Staël’s Philosophy of the Passions: Sensibility, Society, and the Sister Arts (Book Review)

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date

Fall 2013


Book review by Claire Marrone.

This study asks why Madame de Staël sets the conclusion of Corinne ou l’Italie in Florence. In light of a cultural model of tolerance and progress, Corinne’s death in Florence serves as a commentary on Italy’s future and simultaneously a plea for new possibilities for women. The article traces Florence’s history as politically independent and artistically renowned. Yet critical events and tyrannical rule led to the city’s decline. Corinne’s final years in Florence are similarly characterized by decay—ultimately brought on by gender inequality. The final Florentine sojourn parallels a previous adolescent stay there in which Florence emerges as a place of loss, particularly regarding the death of women. By creating parallels between the two Florentine experiences, Staël crystallizes feminist themes. Just as she advocates enthusiasm for other cultures as a means of nourishing Italy’s evolution, she calls for openness to more nuanced gender roles so that society can evolve.


ISBN 9781611484724 (print book); 9781611484731 (ebook)