Women on the Italian Literary Scene: A Panorama

Women on the Italian Literary Scene: A Panorama

Women on the Italian Literary Scene: A Panorama

Women on the Italian Literary Scene: A Panorama

Synopsis

"... a welcome and fascinating contribution for all who are interested in Italian and comparative literatures and in feminine causes. Not only is it informative, but it also gives a tapestried picture of the struggle women had to further their cause, both artistic and social, in a highly patriarchal culture." World Literature Today

Excerpt


Regional Writers and Problems of the South

Caterina Percoto (1812-1887) of Friuli, North Italy, may be considered the forerunner of twentieth-century women writers who reflect the peculiarities of their native regions and concern themselves with the problems of the poor. The story of her life also provides a dramatic example of how the efforts of a gifted woman to assert herself as a writer were mercilessly thwarted by poverty, ill health, and political problems pertinent to the Austrian occupation of northern Italy. Percoto's descriptions of simple farm life in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region offer a preview of late nineteenth-century verismo (see Chapter One, above). Her long and short stories are inspired by the life of the workers and peasants of her region, with whom she felt at one in spirit. Simple feasts, rustic dwellings, muddy fields, primitive plows and smelly chicken coops are described in both Italian and dialect, so realistically that her editors begged her to submit something more imaginative -- "more womanly." The wings of Percoto's fancy had, however, early been clipped, and she was too deeply marked by the hardships and misery of her place and time to dissociate herself from the desolate countryside and its broken inhabitants.

Another woman writer of northern Italy whose sorrow and concern for the poor is indelibly impressed in her writings is Paola Drigo (1876-1938). Her short veristic novel, Maria Zef (1936), describing the brutish life of toilets in the desolate Friuli mountain district, offers a mother-daughter mirror portrait of intense emptiness and despair. A crescendo of pitiful and fearful experiences constitutes the life of the poverty-stricken and now orphaned Mariutine and Rosùte, as of their mother before them. The tragedy of the climax, developing from an interaction of in-

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