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Feminine Feminists

Feminine Feminists: Cultural Practices in Italy

Giovanna Miceli Jeffries editor
Copyright Date: 1994
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Feminine Feminists
    Book Description:

    What does it mean to be a woman today in Italy, a country with the lowest birthrate in the world and the heaviest maternal stereotype? Does being a feminist exclude practices of cultural femininity? These questions are at the center of this volume, which looks at how feminism and femininity are embedded in a broad spectrum of Italian cultural practices.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8605-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
    Giovanna Miceli Jeffries

    In the last few years, several booklength studies and collections of critical essays have introduced the American public to Italian women’s voices: they are very valuable contributions to Italian women’s literature and to the Italian women’s movement and theoretical feminism.¹ The present collection differs from others to date in that it is neither primarily historical nor literary-critical, but rather ranges over a variety of discursive and theoretical topics and modes. It centers on how feminism and femininity are embedded in a broad spectrum of Italian cultural practices. By cultural practices we mean not only the practices of everyday life—which...

  5. I. Registers of History

    • white and black madonnas: historical origins of femininity and feminism
      (pp. 3-15)
      Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum

      Antecedents of femininity, for Italian and Italian American women, may be Eve and white madonnas of the Roman catholic church. Antecedents of feminism may bela gran dea Mediterraneaand black madonnas of Italian vernacular culture. My working definition of feminism is women who express the values of the goddess and black madonnas: justice, equality with difference, nurturance of all life, and transformation (Birnbaum,Black Madonnas).

      Eve and the obedient, sorrowful, white madonnas of papal Catholicism are major symbols sustaining patriarchy. Upholding church doctrine that defines women as sinful and subordinate to men, the negative implications of these symbols, and...

    • Unseduced Mothers: Configurations of a Different Female Subject Transgressing Fascistized Femininity
      (pp. 16-42)
      Robin Pickering-Iazzi

      Recent historiographic studies on the forms of culture and society in the Fascist state have broadened the parameters of debate beyond the terms of “consent” and “resistance”—with corollary revisions in the areas and methods of inquiry—thus formulating a more complex notion of gendered social subjects and their relations to discourse. Such works asFascism in Popular Memoryby Luisa Passerini,Rethinking Italian Fascismedited by David Forgacs,La nuova italiana(The new Italian woman) by Elisabetta Mondello, and HowFascism Ruled Womenby Victoria De Grazia have contributed to this direction in critical thought, and enabled more diversified...

    • The Transparent Woman: Reading Femininity within a Futurist Context
      (pp. 43-62)
      Graziella Parati

      In Futurist manifestoes Woman appears variously as a symbol, a metaphor, or a flexible entity. She is negated and rejected as the decadent heroine of D’Annunzio’s and Fogazzaro’s works; as symbol of the past, she is the victim of a nihilistic approach to femininity, to gender identity, on the part of the Futurist man. Deprived of these old signifieds, woman is absorbed within Marinetti’s movement (and in works by Corra, Settimelli, and Fillia) as an empty signifier that can be manipulated by the Futurist man.¹ The separation betweenfemminaanddonnais the starting point for Marinetti as well as...

  6. II. Reading Cultural Texts

    • Filial Discourses: Feminism and Femininity in Italian Women’s Autobiography
      (pp. 65-86)
      Maria Marotti

      Italian criticism of women’s writings often uses the word “novel” to refer to texts that should instead be considered autobiographies. This misclassification may be due in part to the tendency of Italian criticism to be less interested in the theory of genre than in other theoretical trends. The application of the word “novel” by women writers to their own work, however, also points to their marginal position in the Italian critical and literary world.¹ Until a few decades ago, autobiography was considered a minor genre by Italian literary critics. It is then understandable that an already marginalized group of writers...

    • Caring and Nurturing in Italian Women’s Theory and Fiction: Italian Women's and fiction
      (pp. 87-108)
      Giovanna Miceli Jeffries

      In recent years, the work conducted by communities of Italian women philosophers—the most active and prominent being Diotima¹— has familiarized American scholars with contemporary Italian feminism and feminist theory produced in Italy. Diotima’s aim is to elaborate and construct a distinct women’s system of thought, which is actualized in the practice ofaffidamento(entrustment), a relationship established between a younger, less experienced woman who entrusts herself to an older, more experienced and influential one. This is a practice of care and empowerment that leads to the establishment of a female symbolic order paralleling, if not balancing, male hegemonic systems.²...

