The Making and Unmaking of the Eternal City: A History of Violence on an Everyday Perfect Day

By Lucamante, Stefania | Annali d'Italianistica, Annual 2010 | Go to article overview

The Making and Unmaking of the Eternal City: A History of Violence on an Everyday Perfect Day


Lucamante, Stefania, Annali d'Italianistica


Roman society and Italy more generally have failed to address some of the most basic of women's concerns and rights, such as the right to bodily integrity and freedom from physical violence. By investigating the dynamics leading to domestic abuse and murder, Melania Mazzucco, in her novel Un giorno perfetto (2005), promotes a critical reading of literal rather than metaphorical violence against women; this author intentionally rescues non-voyeuristic images of physical violence against women from the abstract and literary metaphors that have traditionally framed such topics in patriarchal discourse. Furthermore, Mazzucco depicts the very real exercise of violence against women in contemporary Rome by exposing media and patriarchal discursive practices in all their revealing verbal cliches. The novel also contextualizes women's issues within the frame of globalization, multiculturalism, and society's response to women's needs. Against the disappearance of second-wave feminism, this study defends the movement's legacy as exemplified in Mazzucco's compelling inquiry into domestic crime and socially constructed gender roles.

The New and the Old

The much-celebrated phenomenon of globalization and its technologies accomplishes a magician's trick: it combines the euphoric celebration of new technologies, new economy, new lifestyles, new generations of both human and technological gadgets, new wars and new weapons with the complete social rejection of change and transformation.

(Braidotti, Transpositions 2; emphasis in original) (1)

While every aspect of the globalized society clamors for the relevance of the new, this same society does not necessarily rethink itself. Contemporary society's failure to change sufficiently with the times hampers "the potentially innovative, de-territorializing impact of the new technologies" that, in turn, are "tuned down by the reassertion of the gravitational pull of old and established values," Rosi Braidotti argues in Transpositions (2). Rather than rethink the way they fulfill their duties and rights as citizens within a globalized society, for example, Italians de-territorialize only areas of society connected with consumerism. Citizens appear to be involved in this process, but they do not consider it necessary to form new, alternative communities. It would seem as if countries have no boundaries only if and when it helps to expand capitalism. The wave of neo-conservatism that Braidotti describes represents a concrete obstacle to a rethinking of women and their rights.

Mazzucco's Un giorno perfetto is ethically and politically committed to illuminating Italian society's paradoxical economic development, one that has taken place without appropriate social change. This novel's conclusions are consistent with Braidotti's reflections: they underscore the dynamics concerning women and their relative lack of agency, even in a democratic country such as Italy. Aside from rampant discrimination in the workplace and the mobbing phenomenon, women confront their most notable challenges in the area of family values: the sacred institutions of marriage and motherhood. (2) Simone de Beauvoir's famous reflections demonstrated over fifty years ago the danger to women's emancipation when their role is reduced to that of vessel and caregiver. The immanence that, for many, still signifies the static nature of woman, becomes a weapon in the hands of collectivities that, in turn, refuse to grant women full democratic rights (Beauvoir 435-55).3 In this era of globalization, the original lack of mobility for women in society, coupled with a lack of redefinition of their role within the family, produces a further challenge to their democratic rights. Global economics force women back into a cycle of subjection, while laws fail to protect them from abuse. In the process of coping with its transformation, society preserves women's role as individuals who are not afforded their full rights. …

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