illustrate Eastern European countries and cultures from an international perspective, thus contributing to establish a direct connection between Venice as the crossroads of Southern Europe, Western and Eastern countries of Europe, such as Russia, Turkey, and Poland, among others.

1) Monsieur de Blainville, Travels through Holland, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Containing a particular Description of the antient and present State of those Countries; their Natural, Literary, and Political History; Religion, Laws, Manners, Customs, Manufactures, Sculpture, Painting, Architecture, Coins, Medals, Antiquities, Curiosities, &c. &c. &c., 3 vols (London: Printed for J. Johnson and B. Davenport, 1767), I, p. 507.

AsK, September 2012

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