    • “Cherchez la femme”: The Case of Feminism and the “Giallo” in Italy
      (pp. 109-132)
      Carol Lazarro-Weis

      Sherri Paris begins her book review of two recent critical works on women and the crime novel (Kathleen Klein,The Women Detective: Gender and Genre;Maureen Reddy,Sisters in Crime-. Feminism and the Crime Novel) by answering an implicit question: “Why should women read and write detective novels?” Besides the obvious answer that these novels are popular and sell well, a reason that women writers searching to create their own space in the publishing world cannot afford to ignore, Paris suggests that this emerging and powerful interest in the genre on the part of women is motivated by a desire...

    • Feminism in High Culture, Femininity in Popular Culture: Italy in the Nineties?
      (pp. 135-152)
      Maurizio Viano

      The title of this essay suggests an opposition between feminism and femininity. By feminism I mean my understanding of Italian radical feminism, an understanding marred by the fact that perhaps, as suggested by Stephen Heath, “men’s relationship to feminism is an impossible one.”¹ By femininity here I intend the traditional image of woman as spectacle and seductress, a visual regime and all the duties it entails.² However interrelated they are with such a meaning, the psychoanalytical and/or mythical aspects of femininity are not implied in my discussion. As I hope to make evident, the opposition between feminism and femininity is...

    • The Novel, the Body, and Giorgio Armani: Rethinking National “Identity” in a Postnational World
      (pp. 153-170)
      Beverly Allen

      The thesis 1 am testing here takes its place within a wide context of recent critiques of and contributions to postmodern discourse. I refer in particular to two of the most well-known postmodern critiques of modern emancipatory and liberatory claims, Jean- François Lyotard’s critique of political movements, especially socialism, and Michel Foucault’s critique of the human sciences as (to put it excessively simply) universalizing emancipatory discourses that conceal their own potential for oppression. Recent work by critical thinkers such as John Hinkson and Geoff Sharp in Australia, whose concern is to articulate the possibilities that might remain for a politics...

    • Fashion as a Text: Talking about Femininity and Feminism
      (pp. 171-189)
      Eugenia Paulicelli

      The word “fashion,” adapted from the Frenchfaçonand from the Latinfactio, implies a making, a giving shape or form to something. Moreover, the word “fashion” is related to a particular way or “mode” of making something—hence the French termmodeand the Italianmoda. With these etymological premises in mind 1 would like to consider the fashion text as a process of metonymy within the ongoing act of making, or fashioning.¹ As factio, the fashion text is a complex of signs that we find belonging to two different natures and “grammars”: verbal and visual. These two different...

    • Filming Female “Autobiography”: Maraini, Ferreri, and Piera’s Own Story
      (pp. 190-206)
      Áine O'Healy

      As a female coming-of-age film, Storia di Piera (1982)—the cinematic adaptation of Piera degli Esposti’s autobiographical reminiscences—belongs to an extremely small subgenre in the repertoire of Italian narrative cinema. This critically neglected film is arguably the most provocative coming-of-age narrative to emerge in Italian cinema in the years immediately following the high point of the neofeminist movement. It prompts a complex set of questions on female subjectivity, the cultural construction of femininity, and women’s relationship to creativity, maternity, and discourses of the body. Simultaneously, however, the film's narrative structure problematizes the very representability of the “female story.” Storia...

  7. IV. Toward a Transcultural Dialogue

    • I Don’t Know What You Mean by “Italian Feminist Thought.” Is Anything Like That Possible?
      (pp. 209-232)
      Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio

      Can Italian feminist women think? To try and answer the question one would have to know what “Italian,” “feminist,” and “woman” mean. But to determine whether or not the question is relevant, one would simply have to decide whether or not a feminist needs to think. Given the deep metaphysical-ity in which the problematic terms of my question are imbricated, I will sidestep the first question and answer the second: a feminist needs to think to resist commodification of action, learning, and position. An Italian feminist needs to think fast these days because the forces of commodification are acting quickly...

    • Between the United States and Italy: Critical Reflections on Diotima’s Feminist/Feminine Ethics
      (pp. 233-260)
      Renate Holub

      Since the mideighties, groups of women philosophers have emerged on the Italian cultural landscape.¹ From Naples to Milan and from Rome to Verona, women engage in critical encounters with the western philosophical traditions. In Naples, they tend to organize themselves around the journalTransizione. In Rome, the Casa Virginia Woolf, a cultural center of and for women, renowned since the beginnings of the women’s movement in Italy, is the preferred point of reference. In Milan, the important meeting ground is the Women’s Bookstore of Milan, as historically credentialed as the Casa Virginia Woolf. In Verona, the community of women philosophers...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 261-264)
  9. Index
    (pp. 265-272)