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Mothers of Invention: Women, Italian Facism, and Culture

Robin Pickering-Iazzi editor
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Mothers of Invention
    Book Description:

    This volume is the first thorough investigation of culture produced by Italian women under Fascism (1922-1943). In literature, painting, sculpture, film, and fashion, the contributors explore the politics of invention articulated by these women as they negotiated prevailing ideologies. Contributors: Rosalia Colombo Ascari, Fiora A. Bassanese, Maurizia Boscagli, Emily Braun, Carole C. Gallucci, Mariolina Graziosi, Clara Orban, Lucia Re, Jacqueline Reich, and Barbara Spackman.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8669-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Inventions of Women’s Making, in History and Critical Thought
    (pp. ix-xxxii)
    Robin Pickering-Iazzi

    In his article “Scrittori e sirene” (Writers and sirens), the critic G. Titta Rosa gives us a provocative look at women and their locations in the cultural panorama of Italy in 1931, four years into the intensifying demographic campaign. This pronatalist project formed the fulcrum supporting the sexual politics the Fascist regime executed to incorporate women, with persuasion or discipline, into a separate, domesticated sphere of culture. Writing on the occasion of the prestigious Viareggio Literary Prize ceremony, Rosa treats his readers to a tantalizing cityscape lapped by the sea, while drawing attention to the female presence that outshines a...

  5. 1 Feminism and Socialism in Anna Kuliscioff’s Writings
    (pp. 1-25)
    Rosalia Colombo Ascari

    In the history of Italian socialism and feminism, Anna Kuliscioff stands out for her exceptional intellectual and moral stature. The publication in 1977 of the six volumes of her correspondence with Turati (1898 to 1925) allows us to better evaluate her contributions to the social and political evolution of Italian society (Schiavi 1977). She interpreted Marx and Engels with intelligence, and laid the foundations in Italy for scientific socialism (as it was first called by Marx and Engels, who claimed scientific status for their theories). She was also constantly engaged in improving the conditions of women and children in a...

  6. 2 Gender Struggle and the Social Manipulation and Ideological Use of Gender Identity in the Interwar Years
    (pp. 26-51)
    Mariolina Graziosi

    During the Liberal and Fascist eras, two waves of visible gender struggle appeared in Italy. The first gained momentum in the early years of industrialization, and the second surged after World War I. In both cases, the driving force of male-female strife was “economic.” As Italy became industrialized, men strove to obtain and keep jobs as more women sought employment, whereas in the postwar years, men struggled against women just to secure jobs in a period of high unemployment. Certainly, such conflictual sexual relations in the socioeconomic sphere can be classified within the general formation of a gender power struggle...

  7. 3 Women, Futurism, and Fascism
    (pp. 52-75)
    Clara Orban

    In any discussion of the artistic scene during the years of Fascist rule in Italy, the futurist movement plays an important role. Because of this strong association, futurist studies lay almost dormant for several decades after World War II before undergoing a revival of interest. Similarly, in recent years, the paradigms used to discuss Fascism have shifted to include women. In a sense, both the futurist and the Fascist movements, linked as they were, constitute areas of study examined in new ways. However, in discussions on futurism and Fascism, the role of women has been a sublimated discourse. More “important”...

  8. 4 Fascist Theories of “Woman” and the Construction of Gender
    (pp. 76-99)
    Lucia Re

    During the 1920s and 1930s, a number of theories were developed in Fascist Italy regarding the essence, function, and place of woman. These theories constituted veritable “technologies of gender”: discursive practices that contributed to the cultural construction of sexual difference in Fascist Italy. Teresa De Lauretis (1987, 18), who has adapted to the study of gender Foucault’s notion of the “technology” of sex (those mechanisms, tactics, and devices — other than simply prohibition and the law—through which power has access to and controls sexuality), has remarked that gender in any given period is a cultural construction rather than a simple...

