The Tigress in the Snowexplores how literature reacted to, influenced, and shaped the evolving notion of motherhood in twentieth-century Italy.
Desired or feared, accepted or denied, cherished as a privilege or stigmatized as a biblical curse, motherhood has a capital influence on women’s lives. The century that has just ended witnessed radical redefinitions of the maternal role in the Western world. The stereotypical figure of the married woman with child (or, more often, with children) is now accompanied by a growing number of women raising children out of wedlock, without a male companion, or alone. The ever-increasing number of adoptions have separated the nurturing side of mothering from the biological, while new reproductive technologies have challenged deeply ingrained notions of...
In Carolina Invernizio’s best-sellerIl bacio di una morta(The Kiss of a Dead Woman, 1886), the protagonist, Clara, reveals to her husband, Guido, that she is pregnant, and expresses her firm intention to nurse the baby herself (‘Io stessa l’allatterò’). Guido, overcome with joy, supports her decision, pledging not to entrust the child to strangers (‘Non lo lasceremo nelle mani di estranei’).¹ Awkward as such a dialogue may sound to modern readers, it also serves as a reminder that the family to which we have grown accustomed (with mothers who nurse, and children who live with their parents) was...
It is perhaps the greatest irony in the history of Italian women that after two decades of intense struggle, female suffrage was adopted under the regime of a dictator who would shortly thereafter suppress the electoral rights of all citizens, men and women alike. On 15 May 1925, Mussolini convinced the parliament to adopt the Acerbo resolution, which extended to women the right to vote in administrative elections. His speech is indicative of the ambiguity that marked the first years of the dictatorship. Posing as an advocate of modernity, Il Duce chastised the opposition for behaving as if Italy were...
Among the various interpretations of Italian Fascism, two have enjoyed particular attention and popularity. The first, championed by Benedetto Croce, considered the dictatorship an accident, a moral disease that struck an otherwise healthy civil body. The second, proposed by Dennis Mack Smith, interpreted Fascism as the logical result of the development of post-unification Italian politics and society, the consequence of a historical process marked by inequalities and contradictions.¹ It is Mack Smith’s theory, more than Croce’s, that proves pertinent when applied to the history of Italian women. As Fascism carried notions of femininity and motherhood that largely pre-dated the dictatorship...
It was perhaps inevitable that the search for a new meaning of motherhood would sooner or later lead to a confrontation with the women who had accepted it in ways that seemed passive and acritical. As Silvia Vegetti Finzi stated, ‘Exploring maternity means first considering the figure of one’s own mother […], and opening up a comparison or a conflict that hinges on some failing, some lack of vital nutriment.’¹ Critics have noticed how the feminism of the 1970s was essentially a movement of daughters,² which chose as its antagonist the figure of the mother and everything she represented.³ In...
questo è il mio bambino
Gli ho fatto il vestitino
con la lana bianca.
Dice anche ‘mamma’ –
se lo rovesci sopra il dorso.
Dammelo qui in braccio
per un pochino:
come ha detto
Questo è il mio bambino –
il mio bambino
Look: this is my fake baby. I knitted him a little dress in white wool.He even says ‘mamma’ – yes he does – if I turn him over. Let me hold him a little bit: listen, did you hear how he said ‘mamma’? This is...