De inventio Sardiniæ : the idea of Sardinia in historical and travel writing 1780-1955
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This thesis investigates the way the national identity of Sardinia was perceived in travel literature – and more particularly the way writing about travel experiences contributed to shape identity, both of the visited place and of its inhabitants. The thesis draws from different sources (travelogues, belles lettres, history books); the work reflects therefore a rather eclectic panorama. For obvious reasons the research field has been circumscribed in time and space, but , but aims at drawing general conclusions, i.e. assessing whether national identities are the result of an endogenous process, or rather are influenced by exogenous elaborations. As regards geographical delimitation we restricted our inquiry to the island of Sardinia for two main reasons: i) it is isolated not only geographically but also culturally and has never been a conventional destination along the Grand Tour routes; ii) up to the first half of the twentieth century the island had a reputation for being an “unknown” or “forgotten” land. As regards time, the choice was to concentrate on modern times, that is approximately between the second half of the 18th and the first half of the 20th century. Thereafter, the coming of the post-industrial society, mass tourism, faster means of transport, the standardizing effect of globalization changed the idea of travelling, leading some to argue that the birth of post-modern tourism implied the end of travel, or at least a totally new attitude towards travel, that has been defined post-modern. When D.H. Lawrence wrote that Sardinia had “no history, no date, no race, no offering” he was drawing from a consolidated image of the island as an unknown land rather than on its millenary history. The Nobel laureate Grazia Deledda challenged this idea in the first quarter of the 20th century by countering the codes elaborated in the island – namely the language code, the common law and the rustic life and passions – to the civilized way of life of industrialized European societies. The thesis concludes that the making of the identity of Sardinia was the result of the interaction between these two views.