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Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends for their support during my research and study. Studies and views about romanticism abound, presenting ambivalent interpretations and different definitions, and some even deny that a definition of the term can ever be formulated. Malta, Klabb Kotba Maltin, , 2. Intellectual historians like Isaiah Berlin challenged this reductive perception; for him it was also a change of course.

It was a revolution. Oxford, Blackwell, , Romanticism reacted to this. Princeton University Press, , xxiv. In the early nineteenth century, imagination was fused with history, creating the historical novel. One of the most important novelists adopting this style was Sir Walter Scott, who produced no less than twenty-three novels between and his death in Of these, only three were not set in the past. Simultaneously he had to choose between the quiet Rose, or the passionate Flora. In addition to this, the Gothic element played a role in providing a link with an ideal past.

Morality and the passions were evident characteristics. The historical novel became the Romantic novel par excellence. Renzo and Lucia, prevented from marriage by Don Rodrigo, had to flee, unwillingly separate, suffer from plague, famine, imprisonment and deceit from other characters, but finally love prevailed. Also set in a historical period, in this case the 22 Ferber, Poetry was the soul of Romanticism, as it came to assume a moral and civil role.

Some romantics like Samwel Taylor Coleridge, Clemens Brentano or Friedrich Schlegel however, had turned more conservative in the nineteenth century and some returned to their native Catholic faith,30 partly because of their disappointment at how the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period failed to deliver their expectations and ideals. Davide Bigalli Firenze, Sansoni Editore, , They also insisted that history should concentrate on the people,42 having much in common with the historical novel.

Interest towards collecting folk tales and folk songs, like those collected by the Grimm brothers, became widespread, and this was a very effective aid in creating or developing the nation. Herder had claimed that the folk the people had a central role in the creation of the Volk the nation. The national idol, like for instance Giuseppe Mazzini in Italy or Louis Kossuth in Hungary, were perceived as having the qualities of a hero who could drive the nation towards unity and self-determination. Language was one of the most effective tools exploited by Romanticism in building patriotism and Nationalism.

Language is that which embodies all concepts of the nation, and Herder claimed that language was the medium by which a nation thinks and that no language can ever be imposed, but the natural language of the people had to be cultivated. Peter Putman, New nation states like Greece, Italy or Germany adopted their tongue as the national language which united the parts into a whole.

While retaining some elements from the Enlightenment, Romanticism also provided its cultural, artistic and intellectual counterbalance, as if representing the other side of the coin, or to place it in the Hegelian triad, being an anti-thesis of the Age of Reason, from which contemporary culture emerged as their synthesis.

Rome, Edizioni Studium, , Taking into account that academics such as Oliver Friggieri have already highlighted the presence of romanticism in Malta, the first question involves determining how and in what ways romanticism was manifest in Malta as a cultural state of being. Consequently, at first glance, this dissertation may appear as a conglomeration of unrelated subjects. For instance, what has the Phoenician myth got to do with the Sette Giugno, or what has Nazarene art got to do with the historical novel? This study is concerned with the whole, rather than the parts, in bringing different disciplines together to analyse the history of a particular cultural propensity.

The unifying force behind them is the intention of accentuating a pattern — elements that were common to each and every subject treated — which will be discussed throughout the text and then summarised in the concluding part. Are literature, art, the theatre and the rest faithful and truthful indicators of a particular state of being? Cambridge, Polity, , As a result, a wide range of such sources are employed to present a wider horizon. How can one link the yearning to prove a romanticised, remote and noble origin with the pleas for more self-autonomy on the part of the Maltese in an age of racial debate?

Contemporary sources like the Legislative Assembly Debates, Official Reports, political pamphlets and speeches, academic lectures and journalism were of the utmost importance for this aim. Throughout this project, ample reading about European romanticism as it took shape in different countries, notably Italy, from which Maltese culture drew most during the period in discussion, helped to place a possible romantic culture in Malta into the European context.

Geographically situated at the crossroads between Europe and Africa, as well as being home to a Semitic language, Malta has for centuries been culturally European, and its population has painstakingly defended its much cherished Europeanness. Therefore, frequent references to European men of culture, especially romantics, as well as contexts of regions which were somehow akin to the situation of Malta for instance Italy and Greece, experiencing foreign domination, or a Language Question aid this comparative dimension. This research makes extensive use of different fields of local studies.

Foremost is literary history and analysis. Oliver Friggieri is undoubtedly the foremost researcher of Maltese literary romanticism. His vast academic writings delve deeply into the study of the Maltese language, its literature and, subsequently, the collective mind of Maltese society as it has developed.

Charles Briffa has also written extensively on the Maltese historical novel. Finally, to ground this work in the already researched history of Malta from different angles during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, consultation of works by Henry Frendo, Dominic Fenech, John Chircop, Victor Mallia- Milanes and Frans Ciappara, among others, was fundamental. Born in , in the village of a - ebbu , when Malta was ruled by the Order of St John,54 Vassalli led an eventful life and had a soul which reflected the current ideas taking place in Europe of his time.

