Dainotto synthesizes a vast array of literary, philosophical, and historical works by authors from different parts of Europe. He scrutinizes theories that came to dominate thinking about the continent, including Montesquieu’s invention of Europe’s north-south divide, Hegel’s “two Europes,” and Madame de Staël’s idea of opposing European literatures: a modern one from the North, and a pre-modern one from the South. At the same time, Dainotto brings to light counter-narratives written from Europe’s margins, such as the Spanish Jesuit Juan Andrés’s suggestion that the origins of modern European culture were eastern rather than northern and the Italian Orientalist Michele Amari’s assertion that the South was the cradle of a social democracy brought to Europe via Islam.
Roberto M. Dainotto is Associate Professor of Romance Studies at Duke University. He is the author of Place in Literature: Regions, Cultures, Communities.