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Looking at Italian history brings into focus forgotten American author

Professor uses two research fellowships to gain material on Anne Hampton Brewster
Wednesday, October 9, 2013

SiceluffCountries often become embattled over territory disputes, political turmoil and controversial leadership, and neighboring countries question their role in assisting the citizens in the warring country. In the mid-19th century, Italy experienced such a struggle, called the Risorgimento, which Dr. Etta Madden, professor of English at Missouri State University, spent July researching via a prestigious summer seminar stipend through the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Madden was one of 16 accepted applicants to participate in the NEH’s Summer Seminar (held at the American Academy in Rome) on Italy in the Age of the Risorgimento, where she learned the background for the fighting between France, Austria and the powers of the Roman Catholic Church. This history gives context for her primary research interest, author Anne Hampton Brewster.

“During this time, many writers went abroad and specifically to Italy. Many went for a grand tour or educational vacation. Some went and isolated themselves, staying with other native English speakers, enjoying an easy, inexpensive lifestyle where they could work on their writing, sculpture or painting,” said Madden.

Although many continued on with their work, isolated from the troubles surrounding them, other authors and artists began engaging in political activity. Madden hopes to determine how involved Brewster became in the political culture of Italy. It is clear Brewster became interested in it since she switched from writing fiction novels to writing about her experiences once she moved to Italy for the latter part of her life.

One of Madden’s passions is to recover female writers that were read and well-known in the 19thcentury but have since lost readership. Brewster’s books, for example, are no longer in print and are only available through Google books.

In addition to the fellowship through the NEH, Madden was awarded a short-term research fellowship by the Mellon Foundation to study at the Library Company of Philadelphia in December 2013 and January 2014. The entire collection of Brewster’s writings and letters are held by the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

With the information gathered through both of these research fellowships, Madden will produce an article for “Legacy” and contribute a chapter for the book “Utopian Visions.”

For more information, contact Madden at (417) 836-5422.

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