The Murray Edwards Duse Collection

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Abstract

The volume is the result of the discovery of Eleonora Duse’s books in Cambridge by Anna Sica (now De Domenico Sica). It is written in English and includes a contribution by Alison Wilson. It illustrates and explains why the Duse Collection in Cambridge, which is housed at Murray Edwards College, is a remarkable resource that enables us to understand the erudition that Duse displayed throughout her acting career, and her artistic and intellectual profile which inspired some of the major poets (f. i. d’Annunzio, Rilke, Claudel) and poetesses of her time. The volume gathers Sica’s complex and long investigation to identify all Duse’s books housed at Murray Edwards College, and from it further more remarkable original information on Duse emerges: first, it explains why Duse’s Cambridge family had a fundamental role in her life and career; secondly, it throws light on some aspects of her acting that were still obscure.Eleonora Duse (1858–1924) is one of the actresses most representative of the nineteenth century theatre. In the early decades of the twentieth century, The Times reported that she was still considered ‘a distinguished genius and an unforgettable artist’. There is still plenty to be written about her. Biographers have not covered everything. In fact, her intellectual profile is not completely absorbed, though, since before her death to our contemporary days many biographies and monographs have been written about her. One of the reasons for the interest in Duse lies in her importance to Italian drama, particularly the role she played in resuscitating the Italian acting method of la drammatica. Her technical skills on stage have been neglected. The Duse Collection clearly discloses details of her ability to act la drammatica (see ‘Ex Libris Eleonora Duse’, section 3. Penetrating Dusianism: the Intellectual Routes of an Actress). Specifically, in letters and notes written to Gabriele d’Annunzio (1863–1938), Arrigo Boito (1842–1918) and to her daughter Enrichetta Bullough (1882–1961), Duse referred to her books as her ‘artistic wardrobe’ and her most highly valued possessions. She made a point of reading extensively as part of her self-imposed discipline as an actress. So fine was the balance she achieved between study and technique, she researched every possible aspect of background that was available to her in preparing for all her theatrical roles. Nevertheless, scholars and biographers have insisted on neglecting her library and, what’s more, it had for years been considered lost forever. It was not true. Her library has been housed in Cambridge since 1919, and in Murray Edwards College since 1962, where in 2007 Anna Sica has managed to find it and reconstructed it entirely with the cooperation and expertise of Alison Wilson (see section 2. Enrichetta ‘s Legacy). As is evident, Duse’s biographers did not then go further than assembling a rough idea about her library (or her literary education, in consequence). And many believed that Eleonora Duse’s books were lost after the dismantlement of her women’s cultural club, in 1915. One of the most surprising facts to have emerged is that the preservation and the concealment of her library is strongly linked with the history of the University of Cambridge: specifically with the setting up the Serena Chair of Italian at Cambridge University in 1919, and particularly with the academic aims of Duse’s son-in-low, Edward Bullough, who was the third Serena Chair professor. On
Lingua originaleEnglish
EditoreMimesis
Numero di pagine294
ISBN (stampa)9788857512556
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2012

Serie di pubblicazioni

NomeFilosofie e teatro

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Sica, A. (2012). The Murray Edwards Duse Collection. (Filosofie e teatro). Mimesis.