Casanova always wanted to be the center of things–the one people noticed in the room, the one to catch a woman’s eye, the one befriended by the wealthy and well-connected. Many past writers have instead relegated Casanova to the margins, believing the oversimplification of him as a serial seducer with a head only for women.
Many Casanovists have focused on checking the historical facts within C’s History of My Life or in researching the people that C writes about. But in this new collection of essays, Casanova in the Enlightenment editor Dr. Malina Stefanovska views Casanova as an integral and important member of Enlightenment Europe, thus the subtitle “From the Margins to the Centre.” The essays stem from the 2016 conference Casanova: Libertine Legend at UCLA hosted by Dr. Stefanovska and Thomas Harrison. Each essay was presented by its author (except one that was read by a proxy), and Stefanovska has now edited, and translated where necessary, the papers into this whole, with her Introduction to provide context.
Stefanovska arranged the essays into three sections: “Libertine Traces,” which explores issues of gender, body image, and sexuality; “Emerging Sociabilities” focused on C’s social interactions, including his times in Paris; and “Representational Shifts and Legacies” looking again at Parisian encounters, mythologies, and film representations, particularly Fellini. We see many of the most important names in Casanova scholarship, including Chantal Thomas, Michel Delon, Jean-Christophe Igalens, Bruno Capaci, and others who have written extensively on C or Enlightenment topics. In fact, a number of these writers also attended and presented at the Casanova in Place Symposium in 2019.
If you have read all or parts of C’s memoirs and writings, you’ll appreciate these essays’ insights into his state of mind, his travels, and his desires. This collection offers an important resource for those who wish to study further into Casanova’s life, the 18th century, and contemporary connections.
Igalens, Brin, and Delon at the 2016 conference, from which these essays come.
Here is the summary advertising Casanova in the Enlightenment:
“Illuminating the legend that Giacomo Casanova singlehandedly created in his famous – and at times infamous – autobiography, The History of My Life, this book provides a timely reassessment of Casanova’s role and importance as an author of the European Enlightenment. From the margins of libertine authorship where he has been traditionally relegated, the various essays in this collection reposition Casanova at the heart of Enlightenment debates on medicine, sociability, gender, and writing.
Based on new scholarship, this reappraisal of a key Enlightenment figure explores the period’s fascination with ethnography, its scientific societies, and its understanding of gender, medicine, and women. Casanova is here finally granted his rightful place in cultural and literary history, a place which explains his enduring yet controversial reputation as a figure of seduction and adventure.”
Here I am with Chantal Thomas in 2016 at the conference