  9. 5 Fascist Women and the Rhetoric of Virility
    (pp. 100-120)
    Barbara Spackman

    Perhaps no discursive regime so energetically enforced compulsory heterosexuality as did the Fascist regime. Prolific mothers and virile men people its imaginary, and its rhetoric of virility collapses gender and sex, biologizing both. As do all such naturalizations of gender and sex, the Fascist rhetoric of virility requires that virility be the property of the male and femininity the property of the female. Any redistribution of properties, any mixing and matching of terms — a feminine man, a masculine woman — is counted as an unnatural monstrosity, perversion, or aberration. Fascism as discursive regime is, in this sense, merely a particularly feverish...

  10. 6 The Power of Style: Fashion and Self-Fashioning in Irene Brin’s Journalistic Writing
    (pp. 121-136)
    Maurizia Boscagli

    Nothing could have better described Irene Brin’s work in the eyes of official Fascist culture than her own words in this passage. Her journalistic production between 1920 and 1940—uniquely spanning the years of the Fascistventennio— focused on the very elements that had been considered as bourgeois waste, and therefore made marginal, by Fascism: manners, fashion, international modernist art, women, and the middle class confronting modernity. That is, she privileged the trivial and apparently meaningless details that a culture chauvinistically interested in the monumental and anything national was trying to obscure.

    In the midst of the stifling provinciality of...

  11. 7 Sibilla Aleramo: Writing a Personal Myth
    (pp. 137-165)
    Fiora A. Bassanese

    In a journal entry dated December 5, 1940, an aging Sibilla Aleramo (1876–1960) pondered her extraordinary existence as an artist and woman, witnessing its mythic proportions with her characteristic selfreflection:

    Poetry incarnate, made life, life force. All that was life in me, all that, through time, was inscribed in my essence and made me a living symbol, a living poetic myth. All that I’ve barely expressed in words, quite possibly because I’ve gone on and on creating myself lyrically with that living material into a unique, almost demonic, work, every day, every instant. For, the person I am, I...

  12. 8 Antonietta Raphaël: Artist, Woman, Foreigner, Jew, Wife, Mother, Muse, and Anti-Fascist
    (pp. 166-199)
    Emily Braun

    In the past fifteen years, feminist studies have led to critical revisions of art history, drawing attention to the cultural politics involved in the very writing of that history.¹ One of the most immediate repercussions was the (re)discovery of forgotten or altogether neglected women artists and the publication of numerous historical surveys with basic biographical information. Given the depth of scholarly research and sense of mission, it is surprising that, outside of Italy, the name of the painter and sculptor Antonietta Raphaël Mafai is repeatedly absent from the lot of gendered anthologies.²Raphaelappears regularly in indexes, but it is...

  13. 9 Alba De Céspedes’s There’s No Turning Back: Challenging the New Woman’s Future
    (pp. 200-219)
    Carole C. Gallucci

    In 1938, Alba De Céspedes (1911- ) made her explosive debut on the Italian literary scene with the novelNessuno torna indietro(There’s no turning back). Soon thereafter, the critic Silvio Benco (1938) proclaimed his admiration for De Céspedes’s ability to combine “the material of eight different novels into a single text.” Likewise, in 1939 Maria Borgese called the novel “unforgettable,” underlining its relation to contemporary film. The story about eight young women living in a boardinghouse in Rome went through nineteen editions by December 1940. That same year, Fascist censors banned the book, claiming that it did not reflect...

  14. 10 Reading, Writing, and Rebellion: Collectivity, Specularity, and Sexuality in the Italian Schoolgirl Comedy, 1934–43
    (pp. 220-252)
    Jacqueline Reich

    From the Fascist regime’s earliest days, educational reform was a major preoccupation of the newly established government. It was seen as essential to preserving the original youthful spirit of the Fascist revolution and to providing a proper “breeding ground” for new zealous party members and future political leaders. In fact, the schools became the subject of the first serious test of Fascist policy.¹ Beginning in February 1923, barely four months after the March on Rome and two years before the “official” inauguration of Fascist dictatorship, Giovanni Gentile, the regime’s initial minister of education, proposed and instituted a series of sweeping...

  15. Appendix: Selected Chronology of Italian Fascism and Women in History and Selected Criticism
    (pp. 253-258)
  16. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 259-262)
  17. Contributors
    (pp. 263-266)
  18. Index
    (pp. 267-271)