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Italian Women Writers

Italian Women Writers: Gender and Everyday Life in Fiction and Journalism, 1870-1910

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 264
  • Book Info
    Italian Women Writers
    Book Description:

    Italian Women Writerslooks at the work of three of the most significant women in late nineteenth century Italy whose domestic fiction and journalism addressed a growing female readership.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6563-7
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    The Italian feminist movement in the 1970s triggered a renewed interest, from both writers and critics, in the lives and works of Italian women writers from the late nineteenth century. Studies published over the last forty years have reintroduced forgotten female authors into the Italian literary canon, and have tended to regard women writers as belonging to a homogeneous group, engendering what Elaine Showalter has described as “a literature of their own” in a given period.¹ They have pointed to particular qualities of women’s writings which are perceived as different from men’s in portrayals of characters, narrative style, and subject...

  6. Chapter One Italian Domestic Fiction, Its Readers, and Its Writers
    (pp. 15-28)

    In this chapter, I address the emergence of women readers and writers in the new Italy and offer an analysis of the generic limitations of domestic fiction in the Italian context. Italian domestic fiction and journalism by women functioned as a type of conduct manual that taught women to deal with their predicaments and limitations. The genre shares certain characteristics with American domestic fiction from the 1820s to the 1870s insofar as it opposed radical demands for women’s rights, presented day-to-day relationships among women who constituted the texture of their own lives, and employed an immediate, functional, and popular style...

  7. Chapter Two Journalism, Essays, Conduct Books
    (pp. 29-58)

    These quotations illustrate how Neera, Serao, and La Marchesa Colombi positioned themselves in their non-fictional writings addressing a male readership as ideologically opposed to the ideals put forward by the female emancipationists.¹ In this chapter, I examine the writers’ non-fictional works – journalism, essays, letters, and conduct books – some of which were distributed across the peninsula as well as abroad.² I argue that while putting forward conservative views on women’s “proper” roles as wife and mother in the new Italy in their writings commissioned by journals and newspapers, as well as in their essays, whose intended readership was male...

  8. Chapter Three Gendering Private and Public Spheres
    (pp. 59-93)

    During the Risorgimento, a few exceptional women from Milan and Naples participated in debates on the “woman question” in the public sphere by publishing articles and delivering speeches on women’s legal and social position. The majority of middle-class women, however, conformed to the desired roles of wife and mother, remaining within the private, domestic sphere of the home. As Ann Hallamore Caesar observes:

    [After] unification … women found themselves slowly squeezed out of the public domain and relegated to a separate sphere. With rare exceptions, one of the most notable being Gualberta Alaide Beccari’s emancipationist journalLa Donna, the growing...

  9. Chapter Four Freeing Negative Emotions
    (pp. 94-121)

    Is there a difference between a feeling and an emotion? In 1884, William James wrote that an emotion is a mental awareness of a visceral change, suggesting that feelings, or affects, are visceral, psychosomatic, and immediate, whereas emotions are the conscious reverberations of feelings and the cognitive thoughts that accompany them (though these are not necessarily rational).¹ According to historian Alberto Banti, emotions are not simply bodily feelings, they are moral judgments. Whereas passions are associated with religious and philosophical discourses, emotions are essentially secular and have their origins in the eighteenth century.² Barbara H. Rosenwein has recently coined the...

  10. Chapter Five Female Friendships, Sibling Relationships, Mother–Daughter Bonds
    (pp. 122-149)

    This chapter gives evidence that there was a nascent solidarity taking shape between middle-class women writers and readers across the peninsula in late-nineteenth-century Italy. I provide a close reading of excerpts from domestic fiction in which writers represent female relationships that existed outside the texts between adolescent girls, as well as between married young women, mothers and daughters, as narrated from a female perspective. To argue that such relationships were unambiguous sources of joy, positive mental health, and progressive social change, would be to over-idealize relations between women and to not properly account for the negative feelings of anxiety and...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 150-154)

    My central argument in this book has been that the depiction of girlhood and womanhood in Italian domestic fiction and journalism as written by women functioned as a type of conduct manual that taught women how to deal with their predicaments and limitations in everyday life. In contrast to the themes their male contemporaries addressed in their writings, Italian women writers illustrated a predominantly female world, one in which men formed the backdrop, and whose setting was typically the home, in order to present slices of “believable” female characters’ lives in a seemingly impartial way. I hope to have demonstrated...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 155-160)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 161-222)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-236)
  15. Index
    (pp. 237-250)