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Imposing on Napoleon: the Romantic appropriation of Bonaparte

Stock, Paul (2006) Imposing on Napoleon: the Romantic appropriation of Bonaparte. Journal of European Studies, 36 (3). pp. 363-388. ISSN 0047-2441

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0047244106071069


This article explores how major British Romantic writers perceived Napoleon in the early nineteenth century: the ideas they associated with him and the images they used to depict him. I argue that these perceptions have relatively little to do with the politics of the various writers, or with the chronology of Napoleon’s career. Instead, interest in Bonaparte is driven by aesthetic and philosophical concerns: especially the question of whether Napoleon is an ordinary man ‘within’ history, or a semi-allegorical personage -a representative of some ideology or concept (like Liberty or Heroism). I also discuss how Napoleon is appended to the Romantic problem of the ‘overreacher’, who fails due to his glorious success, and who thus blurs the boundaries between triumph and failure. Lastly, I show how Napoleon influences Romantic concern about ‘imposing’ ideas onto analysis of the world. In this way, Napoleon exposes insecurities at the heart of Romantic self-perception.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2006 SAGE Publications
Divisions: International History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D901 Europe (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2010 14:19
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2021 03:59

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