20th-Century Italian Women Writers: The Feminine Experience

20th-Century Italian Women Writers: The Feminine Experience

20th-Century Italian Women Writers: The Feminine Experience

20th-Century Italian Women Writers: The Feminine Experience

Synopsis

As an international scholar and resident of Italy who has observed and shared the experiences of Italian women for the past twenty years, Alba Amoia has positioned herself perfectly to report to English-speaking audiences the great range and variety of writing produced by twentieth-century Italian women. Her personal contact with many of the authors she discusses lends further immediacy to her study. Rather than focusing exclusively on contemporary living authors, Amoia discusses writers from the early part of the twentieth century as well, linking them with later writers spanning twentieth-century Italy's literary movements and political, social, and economic developments. Yet the connections and contradictions that bind and divide these women are only beginning to be established because Italy is still a splintered country in which perceptions of Italian women as a historical group have only begun to crystallize. While feminine voices resound on the Italian literary scene, only recently has feminine authority made itself felt in the professional and institutional worlds. The eleven writers in this volume criticize the female role in Italian society, externalize women's unconscious needs, and offer unusual examples of feminine creativity. Amoia provides a critical treatment of each author, incorporating the accepted opinion of Italian and other critics. She isolates recurrent and fundamental themes in each author's literary career: linguistic repression by males, personal frustration in the realm of "householditude," and disorientation within Italy's unbalanced institutions and hierarchies still strongly anchored in archaic structures. Amoia begins her discussion with two illustrious predecessors of Italy's contemporary women writers: the 1926 Nobel Prize winner Grazia Deledda and the premier literary feminist Sibilla Aleramo. Continuing in chronological order, Amoia discusses Gianna Manzini, Lalla Romano, Elsa Morante, Natalia Ginzburg, Rosetta Loy, and Dacia Maraini. Amoia concludes her exploration of Italian women writers with three journalists: Matilde Serao, Oriana Fallaci, and Camilla Cederna. Essentially, Amoia has provided a collection of succinct and accessible monographs featuring pertinent biographical information and extensive bibliographies. She discusses each author's most representative works, seeking to give readers both a sense of these women as writers and an understanding of their significance in the male-dominated literary scene.

Excerpt

The structural organization of feminism in Italy and its development within a strong leftist cultural-political context distinguishes it from the British or American feminist experience. The originality of Italian feminism lies in the fact that women, caught up in new social movements, shared in the debate on the very nature of the political process at the same time that they were conceiving a new awareness of their inner selves. Even as they battled openly for equal representation in Italy's society, they were expanding their personal visions and dreams and searching for fulfillment. Those who were inclined to write took up their pens to illustrate the split between how women appear in male-authored texts and what their "I" really is like. Through fiction, drama, essays, and "literature of memory," they expressed their malaise in a patriarchal society that has always dictated female behavior. The novel proved to be the best vehicle to trace the stages of women's development and to define their role not according to society's ruling principles but according to the dictates of their own minds and sensitivities.

The strength of Italian feminism lies in its openness to diversity, which is manifest within both fiction and nonfiction. The eleven novelists and journalists whose oeuvre I analyze in this book have articulated their individual and sometimes contradictory points of view in diverse ways, illustrating that there is no intrinsically female subject, style, or literary approach. Yet all the writers have focused in some way on the inner world of the female and have broached the issue of sexual difference. The lives and literary careers of all the writers are examples of the feminine "anxiety of authorship."

The first two chapters of this book deal with two women who, in the early twentieth century, were prey to feelings of guilt arising from the conflict between crippling traditional values and a thirst for freedom. Nobel Prize winner Grazia Deledda was compelled to flee her island of Sardinia . . .

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