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Chapter 1 - “Not / A Pastoral Fable”: Republicanism, Liberalism, and the Swiss Myth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2022

Patrick Vincent
Affiliation:
Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland
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Summary

In Chapter 1, I read the first two acts of Byron’s Swiss lyrical drama, Manfred, as an allegory of the above passage from “ancient” to “modern” liberty, showing how Romantic-period writers could represent the Swiss myth both sympathetically and skeptically in order to maintain a link between classical republicanism and liberalism. Byron’s sympathetic portrait of the chamois hunter, in particular, offers one of the last radical interpretations of Swiss-style republicanism. I then review the historical and ideological origins of the Swiss myth in Switzerland itself, going back to the Renaissance but focusing on eighteenth-century writers whose ideal of a free and happy alpine republic I contrast with the Old Confederacy’s historical realities. While the Swiss myth could express a range of ideological positions before the French Revolution, I show how post-revolutionary authors such as Staël and Karl Ludwig von Haller helped crystallize it as an expression of customary Freiheit rather than of rational liberté.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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