This is a study of the role of female chacters and feminine imagery in Leopardi. It aims to place his views on women in context, examines thematic concerns, formal practices and ideological positioning of the time, and focuses on the impact of contemporary women writers such as Madame de Stael and Madame de Lambert on Leopardi's philosophical writings and literary theory. It brings together biographical, philosophical and literary aspects of Leopardi's works in relation to the notion, influence and depiction of women and feminine images.
The legacy of reason - women in the background, a family portrait, the experience of love; Paolina Leopardi and natural illusions - women and the reform of the nation, Paolina's reading of her brother's poem, the political message of leopardi's "Canzioni" and Madame de Stael, Leopardi's ultrafilosofia; fictions of Sappho and the theme of suicide - the variety of images of Sappho, the expression of feeling in poetry, the ancient and the modern in Leopardi's "Ultimo Canto di Sappho", the pathos of Leopardi's Sappho; love and death - images of women in "Canti" from il primo amore to the "sepolcrali" - the early years 1817-23, the re-birth of poetic inspiration 1828-30, the death of illusions 1831-35; feminine images in the physical world - natura and luna; Madame de Stael, passions and morality - Leopardi and Madame de Stael, Madame de Stael on the passions, Leopardi's stoicism and "La ginestra", Madame de Stael's "bienfaisance" and human goodness in "La ginestra". Appendices: index of poems; works of Leopardi other than "Canti" cited in text.