Gender, Narrative, and Dissonance in the Modern Italian Novel

Gender, Narrative, and Dissonance in the Modern Italian Novel

SILVIA VALISA
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt9qh9mx
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  • Book Info
    Gender, Narrative, and Dissonance in the Modern Italian Novel
    Book Description:

    Combining close textual readings with a broad theoretical perspective, this book is a study of the ways in which gender shapes the characters and narratives of seven important Italian novels of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1975-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-27)

    On 14 January 1824, Giulia Beccaria Manzoni, the mother of Alessandro Manzoni, wrote a letter to Monsignor Luigi Tosi. A close friend of her son, Tosi had been following Manzoni’s new literary enterprise, along with other intellectuals such as Claude Fauriel, Ermes Visconti, and Victor Cousin. Tosi had, like the others, read the first draft of a historical novel that Manzoni was writing – the text that is now known under the titleFermo e Lucia– and had expressed a favourable opinion, albeit with some reservations. In her letter, Beccaria Manzoni informed Tosi that her son was about to...

  5. 1 “A Somewhat Unusual Nun”: Writing Gender in I promessi sposi
    (pp. 28-55)

    In a discussion of the pros and cons of “saying it all” when it comes to sex in erotic narratives, contemporary Italian author Alessandro Piperno returns to the roots of the modern Italian novel. He categorically states that Gertrude, Alessandro Manzoni’s famous “nun from Monza,” is “il personaggio più arrapante della letteratura italiana” (115; the most sexually arousing character in Italian literature) and that this is precisely because nothing is said of her anatomy or of her famously damning encounter with the criminal Egidio. The certainty with which Piperno offers Gertrude as a paragon of inspiring female sexuality is not...

  6. 2 The Epistemology of the Young Woman: Analysis and Revelation in Three Fin-de-siècle Novels
    (pp. 56-89)

    In chapter 1, I explained that the textual confusion created by the character of themonaca di Monzaarises mainly from her status as a wilful female character occupying the dissonant position of both object and subject of knowledge. This chapter takes this finding as its starting point. At the centre of Neera’s three novels –Teresa(1886),Lydia(1887), andL’indomani(1889) – we find three young women who, although they occupy different social and contextual positions, are engaged in a similar quest: to discover their role within society. If, to a certain extent, Gertrude’s problematic status lay in...

  7. 3 The Mule and the Ghost: Gender, Realism, and the Fantastic in Giovanni Verga and Marchesa Colombi
    (pp. 90-112)

    The novelty of Neera’s trilogy resides in its realistic focus on dissonant female characters and their novel quests for knowledge. Its structural interest lies in the way each novel exploits the same epistemological route to reach very different ends. In this chapter, I consider two texts of the same period that, in contrast, engage in testing the possibilities and the versatility of the novel by juxtaposing different genres. Although very different in content and structure, Giovanni Verga’s novella “Le storie del castello di Trezza” (1877) and Marchesa Colombi’s novelIn risaia(1878) are texts in which the dissonant coexistence –...

  8. 4 Intellectual Experiments: The Philosopher and the Housewife
    (pp. 113-144)

    In chapter 2 I discussed how the very act of placing a female subject at the centre of a novel underscored the dissonance of Neera’s protagonists: they are the protagonists of subjective quests and, simultaneously, social objects that are bound to be restrained and contained by traditional gender roles. In chapter 3, I focused on the generic dissonances to be uncovered in Verga’s and Marchesa Colombi’s projects and examined how different narrative structures can allow different ideological presences (and absences) to resonate with the reader, showing that characters can find an “escape route” within an alternative generic space. The analyses...

  9. 5 A Poetics of Rejection: Elsa Morante and the Gender of the Real
    (pp. 145-174)

    As the fourth novel published by an author whose previous prose text,La storia, had sold about 800,000 copies in Italy (in the first year alone) and stirred a vehement debate about its political and literary value,Aracoeli, published in 1982, was burdened with the heavy task of proving itself against its antecedent – and what’s more, since Elsa Morante died only three years after its publication, it became the author’s literary testament. The reviews at the time ranged from surprised to unabashedly mournful, and literary criticism has, ever since, tended to divide itself into two parties: those who think...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 175-182)

    InGender, Narrative, and Dissonance, I have examined specific instances of epistemological, generic, and narrative dissonance in eight Italian novels in order to analyse one of the main ideological concerns of these texts – the variety of ways in which gender informs narrative. I place characters at the centre of my project because a re-examination of the concept of character and its heterogeneous function within each text highlights the interplay of subversion and complicity – the possibility, explored by each story, that one particularly problematic subject might just undo the very structure within which that subject exists.

    The solutions to...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 183-212)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 213-228)
  13. Index
    (pp. 229-239)