He received his education both in Malta and in Rome, to where he moved in to further his studies in oriental languages. His anything but ephemeral ideas, being so avant-garde if not revolutionary for late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Malta, Vassalli ended up in suffering and was largely forgotten after he died in , until his rediscovery and rehabilitation in the first half of the twentieth century, a process which is still not wholly complete. Having Italian as the language of culture, administration, education, judiciary and the Church, Malta had witnessed for centuries the division between educated elites who used Italian as the official written language, while the Maltese dialect, almost exclusively unwritten, was the only tongue spoken by the remaining monoglot population.

In the spirit of his times, mostly Italian romantic nationalism, which came to stress the spoken language by the majority of the people, Vassalli perceived language not as dead written letters but as a vivid and dynamic force57 — a compendium containing the thoughts, historical development and mentality of a people which could not be expressed in another tongue, not even in Italian.

It is true that Maltese was spoken by the majority, almost by everyone in fact even those who used Italian for official purposes , but the dialect lacked a literary tradition and a standard orthography. Above all, it lacked the appreciation of educated Maltese — until some enlightened antiquarian scholars fostered an interest. Giovanni Francesco Agius de Soldanis was one of those antiquarians who dared to move deeper into the study of this tongue.

Language, he said, was the most original and hallowed inheritance of the people anticipating Herder.

Music by MALTA

He denied that Maltese was crude and primitive; instead, it was a fertile and expressive tongue, whose appeal lay in its directness and lack of artifice. Maltese is a musical language. And this is shown by the folk songs, or g ana, of countrymen and women, which in their sensuously vivid expression would have astonished the most genuine of poets. He had a thorough knowledge of Arabic, and therefore he was able to contextualise into and compare it with the other Semitic languages which it resembled.


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It was, however, this link with anything Semitic — or worse, Arabic — that hampered Maltese tongue advocacy, for an Arabic dialect was never compatible with the Maltese cherished claim to be Europeans. He endeavoured to study the dialect thoroughly, producing a book about the Maltese alphabet , Maltese grammar in Latin , a Maltese-Latin-Italian dictionary and Maltese grammar in Italian Nevertheless, his life-project was far from being exclusively academic.

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He directed his gaze to the common folk — monoglot and illiterate or semi-literate. For the awakening of a sense of nationhood, thought Vassalli, everyone should be included. He held democratic beliefs that every human being was part of the nation, not just the elites, 60 and it was only in this respect that the Maltese tongue had to play a hegemonic role.

De Soldanis had already initiated this notion in his collection of dialogues between commoners, in which their daily lives, beliefs, ancient customs and wisdom feature vividly. If language and thought were one, for to think is to use language, and therefore no thought can be independent of language, as the main critics of 60 Ciappara , Borg ed.

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That was Maltese, not Italian. In this line of thought, which marked romanticism in Europe, Vassalli fit like a hand in a glove. This romantic idea was to persist as a backbone for advocates of the Maltese tongue until the latter received official recognition in the twentieth century.

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The gathering of folk elements, a common feature in many European romantic movements, moved hand-in-hand, with the emphasis on the Maltese dialect as being the live monument of the Maltese nation- in-becoming. Therefore, the awakening of the Maltese tongue was not solely an academic pursuit but more a means of distinguishing and selecting the individuality of a particular nation. The awakening of romantic nationalism was grounded in these romantic ideals.

Robert Thake, Patriotism, Deception and Censorship.


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  • The French experience Oliver Friggieri claims that these romantic ideals were responsible for the awakening of nationalism in Malta. The French surrendered in , and the Maltese vested their protection and security to the British.

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    Thake, The journey begins According to Mario Puppo, for the Italians, romanticism and nationalism were often synonyms, and almost interchangeable. This took on different forms, from advocating the use of the Maltese tongue, to the search for past heroes and romantic versions of history, either in historiographical works, in paintings, in commemorative historical events or in historical novels, using archaeology, or collections of folk tales, music, sayings and customs.

    Romanticism was essentially historicist — not in the sense of believing in a set of laws, extracted from history, by which the human race unfolds and therefore can predict its own future, an idea criticised by Karl Popper,74 but in the sense that it sought to define and ennoble the nation in the present, by using its romanticised, often glamorised, past, and to look to the future according to this scheme in a linear-progressive way.

    Admittedly, romanticism in Malta did lack the indigenous 73 Puppo , By , Malta had changed dramatically, not just physically, but also in its demands, expectations, achievements, outlooks and self-perception. The prevalent romantic culture, discussed in the following four parts, helps to analyse its contents and the way it acted as a protagonist, or catalyst, in this transformation of Malta during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    I praise you not because I am Maltese; All the world mentions you, Your beauty is famous everywhere. While in several parts of Europe marked the end of a long succession of tumultuous events, of which the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars were the most cataclysmic, for Malta it was the start of effective British rule following its fair share of turbulence brought about by these European changes. Culturally belonging to Europe for centuries, with Italian as the official language, Malta clung tightly to Italy — its bridge to the continent.

    For some, Malta was the extension of Italy, and though this statement was not politically precise, culturally it definitely was so, in more than one sense. In a wider sense, Volk might have also invoked the very notion of the nation.

    Prior to the Enlightenment, the elite, educated and sophisticated sections — or those who had the effective means to dominate or rule, whether politically, socially or economically — possessed the latter qualities exclusively. Miller, Mastering Modern European History Basingstoke, Palgrave, , There were those who were highly literate, but many more who were semi- literate or illiterate altogether. Language was another exclusive factor.